The votes are in: Jerry Daykin judges the Eurovision brand experience
The top marketer and committed Eurovision fanatic thinks the event is bigger than the Super Bowl. He’s on the ground to show off the activations and find the gaps for new brands.
The votes are in: Jerry Daykin judges the Eurovision brand experience
Over the years, the BBC’s stewardship of Eurovision has hidden the true commercial extent of the contest from UK viewers. Some of those awkward parts where the hosts try and be funny and it feels like they’re just filling time? Often, they are. Across most of Europe, they have cut to a commercial break. As the credits rolled on the first Semi-Final show from Liverpool on Tuesday this week most of Europe saw the logos of the key brand sponsors, while on home soil they were swapped out for additional credits for the BBC’s UK team.
If you had seen those logos, you’d have seen the beauty brand Moroccanoil as presenting partner, TikTok as the official entertainment partner and Booking.com as the official travel partner. They’re usually also accompanied in graphics by a fourth and final key partner in the shape of Baileys but suspect varying alcohol advertising legislation may have stopped that.
According to Gail Sullivan, head of BBC Communications, the first semi-final of Eurovision this year (yes, there have been two for well over a decade) had a peak audience of 3.4 million alongside almost 500,000 iPlayer streams. That’s up from only half a million last year, though a shift to BBC One from Three will certainly have helped. One of the biggest questions in media this week is whether the final on Saturday will top the domestic audience for the Coronation. Last year, the show peaked at 10.6 million, and the Coronation's overnight peak audience was 13.4 million – a home contest typically provides a boost so that target is easily in sight.
On the ground
I jumped on board Avanti West Coast’s special Eurovision train (complete with costumes, carriage quizzes, singalongs and a mayoral welcome party) up to Liverpool to see how these and other brands were making the most of the biggest music event in the world.
The first thing I noticed (if the mayor throwing an official welcome party wasn’t enough of a hint) was that Liverpool is a city that is taking its Eurovision hosting duties very seriously. You’d struggle to miss the omnipresent bright blue and yellow color scheme, a nod to the Ukraine that we are hosting on behalf of.
There’s signage on most lampposts, pop-up art installations every few hundred meters, and almost every shop in town has gone to at least some effort to turn their windows into a Eurovision welcome. Including big chain stores like John Lewis, Waterstones and Mcdonald’s.
The area around the station is dominated by a large TikTok digital billboard that overlooks over one of several physical busking spots they’ve created across the city. It tells the story of last year’s UK entrant Sam Ryder who rose to fame on the platform. Looming around it are several giant posters recognizing the National Lottery’s support of the contest & surrounding cultural projects.
Eurovision Village down on the river Mersey is the public heart of the contest and hosts a large fan zone with live music all day, alongside screens to show the main events at night. Thousands of people are expected every day and the security queues to get in suggested they were indeed coming. Much like at a music festival, several of the sponsoring brands had pop-up experiential activations to maximize their on-the-ground presence.
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My old colleagues at Baileys had the largest space, with a Treat Bar serving up a range of elaborate chocolate cocktails – for a price of course, though a smaller equivalent set up in the press center serving up for free was even more popular. Although the partnership is presented as a Baileys one, you’ll struggle to find a spirits drink at any official Eurovision site that isn’t part of the wider Diageo range, showing how they’ve begun to leverage it at a portfolio level.
Booking.com and Google had impressively polished but relatively quiet spaces nearby, the latter having a lower level ‘national sponsorship’ alongside EasyJet. TikTok had branding and prompts to engage on the platform, but not as much of a presence as I had assumed. Booking also had an arguably better space in the press center, where several highly themed ‘rooms’ were being offered as spaces for the press to hold interviews.
At Sweden’s Melodifestivalen national final to select their song for Europe the corridors around the stadium were packed with interactive brand activations. None of these were to be found at the smaller M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool. Available space and footfall may have been a limiting factor, but I wonder whether the BBC was also keen to draw a clear line around the brands. That said, headline sponsor Morocconoil, conspicuously absent from the village, was handing out totes and samples to everyone at the end of the night.
Speaking of Morocconoil, the relatively unknown beauty brand does seem a slightly unusual headline sponsor for such a multinational event. Despite the Moroccan name the brand actually has Israeli ties, and first became a sponsor when the contest was held in Tel Aviv in 2019. Its decision to keep sponsoring since then presumably highlights that it has paid back for it, and hints at the fact that Eurovision sponsorship can be surprisingly affordable compared to comparable sports partnerships. Having its logo at the start of every video on the Eurovision YouTube channel, which has amassed almost 7bn views, presumably doesn’t hurt either.
Seemingly never listed in official sponsors lists, but still also an official partner, is another former employer of mine – Mondelez International. For those of you outside of Liverpool it is perhaps the physical Eurovision marketing you’ve been most likely to see. Both its Cadbury Dairy Milk and Philadelphia brands have had special edition products produced with Eurovision branding front and center. Both have offered opportunities for consumers to win tickets, which seem tied closely to retail customer partnerships (the Cadbury competition requires you to have bought a bar in Tesco).
They highlight the opportunity of the contest not just to build brand and engagement, but ultimately to tie back to hard commercial opportunity.
Kirsten McPherson, Philadelphia’s UK marketing director, explains to me why the brand got involved: “The Eurovision Song Contest is a key moment in the cultural calendar, demonstrating the power of music to bring family and friends together for an evening of fun and celebration. We’re delighted to be an official sponsor of the 2023 contest.”
Meanwhile, speaking off record, a leading marketer at the event told me that the event this year has “really cemented the opportunity the contest offers to brands – to activate in the host city, to activate in the host country, and to get behind a key cultural moment right across the continent.”
They speculated that we will be seeing more from the Morocconoil sponsorship in the next few years, hinting that it may be too late for brands to get involved as the event continues to grow.