Champions League advertising: How small screens can change the big game for brands

By Nimeshh Patel | VP, EMEA

June 5, 2015 | 5 min read

This year’s Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus is set to be the most lucrative ever for broadcasters around the world. As in every year since 2010, the match will take place on a Saturday evening, offering up prime-time advertising slots worth many times more than the competition’s traditional Tuesday and Wednesday night games.

While the clash ranks some way behind its closest comparison – the Super Bowl in the US, which fetches up to $4.5 million for a 30-second TV spot – Juventus and Barcelona are two giants of world football and will still pull in millions of viewers this weekend. And brands are beginning to jump on board the Champions League bandwagon, with the likes of Heineken and Nissan launching associated campaigns in recent years, and Facebook debuting its first ever UK TV advert during a Champions League tie earlier this season.

As broadcasters continue to spend more on TV rights and inevitably raise their ad rates, it raises the question of whether brands that are shelling out this kind of money during major sporting events should be focused on capturing more than 30 or 60 seconds of our attention.

Berlin will host tomorrow's final

This becomes even more pronounced when you consider that over 70 per cent of us admit to second-screening, or using a smartphone, tablet or computer while watching TV. Why would our habits be any different during the Champions League final? In fact, people may be even faster to rush to their phones and tablets during the big match to discuss key decisions on social media or make in-game bets.

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Mobile devices have undoubtedly made viewers less attentive, which means it is time for smart marketers to adapt their strategy. To really make an impact during the match this Saturday, brands need to mount complete cross-device takeover campaigns.

Take the aforementioned Heineken for example, which as the official 2015 Uefa Champions League sponsor is again running a TV spot during this year’s final. Its ad will be visible for just 60 seconds and, while Heineken hopes its ad spend will result in more engagement and ultimately increase sales, the ad runs for a minuscule portion of the game. What about the rest of the time or even during the ad while people are distracted? What can Heineken do while its commercial is running to get people to pay attention to the brand?

In this case, the brand is also betting on punters taking to Twitter throughout the match and is pushing its #ChampionTheMatch hashtag in conjunction. By thinking beyond TV with a synced digital campaign, primarily on mobile devices, Heineken and other advertisers can increase the odds of a strong return on their investment during major televised events.

Reaching out to consumers on mobile enables brands to increase their share of the audience's attention, which may be more focused on their phones than the TV. Fortunately, today's cross-device technology solutions can enable truly synchronised screen takeovers.

Brands advertising during any big sporting event should leverage other channels and hit users' devices at the same time with a related ad. This strategy would also work for any company that is not airing an ad on Saturday night, but has a competitor that is. For example, a competitor car brand that knows Nissan will be owning TV spots could instead buy mobile advertising space during the game.

Cross-device digital media campaigns have the added benefit of being able to track and attribute conversions, which TV advertising has long struggled to do. Following a consumer's purchase path in a multi-device environment is challenging, but technology exists that helps marketers understand where consumers see ads versus where they convert, as well as place true global frequency caps on the number of ads shown – even across devices.

The bottom line is that the brands looking to get exposure during major events such as the Champions League final cannot afford to be making a TV-only play. There are too many devices, too many distractions and not enough opportunities to ensure the ads get in front of the right audience. No matter who triumphs on Saturday, the big winner this season will be brands that nailed the cross-device experience.

Nimeshh Patel is VP of EMEA at Drawbridge


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