As France hosted Uefa Euro 2016, the French Football Federation (FFF) went into the tournament with high expectations. On the pitch Les Blues reached the final but fell just short against an inspired Portugal side; off it, the biggest European Championship in history was well received, despite some early crowd trouble.
Speaking to SportsPro at the Sportel Convention in Monaco, FFF marketing director François Vasseur reflects on the commercial success of the event, discusses the federation’s numerous social media activations and gives his opinion on the ever-changing landscape of live soccer broadcasting.
What is your assessment of the recent Euro 2016 tournament from a marketing perspective?
We were so close to winning the tournament and, to be honest, we are still having nightmares about the Éder goal! Although we didn’t win the final we did win another important match: fan engagement. Our video content reached ten million viewers during the Euros and we recruited 1.2 million fans globally, on all platforms.
The tournament was great for all of our sponsors, our global audience, and our supporters in the stadiums were perfect.
In your opinion was there much of a difference in France reaching the final as opposed to them actually winning the tournament?
It would have been better if we had won but the figures would have been the same regardless. To reach the final means that you have played a great Euro, to be in the tournament the whole way through means that the visibility is strong and we can have engagement all through the summer. The longer we stayed in the tournament the more people looked at our social media. My aim is for the FFF to have the most followers in football. Our Instagram account is ranked first in Europe but the United States has 80,000 more followers than us.
What did you do differently on social media for the 2016 tournament?
We produced more video content, including behind the scenes features involving the French players. That is what the fans love to watch. For the Euros I had three communications managers, one of which was permanently with the team and he produced a lot of video content and images. We used a lot of platforms – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram – so we wanted to make sure that we had lots of different content for each social network.
The major difference from 2012 is that we didn’t have all of these platforms and we were followed by fewer people. Therefore, we were producing less content to a much lower audience. In 2016, our sponsors have asked us for more social media activations and promotions - they all want better visibility for their products. Social media is really key for our marketing strategy but it hasn’t changed it as a whole, we view it as just another tool.
We want to tell the story of French football. We are seen as a media with a strong community and large audience. When the FFF says something, it has a great influence, which was not the case before.
How are you as a rights holder and a federation facing the challenge of people turning away from traditional broadcast and television to social media and online streaming?
For us is it is both an opportunity and a challenge.
It is an opportunity to create indirect reviews and promotions. When we talk about inside content we can have a sponsor and we can sell the rights to them on our various platforms. We produce and broadcast some other events that are maybe less important but we want to promote them, such as our third-tier league, football at grassroots level or smaller cup competitions. Often when we live stream these games it is good for the clubs because it increases their visibility.
The challenge comes from the revenue share being very poor and we don’t receive all of the data, which means that we cannot be more efficient in the future. The platforms are beginning to pay, so perhaps we will be able to sell more rights going forward. We have begun to sell rights on some specific markets - for example, the Chinese market.
You are at the stage with the FFF where you are moving towards a new identity. What sort of future do you see for the federation in the next five to ten years?
It is really hard to say because it is moving really quickly. The change we have, when you talk about sport and football, is that live is still the main thing. It is not like movies or television series: all soccer fans want to see the major events and matches live. All the broadcasters - not just television but all of the various platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter – want to broadcast live content. The question for a rights holder like us is focused on who will pay us more and produce the content to a high level. Maybe Amazon will broadcast the national team matches in ten years’ time?
For us it has created a lot of new perspectives and this will certainly increase our media influence because these platforms will be spread to broader audience. I don’t know for sure what will happen but, for me, it is fascinating.
In the UK we have seen Premier League viewing figures drop, partly because more people are now watching clips on other platforms. Does that worry you and how does it affect you as a federation and a rights holder?
It could be a problem for sure but our main rights for the national team are centralised with Uefa. So for us, we will continue to create all of the inside content and the other events. I think that we can only generate more revenue.
For Uefa or Fifa, if it is the case that TV audiences are going down and people prefer to watch sport on platforms that are only showing shorter video, I think that you will have to change the rules. I think that is not happening now - we have some years before that happens.