Ahead of the final, how does the Champions League brand football magic?
The biggest clash in European football, the Uefa Champions League final, is near and could pull in four times more viewers than the Super Bowl. Mud Orange’s Arif Miah takes a look at the behemoth’s brand.
What are the branding tricks behind the Uefa Champions League? / Janosch Diggelmann via Unsplash
In the world of club football, one competition reigns supreme: The Champions League. The final between Manchester City and Inter Milan takes place this Saturday, and it’s expected that around half a billion people will be tuning in to watch it. To put that into context, that’s four times more than the Super Bowl.
Anyone who watches the Champions League can attest to the phenomenon that it is, dwarfing any other club football competition in its stakes, showmanship, and spectacle.
But the unrivaled supremacy of the Champions League is no accident; it’s by design. Here, we’ll look at how Uefa (the sport’s governing organization in Europe) has carefully crafted specific elements of the tournament to build its dominance.
Triumphant sound design
The Champions League’s anthem is unmistakable: an instantly recognizable piece of music that evokes a sense of grandeur and anticipation, setting the scene for a footballing showcase. It’s so prestigious that pundits and fans joke that certain high-profile players are contractually not allowed to hear music from lower-tier European tournaments. Manchester City Striker Erling Haaland has even said it’s his ringtone and alarm.
The anthem nicely brings together Uefa’s three official languages (English, French, and German) to create a composition that transcends borders and languages.
Years ago now, this choice of music was introduced against a difficult footballing backdrop of growing hooliganism, especially in cross-European games. So, when Tony Britten was writing and composing the piece, Uefa intentionally wanted to depart from the negative footballing connotations and crafted a classical piece that expressed a powerful atmosphere with class, strength, and honor.
Clever TV tricks
Uefa works closely with broadcasting partners to distinctly elevate the Champions League TV viewing experience. It’s well known that Champions League games exclusively dial up the color saturation to intensify games and evoke more powerful emotions. This gives a cinematic feel on screens to uplift unforgettable moments, and it’s why no other European tournament quite has the same feel about it. They also use very specific cameras for both in-game and b-roll footage, giving that strong theatrical atmosphere.
This all displays great portfolio management, intentionally reserving these choices for the flagship tournament while clearly differentiating it from lower-tier competitions.
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The look and feel of night
Games are shown in the evening, kicking off around 8 pm in the UK. For most, it’s after work as the day closes for the night. Viewers see footballing giants representing them, expedition style, against European counterparts in a battle for pride and success.
While games are shown in the evenings for logistical reasons, Uefa capitalized on the nighttime and created an aura around the Champions League that ups the stakes and adds in the fear factor for fans.
It’s no coincidence that the climatic battles in action movies usually unfold at night; it’s a time when kids need to be home and the villains arise to rule. Uefa uses builds on this, using deep blue brand colors, a strong typographic style, and overall visual treatment across match day idents, stadium design, walkway set design, and all the way down to the football itself. Collectively, this all bolsters the high anticipation and intensity Uefa wants to create with the tournament.
A tournament as grand as the Champions League attracts brands from all over who want a piece of the pie. But Uefa carefully considers their licensing partners in order to build upon the Champions League message.
From the videogame Fifa 23 having a branded takeover to street art in the hosting city from Turkish Airlines, partnerships serve to bolster the emotions UEFA aims to deliver through the tournament.
It’s no accident that the Champions League has a strong hold on football fans worldwide. Helped by strategically embracing points of difference and creating points of distinction, the final this Saturday will probably be the most watched sporting event this year.
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mud orange is a multi award winning creative agency based in London founded by Arif Miah & Ala Uddin in 2019. Mud orange works with start ups to corporations, from building the brand to creating culturally impactful campaigns that are deeply rooted in contemporary culture. They’ve won some of the most prestigious creative awards globally for brands across fashion, finance, to fitness.Find out more