If the biggest show on Earth this year is the Summer Olympics, then UEFA Euro 2016 runs a close second.
When the football (soccer, for our American audience) tournament kicks off this Friday, newsrooms will crank out stories for every channel—from Facebook and Snapchat to Periscope and everything in between—in hopes of reaching the largest audience possible.
But it won’t just be the newsrooms of Sky Sports, ESPN, The Guardian, and the BBC on the scene. Brands are bringing their newsrooms, too, and they plan to compete for every second of attention.
Adidas, Carlsberg, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola are just a few of the brands looking to double down on long- and short-form digital content this year, building on lessons they’ve learned at Euro 2012 and other global sporting events. This explosion in real-time content is perhaps the biggest advertising trend at this year’s tournament, and it’s easy to see why. Fans are demanding ever more real-time or in-depth information beyond traditional news and broadcast channels. Sponsors want to build their partnership platforms beyond mere “badging” exercises, while others want to associate their brands with the most passionate of global sports. And Euro 2016 is a massive stage, one that gets even fair-weather supporters engaged.
Take Adidas. The athletic apparel brand will launch its Newsroom network to drive real-time engagement of its #FirstNeverFollows campaign, which debuted at the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Content will be published on YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as well as its owned digital properties, and distributed throughout the company for PR and social teams to use across global markets.
“Our Rio Hub in 2014 was the first time we adopted the Newsroom approach, and it allowed us to deliver a unique experience for fans around the world,” said an Adidas spokesperson. “It was a groundbreaking approach, so the challenge we face heading into the summer is to build upon this success.”
Adidas will also have teams based out of its global HQ in Herzongenaurach, Germany, to create additional content and capitalize on distribution opportunities.
The company is well positioned to make a splash. Its roster of stars includes Gareth Bale (Wales) and Paul Pogba (France); it has designed and produced the official match ball (which had its own Twitter feed with 3 million followers during the World Cup); and has officially outfitted several teams including Germany, Russia, and Spain, the defending champion.
McDonald’s is also armed with a roster of ambassadors. The fast-food brand has supported football at the grassroots and European level for over 25 years, and a UK spokeswoman said that content marketing will be taking center stage at this year’s tournament.
A McDonald’s competition ran earlier this year calling for parents to nominate their kids to become an official player escort at matches. Now, the winning children will become the focus of a stream of content. Alongside sport ambassadors Ryan Giggs, Martin Keown, and Pat Jennings, the children will star in everything from short videos to diaries. Local and regional news outlets will distribute all of the content, as well as McDonald’s website and social media channels, such as its @BetterPlayUK Twitter account.
The spokeswoman explained that the brand will concentrate on shorter social content, which delivers better than the richer, longer, more indulgent work that the company previously delivered.
“We have moved away from three-minute videos to ten-second clips,” she said. “It is a much better use of our content. It’s about capturing and sharing moments of joy.”
Coca-Cola, meanwhile, hasn’t outlined its content marketing plans in the UK, but it is launching a YouTube channel, Coke TV, and a website, Happiness Football Club, in French, as France is the tournament’s host nation. Coca-Cola has also chosen Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger as its expert voice. Wenger will analyze the tournament in exclusive videos posted on the brand’s social networks.
Lastly, Carlsberg will be hoping for “probably the best” UEFA Euro 2016 campaign. Its promise is to “do it better for the fans” by pioneering a new digital platform for live consumer engagement. The company has already launched a dedicated website and a 10-episode mini-series with YouTube talent The F2 Freestylers with plans to recreate the best 10 Euro moments from the past 40 years.
A change in format—seeing 24 teams compete in the final tournament, instead of the usual 16—means Euro 2016 is shaping up to be bigger than ever. The tournament attracted 300 million global viewers in 2012. At its peak, there were seven tweets per second using #Euro2012, and there were more than 15,000 tweets per second when Spain scored its fourth goal in the final match—at the time a record high for a sporting event.
But this year’s tournament may see even more social buzz. Research unveiled by RadiumOne indicates that 60 percent of fans will share Euro 2016-related content online. Two-thirds of sharers say they’ll share more football-related content as a result of Euro 2016. Forty percent claim they will do so at least three or four times every day during the tournament. This sharing explosion is a “potential goldmine” for marketers, according to Rupert Staines, RadiumOne’s European managing director.
Yet marketing (and consumer) content will not only be confined to the official partners of Euro 2016. As Shotglass Media’s head of sport Neil Smythe detailed, brands and publishers can still be a part of the Euro conversation without holding any rights. For example, Shotglass runs The Football Republic, a network of channels in which fans create original content, host debates, and stream live shows across YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
Even though The Football Republic is a publisher, Smythe believes the site’s proposition and growth has lessons for brands everywhere. “Fans want to consume massive amounts of content around football, and that is growing year on year,” he said. “They want official content, but they also want unofficial content.”
One thing’s for sure: There will be plenty of newsrooms trying to deliver just that.