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Unilever brands estimated to reach 5 Billion fans at UEFA Euro 2024 Germany – here’s how

By Brad Rees, Mediacells CEO

Unilever has kicked off a multi-brand partnership for UEFA Euro 2024 with a press release announcing that they will attract a cumulative audience of more than five billion people across the tournament. 

At first glance the mega claim seems far-fetched until you break down the elements of the ‘cume’ – the estimated total number of unique consumers of tournament content.

The official audience ‘bonanza’ metric was first coined after UEFA Euro 2020 when the cumulative audience was quantified at 5.2 billion fans.

The audience boost in UEFA Euro 2020 was in part attributed to growth in global markets, with over half a billion Euro-hungry football fans coming from China, India and the US, with an ever-increasing number of fans accessing matches through streaming services, according to UEFA Marketing Director Guy-Laurent Epstein.  

The US boasted the highest penetration rate (46%) of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services worldwide last year and with strong growth signals already in 2024 – after February’s Super Bowl, according to Nielsen.

Simultaneously, soccer growth in the US is driven by young, diverse audiences. More than half of the football fans (54%) in a Morning Consult survey were under 45 years old – compared to NBA (51%), NFL (46%) and MLB (43%).

Major League Soccer says it boasts the youngest fan base of any men’s pro league in the country.

The unicorn hunt for younger audiences will find a home at UEFA Euro 2024 with a significant Win-Win on social media for the hosts, spearheaded by exponential interest in football-flavoured content on TikTok and Instagram Reels.

Instagram’s total number of app downloads grew 20% in 2023 to 768 million, according to market intelligence firm Sensor Tower, making it the most downloaded app in the world, followed by TikTok at 733 million, a combined, not cumulative, audience of 1.5 billion but still.

Live sports action is on the rise with Netflix championing appointment-to-view in boxing, tennis, golf and, from January 2025, world wrestling.

According to Broadcast Sport, 51% of Gen Z fans said watching live games is one of the most entertaining or enjoyable ways to engage.

The baby elephant in the room that will be by far the exponential contributors to the five billion cumulative audience are TikTokers. According to Deloitte’s newly-released Digital Media Trends report, 47% of Gen Z members prefer to watch social video and live streaming than either old/new TV shows or movies.  

The top UEFA post in 2021 was of Mbappé fluffing the penalty against Switzerland that sent France crashing out of the tournament, which generated 59 million video views on TikTok.

Three years on, TikTok is the king of user engagement, with fans spending 95 minutes of average daily usage.

It is true that the Creator Economy is the hot water immersing the boiling frog of traditional media and yet native UEFA platforms should not be underestimated in their contribution to the cumulative audience either.

The website and application gained a 250% increase in traffic during the last tournament and out of 7.5 billion social media interactions and views in 2021 – two billion were generated by official UEFA accounts pointing to a need for authenticity, authority.

To frame the audience opportunity in an FMCG context – there are 3.4 billion people who use Unilever products every day, ranging from hand cream to ice cream, in 190 countries, across 4.4 million retail stores – that’s a lot of cumulative audience reach before the tournament even begins.