As the Euros enter the final stages with its customary drama, the advertising industry is very much along for the ride and tapping into its fair share of excitement too. From the moving British Heart Foundation’s spot through to the opportunistic, but well executed, Ikea Ronaldo water bottle, it’s the striking creative that’s garnering attention.
Striking creative is, of course, essential for campaign success, with creativity widely recognised as the number one driver of effectiveness. Media’s role, then, is often focussed on securing the requisite reach for a client’s creative – and in that respect, England games delivering 20m viewers are an unrivalled opportunity (even with Love Island back on our screens).
But reach shouldn’t be the only thing we aim for. We’re no longer living in an era where all that’s needed for brand success is a Mad Men-esque TV commercial: we’re living in the Age of the Audience, where audiences have taken control, shifting from passive, captive recipients of a brand’s announcements, to empowered, disparate groups.
Audiences today are more often than not multi-screening, fast-forwarding and scrolling their social feeds during the game, and they make up their own minds about a brand through a variety of touchpoints and brand experiences, not just through the advertising they are exposed to. So as we revel in the first major post-pandemic event and admire all-guns blazing creative, it’s a good time to consider media strategy around these major moments in the calendar and ask: are we doing enough to connect with audiences, as opposed to simply communicating at them?
At Yonder one of our mantras is ‘resonance over reach’. Brands get involved in the Euros because they see the value in tapping into the audience energy and passion around the beautiful game, but we must remember that advertising is ultimately a weak force and is only one of the ways to build a brand. Everything is media, and every touchpoint is a chance to add value.
Instead of just leveraging the Euros as a mass ‘eyeballs’ opportunity at the top of the funnel, brands can make more effort to connect with fans in different places and spaces. Volkswagen (official ‘mobility partner of Euro 2020’) is connecting with audiences in and around venues and fan zones, handing out vouchers for e-bike rentals to drive home its commitment to electric vehicles, while Ladbrokes (below) has combined football and music in a campaign supporting the beleaguered live events industry through a partnership with pressure group #WeMakeEvents – a meaningful act that will be popular among live music fans too.
But for inspirational work that drives real resonance amongst football fans, in touchpoints often overlooked by most media planners, we may need to look beyond the Euros. Last year’s Stevenage Challenge campaign for Burger King lit up the football gamer internet – and has just won a Cannes Grand Prix. In this activation, the brand snuck its logo into the EA sports game FIFA 20 by sponsoring Stevenage FC and then challenged gamers to share game footage on social media of Messi, Ronaldo et al wearing their logo, in exchange for rewards. Fans went mad for it, sharing tens of thousands of game clips online, and made lower league Stevenage FC the most played team in career mode.
And from earlier this year, consider the anti-knife crime campaign that saw the tragically-murdered football prodigy, Kiyan Prince, come back to life as a virtual pro footballer inside FIFA 21. As reported in this publication, Engine CCO Billy Faithfull understood the importance of connecting with audiences through different touchpoints when he said: “Getting to them through gaming, influence networks and sponsorship felt like a unique and effective medium to speak to them and help The Kiyan Prince Foundation continue its vital work.”
These campaigns show that gaming is a channel that deserves more attention from planners, but what I like most about them is that they understand that the audiences themselves are a valuable media touchpoint that can help brands drive both resonance and reach.
Ed Cox is founder and MD of Yonder Media.