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Why cross-channel strategy is vital for Euro 2016 glory

As authored by Alex Rahaman, UK Country Manager, Sizmek

The beautiful game has always been as much about its spectators as the action on the field, and at last brand marketers are starting to recognise this sporting truth. So far, every campaign launched for this year’s UEFA European Championship has a shared goal — delivering an interactive experience that is resoundingly user-first.

Coca Cola is giving away Euro tickets via an on-pack promotion, while Orange has sent football icon Zinédine Zidane to find the world’s biggest fans and bring them to the games for its ‘Orange Sponsors You’ campaign. Carlsberg has taken a similar route with ‘If Carlsberg did substitutions’ by disguising presenter Chris Kamara as an elderly traveller who presents tickets to those who give him a seat on the tube.

There is also one other crucial factor these campaigns have in common — none of them are reliant on a single 30-second TV ad to capture an audience of millions. After years of practice these brands have learnt that to realise the potential of such a significant global event, they must build campaigns that not only draw viewers into the action but also maximise impact by engaging them across a variety of channels.

According to an Accenture report released last year, 87% of consumers worldwide use multiple devices while watching TV, and sports viewing numbers have dropped by 10%. The lure of gathering around the TV set to watch live sports events is still strong, but viewers are now distracted by the lure of second screens and the chances that they will be tweeting, betting or browsing during commercial breaks are high.

As a result, marketers are shifting their focus from TV-only to integrated, cross-channel strategies, in which the big screen is one of many media platforms. By giving fans the choice of interacting with longer, more immersive messages wherever it suits them, brands are hoping to capitalise on the growing appetite for on the go sports, and make budgets go further. But the question is: what makes a good cross-channel strategy?

In 2015, Heineken successfully adapted the rise of multi-screening with its campaign for the Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus. As well as a 60-second TV slot, Heineken created Twitter hashtag #ChampionTheMatch to ensure it also piqued the interest of viewers lured away from TV by social media.

For this year’s match between A.S Roma and Real Madrid, the brand went one step further — making football fan Simone part of its narrative with ‘The Dilemma’ of choosing between a ticket to the game, or watching the match with friends. After projecting his friends onto a screen in the stadium, Heineken revealed that they were waiting for Simone in an exclusive VIP box, masterfully telling a story that resonated with the unity football fans experience when they watch as a group.

Yet it is also possible to get it wrong, as shown by BT’s Champions League mishap in late 2015. The broadcaster engaged a vast audience through online, TV and print — but its misleading promotion of matches as ‘free’ when in fact a subscription was mandatory, saw the ads banned. Not only does this demonstrate the importance of clear messaging, but it also highlights the need for dynamic, adaptable creative.

An effective cross-channel strategy does not serve the same ad to every channel or screen; it delivers tailored creative that adjusts to real-time events such as a when a goal is scored, as well as the viewing preferences of consumers. By using programmatic to tailor messages to specific individuals across multiple channels, marketers can amplify the scope and impact of their campaigns — not only reaching those watching games on TV, but also developing new connections with a myriad of audience segments around the world.

This year new UEFA sponsor Nissan has already begun to make its mark with a cross-channel extravaganza that draws parallels between its innovative engineering and the skills of star players Andres Iniesta and Thiago Silva in a series of ‘tests’. In addition to a mixture of print, TV, online and outdoor ads, the brand has also created a digital platform where fans can find the latest UEFA updates and vote for top goals.

Although TV has not lost its power to engage and entertain, future football campaigns are destined to move even further towards a cohesive, cross-channel approach. With fans switching between a range of devices and platforms, it is becoming increasingly vital for brands to spread their resources across mobile, social, video and display — as well as TV — to ensure more than 30 seconds of glory.

Alex Rahaman, UK Country Manager, Sizmek