For many, TikTok was the surprise sponsor winner of Euro 2020. Sarah Baumann, managing director of VaynerMedia London, explains how her agency produced more than 650 pieces of content to help secure that status for its client.
It is no surprise that TikTok is the online success story of recent years. Since first stepping into the world of digital media – singing and dancing its way into the hearts of those looking to share short-form video entertainment – its popularity has continued to soar. By the start of this year, 100 million people in Europe alone were using the app every month.
Already famous for its impact on shaping popular music and lifestyle culture, the sponsorship of Euro 2020 provided a unique opportunity for TikTok to show the world that it is also much more – by becoming a credible voice in sport and demonstrating that it is the place for football fans to connect, create and be entertained.
With so much pent-up desire both for live sport and the return of fans to stadiums, Euro 2020 became more than a football tournament. It was a significant cultural moment across Europe, driving online conversation not just about football and the players, but also about what it means to be a football fan (and indeed what it means to be a footballer – especially following the harrowing scenes of Danish player Christian Eriksen lying prone on the pitch in Copenhagen).
As the first digital entertainment platform to sponsor the Euros, we knew that TikTok’s key strength was its ability to share the fan experience and to truly engage with them – cementing TikTok’s credentials as the number one home for all forms of entertainment and being at the heart of the cultural zeitgeist.
And so the ‘Where fans play’ social media campaign was born; a campaign that put the fans themselves at the heart of it, and took the fan experience on TikTok beyond the app and shared it across all social media. This approach engaged football fans across the continent and showed them that TikTok was the go-to place for them.
Daniel Bulteel, global head of social media marketing at TikTok, says he was aiming to “respond in real-time to all major moments, standing alongside the fans, with each piece of content giving a glimpse into the fandom, passion and creativity you’ll find on TikTok”.
So we set out on a real-time marketing campaign to amplify TikTok’s passion for football. We ran more than 650 separate pieces of content across TikTok’s owned social media platforms throughout the 51-match tournament.
Of course, pre-planning was critical. A month of preparation even included rehearsals during the pre-tournament friendly matches so that we could hit the ground running as the very first match kicked off. This also allowed us to prepare content in advance to cover certain eventualities – England scoring, Italy conceding, a penalty being awarded – at least for the group stages where we knew who was playing who. But as the tournament progressed into the knock-out stages, things really took off and we were generally producing content instantly during a live game – we might be writing a tweet, translating it into German, creating a visual and posting it within minutes. It was the very definition of real-time marketing – an entirely live process.
The campaign included key European markets, with content delivered at scale for the UK, France, Germany and Italy. The logistics of creating this volume of content, at speed, often in reaction to live events, were exceptional and could not have happened without the highest degree of collaboration and iteration between the VaynerMedia team and our amazing clients at TikTok. This was a true team effort – delivered ‘live’, right down to the final penalty.
With the strategy of keeping the focus very much on the fans and what they were feeling and experiencing throughout the tournament, creatively it was critical that we stayed authentic to the TikTok brand and tone of voice. One of my favorite examples of this came during the final – as extra time ended and we headed into that fateful penalty shootout, we didn’t post statistics about penalty takers or goalkeepers. Instead we put out a simple tweet: ‘Penalties. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no no no no no.’ This was a call back to the TikTok community’s shared, common language and the soundtrack to many a TikTok trend.
This approach continued away from the live element of the campaign in our ‘surprise and entertain’ video content, which heroed TikTok creators. In England a creator was surprised on his doorstep by Ashley Cole, taken on a tour of Wembley stadium and then received two tickets to the final. In France, another creator received an unexpected video call from David Trezeguet, who then visited him to watch a game in his flat – which TikTok had transformed into the ultimate football viewing experience.
And to cap off the tournament, as soon as England was confirmed in the final, we created a one-minute film for TikTok, which was shown on the in-stadium screens at Wembley during the final. Speaking directly to the fans in the stadium, it celebrated and showcased them and their contribution to the tournament. It was a real highlight, even if the final result on the pitch wasn’t.
From this almost entirely organic campaign – with paid media spend by Zenith kept to the tens of thousands of pounds – engagement was phenomenal, demonstrating how effectively a consumer-first, rapid response campaign can cut through when it taps into such a pertinent cultural moment.
So while football didn’t quite make it home for the England squad, TikTok most definitely won at Euro 2020. The campaign achieved five times TikTok’s average engagement rate during the tournament period and delivered in excess of 230m views. We can safely say that football loves TikTok.