What sponsors really thought about Eurovision 2023
Top marketer and committed Eurovision fanatic Jerry Daykin has had a few days to reflect on his adventure in Liverpool now. He gives insight into what sponsors will be feeling.
What sponsors really thought about Eurovision 2023
At the end of a brilliant evening of TV, there was a slightly flat feeling within the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool. The host nation’s song coming almost dead last didn't help. Even a popular winner returning to take the crown again wasn’t enough to lighten the mood, not least because Sweden’s Tattoo-inspired Loreen did so at the expense of the popular vote winner Käärijä and his sauna-fueled Cha Cha Cha. More than anything though, people were just sad it was over.
I’ve now been in person to seven Eurovisions and can say without a shadow of a doubt that Liverpool was the city that has done the best job of hosting the contest. The show itself was a glossy, well-staged spectacular, but it was on the streets around it that the true spirit of the city came alive. From cultural programs with art institutions and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, to a buzzing Eurovision Village and buskers on every corner – the city and its residents truly embraced the contest.
There was far more branding for the contest than any in previous history both on public signage and in the windows of countless independent shops and businesses, much of which carried the advertising of the year’s official sponsors with it. You could feel a real national and local pride to be hosting the contest.
But up in those exclusive zones, most fans could only dream of, the mood was notably more elated in the sponsors’ lounge – helped by a free bar and Bailey’s treat station. Everyone was thrilled at how well their activations had gone, and that they had made it to the end of complex hospitality and activation plans, if the UK viewing figures are anything to go by.
The BBC reported that the contest saw a peak of 11 million UK viewers and an audience share of 63%, the largest in its history, while around 160 million people tuned in in total around the world. Liverpool reported welcoming more than half a million visitors to the city, smashing conservative estimates of just one hundred thousand.
One marketing head I spoke to off the record had inherited their sponsorship when she joined the company at the end of last year. She had been somewhat skeptical of the role she saw it playing going forwards but was a total convert by this stage – thrilled by the performance of their campaigns in the run-up to the event, the experiential and PR they’d managed around it and the hospitality they’d been able to offer their key customers throughout.
Another multi-brand company which had dipped its toe in the water this year was adamant it'd be back for the next several years and hinted at exploring ways for more portfolio to get involved. One exec I spoke to was joking with their procurement lead about needing to lock down a longer-term commitment before the organizers realized the true value of the sponsorship and started to further up the price.
After Sweden’s emphatic victory, the contest will return there in 2024 for the thirdd time in a dozen years, perfectly in time for the 50th anniversary of Abba’s win with the song Waterloo. The Swedes are often held as the absolute champions of Eurovision production and indeed reach similar levels of polish just for their own national selection process (Melodifestivalen).
Like the BBC, their local broadcaster SVT is also non-commercial, but unlike the Beeb, they have found a more comfortable middle ground allowing a degree of sports sponsorships and indeed have many sponsors of that selection process. A desirable host broadcaster, a historic milestone that calls for an Abbatar reunion at the very least, and the huge momentum sparked by Liverpool certainly set the stage for an even greater marketing opportunity in 2024 – I look forward to reporting on it.
Suggested newsletters for you
However, things didn’t look quite so rosy for Mae Muller, the UK’s entrant into the song contest itself. She finished an underwhelming 22nd in the professional jury vote but slipped down to 25th by the time the public phone votes had been added in. The post-mortem felt a little more balanced than usual – after all, we cannot really say that Europe hates us after our strong second-place showing in 2022.
Mae’s Instead I Wrote a Song was a decent radio pop song and looks set to break the top 10 in the UK having already become the first Eurovision song in many years to receive a decent amount of UK radio play ahead of the contest. She can hold her head high in terms of how she has carried herself throughout the contest and has certainly made many new fans along the way. She may not match Sam Ryder levels of embedding into the national consciousness but you get the sense this can easily still be a positive step in what should yet be a long career.
In practice, the song was hard to bring to life on the main stage and Mae didn't have much of a chance to show off the fact she actually can sing. It was a little forgettable. You got the sense the BBC production team might have been a little distracted working on the (sensational) contest itself.
You don’t lose Eurovision by people voting against you, you lose by not enough people voting for you. By the end of the night, three of the top five were radio-friendly, female-led, upbeat pop songs and it seems that people who would happily hum along to Mae’s entry might be more motivated to pick up the phone for one of the slicker numbers. Especially with her song performing last, by which time many minds were made up.
Her result doesn’t at all reflect how positively the song was embraced on the ground around the contest, the energy it attracted whenever it came in in one of the EuroClub bars, and the reaction it has had as she toured it around Europe. After the show itself, I happened to even spot Irish Taoiseach (PM) Leo Varadkar swaying along to it at the official fan after-party. It also didn’t reflect the absolute love for the song other contestants have developed – nearly all of whom joined in a (sadly off-camera) conga line as she closed out the show.
There isn’t a better image to end my Eurovision journey for now. Here are some of my other pieces regarding this historic event: