This summer, football fans on both sides of the Atlantic have plenty to talk about, with the COPA America and Euro 2016 tournaments taking place in the USA and France respectively.
The COPA America Centenario soccer tournament kicked off on June 3, this year buoyed by the additional excitement of the United States playing host for the first time. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Euro 2016 began this past Friday (June 10) in France and with more UK nations in the tournament than ever before, anticipation is high.
Using our proprietary social listening methodology, 360i delved into the social media conversations and buzz build up around each of the tournaments to identify the nuances between how the UK and US audiences discuss the tournaments. We wanted to discover what drives conversation, what excites the fans, and what implications our findings have for marketers looking to get in on the action.
UK Euro Conversation Dominates Pre-tournament Buzz
In America, the popularity of soccer is starting to increase, especially in the eyes of marketers. Last summer Stephen Chriss, President of Global Media and Consumer Engagement at Mondelez told Campaign, “We think that two years ago [in the US], soccer was at a tipping point, and now it’s exploding in popularity.”
However, there is still significant territory to gain if the sport wants to grip the nation in the same way that it does in the UK. Even though the United States has a population five times the size of the United Kingdom, UK fans generate eight times the volume of COPA conversation when it comes to talking about the Euros, a fact that is starkly reflected in match attendance. COPA advertisers have made unprecedented efforts to build hype around the tournament; in one notable example, Fox filmed a commercial in which Kobe Bryant explains why people should tune in. Despite this, the attendance at some of the early matches has been poor, due in large part to the comparatively less excited crowd and their outspoken complaints that ticket prices were too high. The first two COPA matches played in Orlando failed to secure attendance over 30% of stadium capacity, while the majority of the Euros matches are sold out.
US fans share their general excitement for the competition, while UK fans demonstrate a deeper passion for the game by discussing finer details.
In our analysis, 360i observed important differences in the topics fans discuss online. US COPA fans tend to talk about the tournament more generally, whereas the UK audience discusses the Euros in finer detail, often making predictions for the outcome of games and players’ performances. The result is greater informational conversation from UK consumers as they actively partake in online discussion about the tournament itself.
This is reflected in the content fans share from other sources, too. Retweeted content makes up 50% of posts around COPA America and 41% around Euro 2016, with the large majority of those shares being driven by branded content. From the UK that content often contains information, humor, or an opinion that plays on the fans’ thirst for the competition, whereas around COPA America most shares are about news and general excitement for the competition.
Players drive conversation in both markets but in different ways
While players in the tournament drive the conversation in both markets, UK fans are far more concerned about player news than US fans.
One of COPA America’s biggest attractions is that globally recognized star athletes like Luis Suarez return to play for their respective home country. As a majority of the players’ schedule is dedicated to their club teams in Europe, US fans get excited to finally see these stars play live. However, this anticipation pales in comparison to that of UK fans, who are intensely concerned with players’ performances and whether they deserve a position on their national team. In the UK, the Euro 2016 tournament is no simple sporting spectacle: it is an event that fans are deeply involved with, as is reflected in wider discussions about team tactics, TV adverts, TV presenters and even the official Euro 2016 sticker book. Meanwhile American advertisers have trouble simply spelling team names, Adidas made a blunder in their recent marketing drive for COPA America, with a typo in the name of a team.
National Pride vs. Individual Team
In the UK, home football teams are a matter of fierce national pride, and this is reflected on social media where 80% of fans mention their national team when discussing the Euros. US soccer fans, on the other hand, tend to discuss a broader range of teams participating in the tournament as 66% of posts mention a team other than the USA, especially Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. These teams are consistently high-ranking and feature international soccer stars like Ricardo Kaka and as such are just as compelling to watch as the US home team.
Based on our research, here are the key takeaways to help marketers capitalize on football and soccer fans’ excitement and conversations:
To win at COPA America:
- Focus on the spectacle of COPA – US fans love the glitz and glamour of the tournament: concentrate content around the biggest moments and show fans that your brand is as excited as they are
- Be a team player – Capitalize on the interest in the US in the other COPA teams and their star players by creating adaptable content that can be leveraged for multiple teams and games
- Create entertaining content – Follow UK brands’ approach with Euro 2016 and provide content that COPA fans will find witty and entertaining
To make a splash during Euro 2016:
- Open up expert discussion around the tournament – Play to the UK fans’ deep-rooted interest in the tournament and stand out by posting thought provoking questions about less obvious events in the tournament: pique interest by commenting on tournament events from a well thought out, unique perspective
- Pay attention to detail to avoid backlash – UK fans get deeply involved with football and the Euros, so brands should ensure that all content is faultless to avoid negative publicity
- Focus content on the home nations– Leverage the sense of pride that UK football fans have during the tournament by showing a similar brand allegiance or concentrating content on UK home team moments
When it comes to “the beautiful game”, UK fans’ engagement outpaces that of their US counterparts. This has considerable implications for marketers as there is significant ground to be gained from being a driver of football-focussed conversation. In the UK the landscape is saturated with brands and news outlets vying to stand above the competition, but in the US, marketers face an open playing field and the challenge now lies in creating meaningful moments with existing and potential soccer enthusiasts.
Written by Farrell Correa, Insight Analyst at 360i Europe
Megan Train, Social Media Analyst and Amy Green, Senior Analyst also contributed to this post.