Carlsberg: a sponsor’s review of Euro 2012
It’s 1st July at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium. After 23 days and 30 games of Euro 2012, the latest instalment of Europe’s premier international soccer competition, Spain and Italy are about to take to the field to contest the showpiece final. As the excitement builds within an hour of kick-off, Carlsberg’s senior project manager for sponsorships, Carsten Buhl, and Louise Bach, project manager for consumer experience, reflect on the company’s seventh consecutive tournament as a global sponsor.
Carlsberg has been associated with every European Championship since 1988. Besides the involvement of Danish legend Peter Schmeichel as a global brand ambassador, how has your sponsorship differed this time around?
Buhl: Last time [in 2008] we had 60 markets activating; this time we have 70 markets activating. Where we really raised the bar compared to last time and added on the already great execution we had in 2008 was that we did much more in the digital world. We had our app, which had close to 3 million downloads, and we had a long activation programme in dialogue with the consumers on Facebook that ended with the Carlsberg Fan Challenge in Warsaw [won by Italian Lino De Marchi, pictured below with Spain's Andres Iniesta, who would go on to be named man of the match in the final].
The big thing this time was the Carlsberg Fan Challenge, a Facebook competition giving fans the chance to award the Man of the Match trophy at all 31 matches, including the final. How has the new and exclusive right added to Carlsberg’s sponsorship?
Bach: It’s our way to engage very, very closely with the fans. It’s our way to offer them something that no one else can offer them. This is an experience they can only get through Carlsberg - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They get to go on the pitch before kick-off; they get to carry the trophy; they have people taking pictures of them; they get to go to the press conference after the match and actually meet a legend. This year Uefa has introduced the Uefa Euro Legend so they help choose the player to get the Carlsberg Man of the Match Award. And these guys get to interact with the legends a little bit before the press conference starts and then obviously the big moment is when they get to go on stage in front of a bunch of journalists, shake the player’s hand and hand them the man of the match trophy. So for the fan that gets to go it’s obviously a great experience for them and I think that’s what people really want to do, to get that really close one-on-one time with the players.
What else was new this time around?
Buhl: The set up of our perimeter boards was different this time, it’s now LED and it rotates. There are two things you should keep in mind there. One, what do you use them for? And two, are they there in the critical moments? We were lucky because now we’re able to talk about a thing we call the 'Carlsberg goal', and I show all the other sponsors this. When the goals are scored you get all the re-runs and highlights and so you want the goals to be scored when you’re on. Each sponsor gets a total of 16, 30-second slots during the match and then in extra-time it goes to the multiple configuration. We were extremely lucky with the two penalty shootouts. They were both in the end where Carlsberg has its board in the multiple configuration. We were also very, very lucky with the goals that were scored during games. We were extremely lucky with a certain [Mario] Balotelli, who decided to score both his goals in the semi-final in moments when Carlsberg were on the boards. But that’s purely luck, and it happened in decisive games, which meant that, if you combine those two, with all the other goals we had – there were some in Spain games and others – plus the penalty shootouts, we believe there were a disproportionate amount happening when Carlsberg was on the boards. And we can only be happy with that.
Striker Mario Balotelli scores his first of two goals in Italy's 2-1 semi-final defeat of Germany
Was there anything you were particularly unhappy with?
Buhl: If you look at the boards, we also had messaging on them. I don’t think we nailed that 100 per cent. First of all I think we had a little bit too much inventory, too much stuff, on our boards. And I think we should have made them less complex; maybe we should have reduced the messages a little bit. Then I have a little issue on the actual graphic quality of certain elements of our boards. Meaning, the contrast was better, the standard of the Carlsberg logo was better than last time, but I think we should work a bit more on the sizing and the scale of our text there. So I’ll spend a little bit of money on researching that because I need to be a little bit better informed about that. Looking from that side, I think we should work on that. But on the other hand we got so much logo exposure and board exposure. I’m pretty sure that when we get the numbers – I’m expecting numbers next week – we will be happy with that as well.
Although the tournament hasn’t yet finished, have you had a chance to look at any of the early stats, especially regarding sales?
Buhl: We’ve had some results that have been extremely good. First of all, already after the group stage we have beaten the sales of the whole of the last Euro in stadium sales. [Figures released after the tournament reveal in-stadium beer sales are up 40 per cent compared to 2008] That’s a result of three things I think. It’s a result of very good execution in the bars; it’s due to the great product; and it’s also the result of, if we’re honest, a little bit more competitive pricing than there was in Austria-Switzerland [in 2008]. We’ve also had more people through the fan parks than last time. It will probably be around six million in total, up from 4.2. What we have seen there, though, is – I wouldn’t call it disappointing – but it has been difficult to raise the sales there for the simple fact that there has been more peaks and then nothing, especially due to rain in Poland. And then when you have 130,000 wanting to get into the fan park in, say, Warsaw and insufficient capacity, then basically the people in the middle of these crowds could not get out anyway and get close to the bars. And then the last thing is to do with worldwide sales - does this [the Euro sponsorship] impact the brand? I don’t have the figures for the month of June, which is critical, but sales leading up to the tournament, in a difficult marketplace – the financial crisis has hit a lot of our core markets – what we saw was I would say more or less according to plan. I can’t conclude on that but the indications are good. June is a little bit of a question mark but ask me again in August and I’ll be a bit more clear about that.
How has your hospitality been received throughout the tournament?
Buhl (right): For our hospitality, which is an integrated part of the programme, we’ve distributed some 16,000 tickets in total. Three out of four tickets go back to consumers or fans through promotions and activities that we done in all the various 70 markets that I've mentioned. Then we have other types of tickets and other types of activities that we do with customers and trade and business partners. We’ve had some 3,600 guests that have come on hospitality programmes. The satisfaction rate is a record. Just two hours ago I got the last surveys in from the first 30 matches, out of 31, and we can report now that we have an increase in the combination of ‘good’ and ‘excellent’ on a five point scale. We have gone from 96 per cent last time; we will probably end up 97 this time. It’s only one percentage point but, honestly with the challenges that we have been facing in Ukraine, that is very satisfactory. I think the result of this is based on three critical factors. One, that we have very good and experienced partners that we work with in the core delivery of the hospitality experience at the stadiums. Two, that we had an improved booking system online, with an increased level of information and an increased dialogue with our markets. And three, that we actually started quite specifically describing what the product is, what it contains, in more detail with our markets, so a better brief.
You mentioned facing certain challenges, specifically in Ukraine. In what ways have the two host countries differed?
Buhl: You can look at it in many ways. I noticed two or three things. The first thing you notice is the business climate – what is the natural way of doing things? How do they work? That is a little different. In Poland, they have a really ‘let’s go get it done’ attitude and they were actually very insistent. I was just commenting to my project leader earlier that ‘guys you frustrated us in the beginning because you were running faster and we couldn’t follow you’. They were ahead of us (when I say us I mean the central marketing department at Carlsberg headquarters) where as Ukraine were a bit more uncertain about the direction they wanted to go. In Poland, I’d present them with a challenge or a problem and they’d say, ‘yep, ok, let’s find a solution’ where as in Ukraine they would always ask me, ‘so what do you suggest; what is the solution you want?’ Then they would come with a solution and, in all frankness, that solution would sometimes create a new problem. On the other hand, once they get the ideas, they don’t stop. They come in with more, they challenge us by producing more things and a lot of the good activation things we’ve seen in fact came from Ukraine because they don’t stop and think ‘yep, fine’, they go on and they keep pushing us. I was just talking to another one of the team members from Ukraine and I said, ‘you were right, I was wrong. This idea you had about activation actually worked.’ Then Ukraine is a challenge because it’s a non-EU member so from a purely operational side we’ve had some challenges to do with merchandise and things coming in and out of Ukraine. When we wanted to bring in more wigs, our famous promotional item, we found that it took too long with customs procedures. We couldn’t get them from Poland to Ukraine in three/four days. It was a shame as we were losing a little bit of impact but it was marginal. Then on the other hand we’ve hand great teams to work with. You can feel that this is something that local staff feel proud of being involved with. So the long hours that we asked them to put in were not a problem whatsoever. They’re tired now but they’re very happy and we’re very proud of them.
What, in your opinion, has defined the tournament?
Buhl: Offensive football. I think we’ve seen positive football. I think we’ve seen that the spirit of football has been very, very good. I think the midfield players, like you see in Italy and Spain – I think those two teams are characterised by a very, very strong centre, the Iniestas, the Pirlos. They have been defining for the two teams that are in the final. Last time, there was more of a solid focus on a strong defence and a strong system. But now there have been a lot of beautiful goals. What also defines the tournament is all the games have been played in a very positive spirit. I think the amount of red cards and yellow cards is very low. I also think that – apart from one goal – the five referee system has proven that it is here to stay. Then finally, it’s been a great party. Six million people in the fan parks, two million more than last time which means there’s been a lot of enthusiasm. Of course, a few more travelling guests should have come to Ukraine. Of course there were some challenges with hotel capacity etc, bad PR, especially in England, but I think Ukraine has proven these things to be wrong in terms of the logistical and practical aspects. They have shown a great party and it’s been a great pleasure to be involved.
Carlsberg signs on to sponsor Euro 2012 - 24 May 2010
Legendary Manchester United keeper signs new deal - 25 January 2012
Uefa signs lucrative partnership with Adidas - 21 September 2009
ESPN and TSN tie up Euro 2012 rights - 01 February 2011
ESPN to air next two Euros in the Caribbean - 14 March 2012
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