Eurovision is bigger than the Super Bowl, but marketers are only now realizing
For years, Jerry Daykin has been The Drum’s Eurovision correspondent. This year he’s relieved marketers have finally realized just how huge an opportunity it provides.
Eurovision comes to Liverpool in 2023
For half a decade, I’ve pointed out that Eurovision is bigger than the Super Bowl or Beyoncé many marketers have still been cautious about dipping their toes in. Perhaps confused by the BBC’s non-commercial status in the UK, or just jaded by their own view on how cool and cultural the event is, I’ve personally seen many brands pass up the opportunity when placed in front of them.
Like most big events, however, Eurovision is a commercial machine. Indeed, a considerable part of its funding comes from sponsorship, helping ensure it remains some of the best value programming for broadcasters across the continent. Moroccanoil has held true as the headline sponsor for three years now with visibility across YouTube, experiential and PR. In most countries, sponsor presence is felt during the show itself with ad breaks, indents and even on-screen branding of elements like the scorecard. Booking.com and TikTok are also continuing their support from last year.
The show is always one of the most Tweeted about of the year and while many brands will throw their hats into the ring with ‘witty’ real-time commentary, those that don’t want to just be lost in the social calendar noise need to do a little more to stand out. Back in 2016, I worked with Cadbury and it went as far as to sponsor the promoted trend of the day and use Twitter pre-rolls to present itself as a digital sponsor – which, through collaboration with the EBU (European Broadcasting Union), it actually was.
Then last year, UK viewers last year experienced something almost unheard of in more than two decades – seeing its own country getting votes from across the continent and finishing up nearly at the top of the scoreboard.
In the lead-up to the contest, and certainly in the months that followed, the national mood towards Eurovision shifted tangibly. While always one of the most watched TV spectacles of the year, journalists and much of the public are often quick to laugh it off as a joke. Sam Ryder’s relentless positivity in the face of that started to challenge the narrative, and his remarkable second-place finish fully blew it out of the water.
It turns out that entering a song we ourselves thought was quite decent, sung by a talented and charismatic singer who toured it around Europe and staging it with class and impact was a winning strategy. This is a fact that won’t surprise most European countries who, contrary to myths that you have to send amateur contestants, have been sending their biggest pop stars for decades.
Since May last year, Sam has gone on to top charts, headlined historic concerts as part of the Jubilee celebrations and even front the UK’s New Year’s Eve show. The very first piece of post-firework TV the BBC showed this year was a one-man Eurovision show, followed closely by a recording of a Eurovision celebration concert that went on well into the night. If that wasn’t a wake-up call to marketers that the year of UK Eurovision has arrived, then what possibly can be?
Meanwhile, “United by Music” is the hopeful and inclusive slogan of this year’s contest. It has some heavy lifting to do – although the contest is being held in the UK for the first time in 25 years, it’s being hosted as a surrogate for last year’s actual winners Ukraine.
A ‘handing over’ ceremony on January 31 officially handed the keys of the contest from last year’s host Turin to the mayor of Liverpool, aired for the first time on BBC primetime TV. The announcement of this year’s UK entrant (Mae Muller) was also covered across a number of prime BBC outlets, and her entry I Wrote a Song is actually getting airplay for a change.
It won’t be easy to balance a host city’s natural desire to show itself off with the nuanced need to represent Ukraine’s current situation, all while theoretically avoiding being at all ‘political’. Jointly designed by Superunion in the UK and Starlight Creative in Ukraine, the blue and yellow-dominated visuals are certainly setting off on the right path.
For any prospective sponsors I have just convinced, you’re leaving it quite last minute to become an official partner, but there is still time for those who want to. Others may want to turn their eyes to the experiential opportunity and the many viewing opportunities which will likely emerge. Last year, I watched Sam Ryder’s success at an Everyman Cinema in what was a well-executed brand partnership between Skittles & Gay Times and reveled in being surrounded by fans at such a pivotal moment. Look out for similar initiatives this year, and especially many reflecting the show’s strong LGBTQ+ support.
There are signs that things are changing – Bailey’s has announced itself as an official partner of the contest, and tubs of Philadelphia with the Eurovision branding have been spotted on supermarket shelves. Coincidentally both Mondelez and Diageo are companies where I had proposed a Eurovision partnership before but where it seemingly took a lot of persuading, and a change in fortunes, to finally make it happen. With Eurovision on home soil, it’s finally time for the marketing industry to tap into its true potential.
Jerry Daykin is the Drum’s Eurovision Correspondent. In his day job, he is VP of media at Beam Suntory, and a WFA Diversity Ambassador.