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Uefa marketing chief on how to be a winner for brands as well as football fans


By Dani Gibson, Senior Writer

March 6, 2018 | 6 min read

Grabbing the attention of millennials can be a demanding task when it comes to capturing the eyes of football fans on social media, especially when trying to balance the needs and demands of the fans with that of brand sponsors, says Guy-Laurent Epstein, marketing director of Uefa Events S.A..

Fans want authenticity, Epstein said. They want to embrace impactful and immersive content or experiences. “Hence the importance of finding overlaps in the objectives between our sponsors and ourselves and to become co-creators of immersive experiences as well as of authentic and engaging content,” he explains. “Many of our sponsors are market leaders within their industry with great marketing expertise, while Uefa has great understanding of football in general and football fans specifically. By combining these expertise, aiming in the same goals is when we believe sponsorship works the strongest and is a mutually beneficial relationship - It is a win for our sponsors, Uefa and most importantly our fans.”

But it is not just about the whole new generation who consume media largely digital. He revealed that balance also needs to be struck between fans “like the romantics who believe in the purity of football”, and those who want to be entertained.

A recent example of this is the David Guetta campaign for Euro 2016 which placed Guetta as the music ambassador, with the task of creating a soundtrack for the tournament which featured as many fans as possible on the track. This resulted in over one million fans, from 210 countries entering their chants and becoming a part of the track.

DG Uefa

Social media accounts serve as engagement channels and commercial platforms, a way for the football clubs and footballers to have a two-way conversation with the fans and build a kinship between them. The value of these interactions are increasing in value and are being considered in media and contractual agreements.

Uefa has worked with the likes of Heineken, Nissan and Pepsi.

Uefa has also worked with F2 Freestylers influencers to grow its fan-base by engaging with young football audiences who are immersed in social. Epstein highlighted the ‘Train Like a Champion’ campaign. The piece centred on the F2 recreating Shevchenko’s goal that he scored a quarter-final match against Inter Milan in 2005."

It had an audience of 400K football fans who became Uefa’s social media account followers only after the launch of the campaign.

Uefa’s overarching objective is to drive traffic towards its owned platforms. However, when focusing on social, the approach for sponsorship-related content is to find a fit between the sponsor’s objectives, the type of content and the characteristics of the platform. Epstein explained that on Facebook, the content that works is that which entices fan discussions, like the UCL Fantasy Football – Team of the Week, which reached 10 million fans and received almost 200K engagements from reactions, comments and shares.

UEFA Fantasy

When it comes to Instagram. aesthetically appealing content like the UniCredit Trophy Tour – UCL Trophy Beauty Shot, is one of Uefa’s best performing pieces of content overall (including non-sponsored content)

The #UCL trophy has made it to Bari! See it this weekend! #unicredit #ucltrophytour

A post shared by #UCL (@championsleague) on

On Twitter, Uefa has seen high levels engagement and reach with snappy content like the six second animated clip announcing the Goal of the Group Stage (as part of the Goal of the Week piece, sponsored by Nissan).

The Uefa Champions League still has a few rounds to go, with plenty more social engagement for its fans.

Epstein is a judge for The Drum Marketing Awards, which celebrate the best marketers and campaigns internationally.

The deadline for entries has now passed, but you can apply for an extension by contacting Pepe.Terry@thedrum.com

Sponsors for the awards are Tapad.

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