Sports Marketing Marketing

Why live sports offer digital PR a unique opportunity to perform

By Lucy Waldon, Head of content production

July 9, 2021 | 5 min read

As the Euros come to a close, Lucy Waldon, head of content production at Receptional explains how planning ahead around big sporting moments can reap major PR rewards.


Euro 2020 may be coming to an end, but after its one-year delay, it certainly hasn’t disappointed. It has brought the continent together – fans so often divided by their domestic club loyalties, but united by their passion to support their team. Finally able to return to stadia to revel in the thrills and spills the sport can bring, there’s nothing quite like the atmosphere of a live game.

Watching the drama unfold is not only enjoyed from the point of view of the spectator, but the marketer within us – and in a similar manner in which we as fans react to events on social media or with our friends or colleagues, we as marketers are able to react to events in a timely and relevant fashion – by way of creative content campaigns. This creates an incredible opportunity for digital PR – through a combination of approaches.

Whether it’s:

  • a survey to gauge the insights of fans.

  • a supercomputer study to predict a plethora of outcomes.

  • looking back at historical data and crunching the numbers to see if history can repeat itself.

  • reacting to the drama as it unfolds.

As we know, the beautiful game is unpredictable. Who would have thought we’d get to the quarter-final stage without any of the teams from the ‘Group of Death’: France, Germany or Portugal? And what about world number 1 Belgium being knocked out at the quarter-final stage? Or even Jordan Pickford keeping as many clean sheets as he has?

Playing on unpredictability in digital PR

At Receptional, we ran a series of campaigns during Euro 2020, including many of the methods that are listed above, to generate coverage and backlinks for our sports-related clients.

Just some of the angles that were covered by our supercomputer study, which went on to be accurate, include:

  • Sweden to overachieve without their talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic (they reached the round of 16)

  • Italy to reach the final, through fouling the opposition (This one isn’t totally inaccurate)

  • It’s coming home: England to win Euros final (It could still happen!)

These unexpected outcomes – predictions of underdogs overcoming adversity – are loved by readers and journalists alike, giving you so many avenues to explore through your content in the run-up to tournaments.

But by using the reactive approach too, we were able to respond to results and outcomes as they happened, to update stories and make them more relevant to our target sites:

  • Patrik Schick to be named Euro 2020 top scorer (the Czech striker is still level with Cristiano Ronaldo, as things stand).

  • Switzerland to stun Spain in Euro 2020 quarter-finals (they did for 120 minutes, before the penalty shootout loomed).

Adopting a newsroom-like approach

To use the methods listed above, you need a strict process in your editorial or content team.

At Receptional, we produce over 5,500 articles a year – more than national newspapers – so a newsroom-like approach is mandatory, not only for precision but in order to create quality, timely and relevant content. Our team come from a mix of journalism and PR backgrounds, which helps too.

We develop content ideas together, identify sources – whether existing third-party data or our own surveys and simulations – then have a three-step process during the editorial stage, which ensures three pairs of eyes checks over any piece of work before it’s handed over to our outreach team to place:

  • A writer.

  • A sub-editor.

  • A final proofer.

It’s this process that allows you to create the highest-quality content, which in turn, gets great pick-up.

But it’s important to be pro-active, as well as reactive – and it’s the combination of these two approaches which not only informs the style of content, but ensures that every article is written and placed in a timely manner – for maximum efficiency.

Of course, there’s nothing quite like the importance of a major tournament, and the European Championships, or even the World Cup next year in Qatar, are testament to that. But it’s live sport as a whole – whether it’s domestic or international, football or rugby – which hands digital PR the stage on which to perform.

Lucy Waldon, head of content production, Receptional

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