How non-sponsors are muscling in on tournament exposure

Major sporting events have the power to become all-encompassing. When a World Cup or European Championships comes along, there’s always the potential for an entire country’s workforce to down tools to huddle around a TV.

In such an environment, then, brands understandably clamour to get their names associated with a tournament.

But the brands who do manage to get their names on the official sponsors’ list, and their logos plastered around the pitch and broadcast to millions, aren’t always the brands who come off best from tournament exposure.

A recent poll conducted by tech firm RadiumOne shows that even brands who aren’t associated with Euro 2016 as official sponsors managed to muscle their way into some serious exposure from the tournament.


The poll, conducted on around 1,000 people interested in the tournament, found that six of the top ten brands associated with the tournament were not even tournament sponsors!

The brands who came in as the top two, Coca-Cola and Adidas, are indeed sponsors of the tournament, but just behind were brands such as Nike, Visa, MasterCard, Heineken and Budweiser, each of whom sponsor other major footballing tournaments like the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League and the Premier League. So perhaps it’s not surprising that those polled might associate those brands with ‘football’ more generally, rather than ‘Euro 2016’ specifically.

Nike, however, are the most interesting. They came in third in the poll, but 9% of the respondents placed Nike as an official sponsor before being given the list. That’s compared to 10% for actual sponsors Adidas and 12% for Coca-Cola.

Nike’s brand recognition is so strong that people don’t even need to see their name to know what the product is. From the iconic swoosh to the unmistakeable designs they create, Nike products are always associated with sport, and they do this particularly well with football.

It’s not just Nike who are creeping into territory reserved for others. The success of Iceland at the tournament made people take notice too, even before they beat England. It was the passion of the Icelandic fans and commentators as well as the fact that a country so small could compete so well that captured hearts.

But that also provided the perfect foil for frozen food chain Iceland to get in on the action, too.

The exposure they managed to get was unexpected, yet they managed to capitalise, even though England were humiliated by their defeat. But they managed to get themselves associated with the tournament for quite a while.

You don’t need to be the official sponsor of a major sporting event in order to muscle in on the unrivaled exposure that can be achieved during it, you just need to be aware that these events have the power to capture the public’s attention in a way that very few other things can. And you need to be pragmatic in exploiting that on social media.

But that poses a problem for tournament organisers: if brands are paying millions of pounds to become official sponsors of the tournament, and yet other brands are getting the same kind of exposure for free, how do you protect your sponsorship deals?

The world of events and corporate sponsorships will have to adapt to the brave new world of social media, and Euro 2016 shows why.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 831 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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