First-time sponsor TikTok has become the best-known sponsor of UEFA EURO 2020, with the social media platform placing first in the ranking with an unsupported awareness of 18 percent (SPONSORs, 2021). The sponsorship was the first digital entertainment platform to sponsor a major sport competition. The European Championship 2020 is not the only tournament in TikTok’s sports sponsorship portfolio, with the platform also activating in the all-electric racing series Extreme E, the mixed martial art competition Ultimate Fighting Championship, and Wrexham AFC and Burnley FC Women in football.
It has not been uncommon to see social media sites like Twitter strike content partnerships with major events such as the Olympics in recent years, but TikTok went a step further as an official sponsor. The logic behind it is that it is inevitable to have a large presence in football with TikTok’s drive to become the most relatable platform in Europe. In fact, TikTok has developed into a vibrant hub of sports content over the last two years with football content kicking off on the platform. Becoming an official UEFA EURO 2020 partner further made TikTok a home for football fans to share their passion for the game.
The tournament being pushed back by a year and restrictions being put in place opened the door for Tiktok to make the deal with UEFA. Unlike other sponsors who had spent years plotting their activities for the European Championship, TikTok only had six months to map out its campaign, but fortunately the team has been accustomed to working at speed given that the platform is all about keeping pace with the biggest trends on the internet. In addition to the usual branding inventory, the real value that Tiktok has been able to obtain as a sponsor is playing a key role in the broader entertainment landscape around the event, given the broadcast rights also included in the sponsorship package, which set it apart from the other companies.
The company presented a range of entertaining features including TikTok LIVEs and sounds, such as Bovann & Football Friends and Philipp Dittberner delivering the soundtrack for the European Championship live, augmented reality effects and hashtag challenges which encouraged fans to create their own content and share it with their friends, sustaining momentum. “We really wanted to do this soup to nuts, so from product, to content, to brands, we've tried to show up everywhere that we can.” said James Rothwell, head of marketing in Europe, Middle East and Africa (SportsPro, 2021).
The result is astonishing within boarder base in terms of the overall consumption of football content, creation rates, new consumers, and the way that brands have permeated social conversation. According to the study of IPSOS, TikTok audiences followed and checked out the Euro 2020 page on TikTok more frequently (+37%), and created more new football content (+22%) (Tiktok For Business, 2021). UEFA's official Euro 2020 account on the platform has 5.9 million followers at the time of writing, twice as many followers as its equivalent on Twitter. Regarding the purchasing behavior, football fans on TikTok were more likely to discover more deals & promotions (+21%), and purchase football merchandise (+20%) (Tiktok For Business, 2021). More importantly, the perception of Tiktok as a place where Generation Z hangs out started to change. Euro 2020 has introduced TikTok to a new demographic.
The team is excited about their plan to continue engaging in football and other sports in multiple ways over the next couple of years. Apparently, Tiktok will inspire its competitors to rethink about the potential for deeper involvement in the sport tournaments. Brands also need to consider their marketing strategies for the rising star with such a vibrant fan base on it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Weimei Zeng has been working with IRIS in Digital Marketing topics this year, and is a Masters Student at University of Cologne and the CEMS MIM Programme.