What has surprised me so far is the relative lack of activation that I have seen from the sponsors. Activation describes all of the marketing activities that sponsors undertake around their sponsorship, such as linked-advertising, competitions, social media, promotional events and giveaways. Compared with the London 2012 Olympic Games it feels, in the UK at least, as though there is not as much coming from the sponsors in terms of activation. Obviously there will be more activation in France, which is hosting the tournament, but so far, in my opinion, the sponsors have failed to cut through in the UK to get their message heard. This has left open the door for the ambush marketers, non-sponsor brands who try to capitalise on the event through suggesting some form of association. For example, Currys PC World is running a prominent TV campaign offering money off the purchase of a new TV for every goal that a customer’s selected home nation scores in the tournament. While the brand has no official sponsorship, this suggestion of a link through a focus on football can be enough to plant the seed of association in the minds of consumers, thus offering Currys PC World some of the benefits of sponsorship without paying for the privilege. Another brand to watch is Paddy Power, who have run successful ambush marketing campaigns at many recent sporting events. They have already launched their TV advert focused around Scotland not qualifying for EURO 2016 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLq340eDTCA) and given what they have done at previous events, are likely to deliver some more eye-catching content and stunts as the tournament progresses. Important to stress here is that ambush marketing can only be successful where a gap is left by sponsors’ failure to activate to their full potential. The lack of significant levels of sponsor activity in the UK is therefore probably contributing to the greater exposure and success that these ambushers are currently enjoying.
In terms of sponsorship activation, here at Alliance Manchester Business School we are currently carrying out some research, involving staff and students, looking at how the EURO 2016 sponsors are activating their sponsorships on Twitter. This is part of a wider piece of research looking at sponsorship activation on Twitter, focused on developing a typology of sponsorship-linked Twitter content and then assessing the levels of engagement with different types of content by Twitter followers. Social media has become the number one sponsorship activation tool used by brands, so it is important that we gain a better understanding of how brands can use sites such as Twitter to maximise the return on their sponsorship investment. This involves looking at theory around user motivations for consuming social media content as well as sponsorship objectives and content marketing and applying these to the context of sponsorship-linked Twitter content.
Away from sponsorship…
It won’t only be supporters who are hoping that the home nations enjoy a long and successful run in EURO 2016. Many retailers will also be hoping for the same thing as they are likely to benefit from increased sales of beer, party food and items such as team merchandise, replica shirts and flags alongside higher-priced items such as televisions, as long as the home nations remain in the tournament. All of these products, which are traditionally consumed alongside watching football, might enjoy a sales lift, particularly if the home nations do well. Supermarkets often run promotions on party food and decorations around major sporting events and we have seen several electricals retailers already heavily promoting televisions with a focus on watching the football. However, the retailers have to exercise caution and avoid over stocking and being left with huge volumes of replica shirts, for example, which they struggle to sell once the tournament is over.