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UEFA EURO 2020™: The marketing value of sports sponsorships

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We go behind the scenes of UEFA EURO 2020™ to learn more about Booking.com’s role as Official Accommodation Booking Partner

In 2017, we announced a four-year global partnership with UEFA to become the event’s Official Accommodation Booking Partner. The 2020 EUROs kicked off last month in June after being postponed last year, and billions of football fans began tuning in to watch their favorite teams go head-to-head on the field. 

One responsibility we take on as a sponsor is helping UEFA find accommodations for the teams, referees, and officials who need to travel to this 11-city event. But that's just the beginning of the partnership and our campaign surrounding it, which this year had a strong focus on digital and virtual fan participation. 

With the last tournament in 2016 generating a cumulative live broadcast audience of almost 5 billion worldwide, the sponsorship represents a significant brand exposure opportunity. If you watched the EUROs this time around, you surely noticed Booking.com's visual presence, with perimeter ads around the fields for matches in key markets and ads broadcasting key messages that we want to convey to consumers. 

Amplifying the message with #RivalsReUnited

The sponsorship saw Booking.com and UEFA collaborate on the #RivalsReUnited campaign, which was activated across a range of channels—owned, earned, and paid—to amplify the partnership at key moments during the competition. This campaign not only features travelers who are deeply enjoying their EURO adventures with friends, but also important messages about our partners like "Our hosts are fabulous" that spotlight you and your excellent hospitality. 

While there were fans at the stadium at every match, the majority of the reduced capacity crowds were made up of domestic supporters from host nations due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions. As the pandemic made it impossible for the majority of fans to travel to matches this year, we poured more resources into boosting the digital and virtual conversation around the event, connecting supporters on social media, inviting them to interact in real time, and focusing on the many match rituals that make this once-every-four-year event so special.

To further bring this campaign to life, we worked with a number of celebrities including TV presenter Lorraine Kelly and singer Mel C (aka Sporty Spice), as well as UEFA Ambassadors including Lothar Matthäus, Michael Owen, and Marcel Desailly, who used the hashtag and Booking.com’s social media handle to share match reactions and celebrations with their audiences. 

Fans are gearing up for travel 

While this iconic event is a calendar highlight for many fans, our research reveals that even the most dedicated football supporters wouldn’t miss their next vacation – even if it meant seeing their biggest adversary win UEFA EURO 2020™. In fact, nearly two-thirds of European supporters (63%) would rather see their main rival win the tournament than skip their next vacation.

Many of these fans are already thinking about their next trip overseas, with eight in ten (83%) confirming that they plan to travel for leisure in the next year. France is the country most visited by European fans with nearly half (45%) having traveled there. Spain is the next most visited (43%), followed by Germany (41%), and England (37%). 

“We know sporting events like UEFA EURO 2020™ are a big reason why people travel. A thrilling 90 minutes on the field is combined with the opportunity to experience other countries, cultures, and join in with the locals,” says Arjan Dijk, Chief Marketing Officer at Booking.com. “However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, travel may not be an option for many fans this year. Our research has shown that the limitations on travel have so affected European football fans that they would rather see their biggest rival in UEFA EURO 2020™ than miss their next vacation.  

“It seems that opposing fans—whose rivalry may be intense during those all important games—are on the same side when it comes to prioritizing their vacations. And as our research and travel data has revealed, supporter relationships aren’t just about who wins, with football fans much more friends than rivals.”

 

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Takeaway
  • In 2017, Booking.com announced a four-year global partnership with UEFA to become the event’s Official Accommodation Booking Partner
  • Kicking off last month, the 2020 EUROs (postponed last year) represent a significant brand exposure opportunity, with the last tournament in 2016 generating a cumulative live broadcast audience of almost 5 billion worldwide
  • As the pandemic made it impossible for the majority of fans to travel to matches this year, we focused on boosting the digital and virtual conversation around the event
  • We also collaborated with UEFA on a #RivalsReUnited campaign, which was activated across a range of owned, earned, and paid channels