Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

With the EUROs kicking off, how can brands maximise the opportunity to get in front of fans?

With EURO 2024 campaigns in full swing, Jim Salveson, Director of Sport at Sport Social Podcast Network, considers how less traditional advertising channels might be the key for brands to get in front of football fans this summer.

The UEFA Euro 2024 is on the horizon, and excitement among footy fans across the continent will soon reach fever pitch. Yet, long before supporters have even started to think about where they’ll watch their team’s first game, brands will have been gearing up to capitalise on one of the biggest football tournaments in the calendar.

Historically, iconic TV ads and exclusive sponsorships have been central to the build up to major sport competitions like the EUROs, becoming almost as memorable as the events themselves. Coca Cola’s sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup has become near enough synonymous with the tournament over the decades, for example. These campaigns are typically high-budget – even involving bonafide Hollywood directors, in the case of Nike’s ad for France ‘98, where the Brazilian squad plays a thrilling game across an airport. You started humming ‘Mas Que Nada’ in your head as you read that, didn’t you?

Suffice to say, not every brand has the budget to bring a big-name director on board, or can stretch to official tournament sponsorships. In fact, we’re entering the summer of sport at a time when we’re witnessing increasing pressure on advertising budgets.

However, events like the EUROs present a golden opportunity for brands to reach a wide audience of both die-hard sports fans and casual viewers alike. Although traditional big budget media will remain key for generating buzz and consumer engagement, recent years have seen a significant shift towards more targeted advertising channels, whether across social media or other content platforms, like podcasting. So, could we expect to see brands explore more targeted, cost-effective marketing strategies in the run up to the beautiful game this year?

Reaching fans where they’re at

In a competitive advertising landscape, brands must make strategic investments to gain visibility. If budgets don’t stretch to high-profile names, brands must think deeply about where an audience is likely to be consuming content around their favourite sport and contest.

Football fans in particular flock to platforms like YouTube, Instagram, X and podcasting, to get the latest analysis and opinion from their favourite content creators. It provides brands with prime platforms to reach and engage fans through.

In fact, fans can spend a lot of time consuming this kind of content: a recent report from SiriusXM Media, GroupM, and Edison Research found that sports fans listen to over six hours of audio content each day – two hours more than the average person. There’s a strong appetite for podcast content among sports fans – an appetite brands can tap into for the purpose of ad campaigns.

Research from Sport Social Podcast Network also showed that this appetite ramps up significantly when major tournaments kick off. The network saw a spike in downloads of cycling and cricket podcasts aligned to the return of the Tour de France and The Ashes respectively in 2023; the number of cycling and cricket shows that were downloaded across June and July spiked by 49% as compared to April and May. In particular, the Geraint Thomas Cycling Club, the podcast fronted by the cycling champ himself, saw a staggering 96% increase in downloads in the month that the contest was in full swing. The podcast gave listeners behind-the-scenes access to the event, and listener engagement reached an all-time high. It meant that the brands advertising through the show were not only getting in front of a very specific audience – cycling lovers – but a highly engaged one, too.

Sky Bet is one such brand that’s using podcast advertising to its advantage when seeking to reach an engaged audience of fans. Working with agency EssenceMediacom, the ongoing campaign seeks to promote Sky Bet’s work to enhance fan experiences. In collaboration with Sport Social Podcast Network, the brand has partnered with almost 20 fan-created football podcasts. It sees Sky Bet offer branded bespoke in-show features, using fan surveys to spark conversation and debate with listeners. It’s helping fans to engage with their favourite footy podcasts on a deeper level, in turn connecting it back to Sky Bet and keeping the brand front of mind for football-mad consumers.

As well as being able to more closely guarantee that you’re reaching true fans, podcasting and social media platforms can offer rich audience insights. These can prove invaluable for brands wanting to stretch budgets further. Brands can access unparalleled audience segmentation and geotargeting data, building campaigns and reaching fans with content that feels relevant and resonant to their interests.

Scoring points with targeted advertising

So, as we head into EURO 2024, there’s a timely reminder that brands don’t need the biggest budget to maximise the ability to get in front of fans. If budgets are under scrutiny, brands are best to focus on the channels that fans are likely flocking to get their footy fix.

Layer this with the ability to be hyper-targeted in who you can get in front of, through the likes of digital, social or podcast campaigns, and brands are likely to score with their EURO campaigns this summer.