The Good, Bad and Ugly of Marketing at Euro 2020

Euro 2020 (well, 2021) provided a welcome respite for millions of football fans across the continent. Delayed by a year due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Euro’s was a tournament destined to lift the spirits of all nations involved, and bring some much-needed joy to fans and players alike.

But for brands, it was also a huge opportunity to get in front of millions of eager viewers, through both traditional and digital channels. And in some cases, an opportunity to make the most of tactics that simply weren’t an option back when the last major international tournament took place in 2018; quite simply because they didn’t exist back then.

So I wanted to take a look at some of the good, the bad and the ugly events that were brought about by brands and marketing campaigns during this incredible summer event.


The Good

Volkswagen’s Genius

Sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the first game of Euro 2020 to begin, it’s safe to say I wasn’t expecting a remote-controlled car to bring the football onto the pitch for the referee to signal the start of the game… initially, I thought this was ridiculous. Then I laughed. Then I texted my mates about it, and then I tweeted about it… and so did millions of other football fans, celebrities and even politicians.

And the one thing I could remember after the incident? Volkswagen. This seemingly gimmicky idea by their marketing / PR agency in fact turned into an excellent piece of content that would raise significant brand awareness, mentions, and would turn out to stay long in the memory.

Simple? Yes. Stupid? Maybe. But Effective? Absolutely.

Image: Huffington Post


Digital Billboards

Advertising boards at football matches! I know, yawn… but bear with me. Because another channel that brands adopted at the Euros this summer was in fact the use of digital advertising boards. Once upon a time, every brand manager in the country would have received a call with a ‘last minute’ deal for 30 seconds exposure at the ‘big match’, but these days? The opportunity is much bigger than that.

Now before the true football fanatics get involved, I’m fully aware that the below isn’t an example from the Euros… but it shows perfectly how nowadays, brands can advertise different messages, different languages, on different tv channels… but ALL during the same LIVE sporting event.

This is an absolutely huge opportunity for brands to localise the marketing opportunities available to them at sporting events, whilst making it more affordable by not always being tied into ‘global’ reach, and more importantly global ‘pricing’ for advertising during big games.

Source: Video and full post available on LinkedIn


The Bad

The Ronaldo Coca-Cola Saga

Footballers are a brand owner’s dream. Athletic, always in the press and with more social media influence and reach than most brands can dream of themselves. Yet brand sponsorship doesn’t always go to plan… and Cristiano Ronaldo’s ‘Agua’ moment at the Euros was arguably more memorable than any of the 5 goals that he scored for Portugal…

In case you’ve been living under a stone for the past month (or perhaps just aren’t as football-mad as me…) then here’s a quick recap. During each pre and post-match press conference at the Euros, Coca-Cola had agreed to a tactical placement of 2 bottles of coke to be in the shot of the player’s interviews. Great brand exposure right? Usually, yes. But not when Ronaldo, who has 314 MILLION Instagram followers (and can now reportedly charge just over $1.6m per post…), visibly removes the bottles from the shot, indicating that you shouldn’t drink Coke, and instead, should drink ‘Agua’ (water)…



This seemingly blasé action would usually do little to harm a brand’s reputation or bottom line, and although as explained by Forbes, talks that this action wiped $4 billion off of Coca-Cola’s share price value were extremely wide of the mark… there’s no doubt that the brand’s reputation was significantly impacted.

They say ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’, and even in this case, that could well be true. Below for example shows the significant search volumes for ‘Ronaldo coca cola’ and ‘coca cola’ during that time period, and it’s quite clear it had an impact! Whether that was positive or negative, is really for you to decide.

Source: Google Trends


The Ugly

Social Media Issues & Online Hate

For a tournament that brought so much joy, it was incredibly sad as a fan, a marketer and even more so as a human being, to see the disgusting behaviour of a minority of ‘fans’ who were involving themselves in online hate and racist posts following England’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy.

Now I don’t want to add much about this, other than highlight how we still have a long way to go in the world of social media to educate this seemingly mindless minority.

So if you haven’t already, I urge you to sign this petition to make verified ID a requirement for opening a social media account. Yes, social media is important for brands, and agencies alike, but if it’s that important to us, then let’s do something about making it a place where such horrific events no longer take place.



Written by: Head of Digital, Daz Baker