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Old 9th June 2008, 11:00   #1
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Default Euro 2008 - and the sponsors' own goal

Euro 2008 - and the sponsors' own goal

* Lucy Barrett
* The Guardian,
* Monday June 9 2008

Will advertisers get much from Euro 2008 without a single home nation competing? No. But a few will certainly try - despite the nation affecting a state of indifference. If you are not a football fan, that the tournament kicked off at the weekend possibly escaped your attention. Even if you are a football fan, the same may still apply. It is very hard to get excited about Czech Republic v Turkey - and this is the problem for advertisers.

England fans may have been sobbing into their beer following the team's failure to qualify - but advertisers also had their heads in their hands. It cost upwards of 200,000 to advertise on ITV at half time in the Champions League final last month, but brands including Ford were happy to shell out because of the guaranteed audience the Chelsea v Manchester Utd game would attract.

A ring round some of the top advertising agencies suggests that most of them claim not to be doing anything for their clients surrounding Euro 2008. Comments include: "I've just checked with head of traffic and he thinks we're doing zippo on Euro 2008 - which probably says quite a lot in itself"; and "2008? Is that still happening?" and "No, we actually haven't got any planned - frankly the interest level is just too low ..."

Spare a thought then for brands already committed to the tournament, despite viewers' apathy. First come the broadcasters: ITV and the BBC have the rights, and therefore the task of convincing viewers that they still have a reason to follow the tournament. Of the two, the BBC's campaign has been the most imaginative - albeit in a slightly desperate fashion. Created by agency RKCR/Y&R, with no media spend behind it, and running only on BBC channels, it is based on a theme that true football fans will follow the tournament, despite no home nation qualifying, and asks members of the public who they are going to support and why. It even prompts people to remember where their family originated and support that team. But given that a good chunk of the country does not originate from another European country, that link is fairly tenuous.

Then there are the event sponsors, including McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Carlsberg. They may be producing a big fanfare in countries where teams are competing, but they are not making much noise here. Mastercard, one of the major sponsors, has a football-themed ad created by McCann Erickson. It may have been created for Euro 2008 - but the ad broke here during the Champions League final, when it was likely to have the biggest UK audience.

The brand I have the most sympathy for is Carlsberg. It is heavily involved in football. Not only is it a sponsor of Euro 2008, it is also the official beer of the England team - which means it is missing out on even more publicity than other brands. The company has already calculated that it has lost out on 15m worth of sales it could have accrued through its partnership with Euro 2008 in the UK. I suppose it can console itself with knowing that its sponsorship won't be ambushed by rivals trying to gain an association with football - and therefore sales.

According to a poll by Ipsos Mori, every sponsor has struggled to get consumer awareness for their brand's association with the tournament. Only Adidas has bucked the trend - consumer awareness of its involvement has actually improved - but even with this encouragement, there are no signs of Adidas stumping up the cash for a big ad campaign. And its rival, Nike, famous for never paying to sponsor, but always ambushing sporting events, hasn't bothered much this time. Instead,

its agency Wieden + Kennedy has created three films that will run online, featuring footballers such as Wayne Rooney. Euro 2008 isn't mentioned, but they are being launched to coincide with the tournament.

This of course is good news for those desperate to escape the blanket football-themed ads and dubious tie-ups that normally come with football tournaments. (During the last World Cup pitta bread from a major supermarket chain came with a sticker on the labelling declaring it was "great for World Cup barbecues".) Who wants to spend four weeks getting passionate about Croatia v Poland? Not me, not the majority of viewers, and advertisers are right not to bother as well.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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