OPINION: News Analysis - Imagination in the field for Euro 2000 sponsors. Association with one of summer’s biggest sporting events is not just about being seen, but offers a number of PR opportunities for sponsors

The major footballing nations of Europe are not the only leading brands attending Euro 2000. A multitude of FMCGs have rushed to sponsor Euro 2000 seduced by the association with the third-biggest sporting event in the world, after the Olympics and the World Cup.

The major footballing nations of Europe are not the only leading

brands attending Euro 2000. A multitude of FMCGs have rushed to sponsor

Euro 2000 seduced by the association with the third-biggest sporting

event in the world, after the Olympics and the World Cup.



PR exploitation of Euro 2000 is based on two key elements, according to

Patrick Magiar, head of football marketing at ISL, the marketing partner

of tournament organiser UEFA. ’There is the emotional load-up of the

tournament, with lots of national pride and enthusiasm; and then there

is a very good connection with certain elements of the tournament brand

and the sponsors.’



The festival aspect of things plays well with drinks and snacks

manufacturers, for example, a fact that will not have been lost on

Coca-Cola, Carlsberg and Pringles, which are among the event’s 12 main

sponsors. With 16 teams, an estimated cumulative TV audience of 7

billion and undisclosed (but huge) sponsorship fees, it is an attractive

event. Other official sponsors include Sony PlayStation, Fuji Film,

Mastercard and JVC. There are another 12 official suppliers, including

Adidas, KLM, Unilever and Cisco. But what do these brands, and the

agencies they employ, think they will get out of it in PR terms?



There is no one reason. ’People simplify it and say: it’s about

awareness,’ says one brand management expert who is not involved with

Euro 2000. Coca-Cola, for example, does not need awareness, so might

concentrate on tasting promotions. Another, lesser known, sponsor may

relish the chance of being at the table with worldwide blue chips

because of the internal pride this generates; and a third - say, Fuji -

might want to incentivise retailers.



’You have to think of brands as personalities,’ he continues. ’They have

different life cycles, different strategies. The football audience is

not some sort of homogenous mass: there are a lot of women, kids,

upmarket men and a lot of people outside Europe.’



Four years ago, Glen Kirton was director of Euro 96, the last tournament

held in England. He now finds himself on the other side of the sponsors’

tent as international director of Craigie Taylor. ’Soccer is the perfect

match for a large number of blue chip companies,’ he said. ’Euro 2000 is

skewed towards young males but not necessarily restricted to them.’



Jolyon Armstrong, senior vice-president of Octagon Marketing, which has

organised PR for half a dozen of the official sponsors, agreed: ’Very

simply, it is one of the reference point events of the summer and of

European sport.’



Retailers and dealers are targeted along with consumers, with

competitions, promotions and corporate hospitality as ’the primary

mechanics’. Armstrong says that Octagon takes PR very seriously as a key

part of the sports marketing mix. ’The business (of PR) is the same but

the nuances are always different depending on the client and the market

it wants to reach.’



Stephen Nuttall, head of sports at main sponsor Sportal, is very certain

of the company’s ground: ’It’s an enormous event - the biggest on-line

and sports event so a natural association for an online sports site.’ In

addition to the official Euro 2000 web site, Sportal has a variety of

services and is keen to drive traffic through its sites, with PR handled

by Bell Pottinger.



The oldest sponsor of the tournament is Japanese electronics firm JVC,

which handles PR in-house. Since 1980 JVC has sponsored the European

football championship and is tied to it and the FIFA World Cup for years

to come.



Neil Mancais, marketing manager, says dealer and consumer promotions

have been the key this time round.



But what about the question that fans up and down the country never dare

to think about until that penalty in the last minute of the crucial

match - what happens after England get knocked out? This blow has to be

taken on the chin, said Armstrong: ’You know that when you sign up;

that’s a risk with any major sponsorship.



’But frankly everything is cyclical - good sponsors are in it for the

long haul,’ he adds.



Even so, failure can have an effect, Mancais says. ’When England didn’t

qualify for (the World Cup) USA 94, it was pretty soul-destroying. And

dealers in Scotland this time probably haven’t done a lot of business

because they’re not involved.’ Even so, since the company’s PR programme

has been going for six or seven weeks, disappointment now is less

damaging than it might have been.



When it comes to England being eliminated, Nuttall is sanguine. ’There

is a downside and there isn’t,’ he says. ’We’re in France, Italy, Spain,

Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Portugal.’ As an example of spreading your

risk in PR terms, that’s probably about as good as it gets.



Patrick Magiar believes that there are no negatives for sponsors.

’People understand very well that brands are there not to support the

teams but to support the tournament.’



And it is certainly true that, as Kirton says, sponsors must benefit

because the majority of western Europe is represented by the

participants.



Even so for those, such as Nationwide, which are tied to individual

countries there is an element of thinking of the worst and planning for

it. As one source put it: ’If they are clever, they will have things up

their sleeves.’



We may now get to see how full those sleeves actually are.



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