Despite the disappointment of England’s departure from the Euros without the trophy, the recent tournament gave brands the opportunity to get creative.

Scoring success during the Euros

Managing to create relevant and timely content that gets talked about is a holy grail of marketers, but it can be a bit of a minefield around events where sponsors have paid a large fortune to be associated with the event. There’s a constant game of cat and mouse between brands looking to hijack major events for their own marketing purposes and the governing bodies of these events. The governing bodies know that if brands can hijack events successfully nobody will ever bother investing in sponsorship so they spend big on lawyers to patrol the rights of association.

Perhaps the most litigious event owners are the Olympics and FIFA – hardly surprising when you consider that sponsorship of even a minor segment of the event will easily cost millions. The Olympics alone has 15 major “partners” and each will expect its participation to come at the cost of its competitors.

Timely and relevant

Despite this, there is a proud history of brands managing to find ingenious ways to circumnavigate the rules and this is certainly true of the Euro 2021 event that finished this month. As excitement built among England fans, several brands caught my eye by using the “Its coming home” catchphrase to engage with consumers. These included:


The Royal Mail


All these adverts had the benefit of not actually mentioning “The Euros” or even “the football” – the kind of terms that would have undoubtedly led to a stern legal letter or more from UEFA.

TFL applied an ingenious reworking of Southgate tube station to Gareth Southgate tube station to get in on the act too, again bypassing any potential issues legally by not referencing anything other than the manager’s name.  Incidentally this is the second time TFL has tried this stunt, showing that a really creative idea can be rolled out time and again.

Own goals

Not all attempts to cash in on the global popularity of the beautiful game are wholly successful however. At Euro 2012, Danish striker Nicholas Bendtner revealed, during a match, he was wearing a pair of boxer shorts emblazoned with the Paddy Power logo. Because Paddy Power was not a sponsor of the official event, Bendtner was subsequently fined €100,000.

Likewise, official Champions League sponsor, Mastercard, probably thought it looked generous when, in advance of the 2018 World Cup, it offered to donate 10,000 meals for children for every goal scored by Messi or Neymar.

It’s also worth noting that in the image below, Mastercard, which was not an official sponsor of the World Cup, didn’t mention “the football” or “The World Cup”, presumably because the company knew this would generate the wrath of official FIFA partner VISA.
In the end the reaction to the gesture was negative because lots of people felt the brand should not link charitable donations to goals scored.


Picking the moment

It’s smart marketing to associate with an event that is capturing the spirit of a moment.  But it’s also fraught with potential issues: unofficial association with an event can lead to significant fines and punishment but for most brand that will pale into insignificance against the risk of being seen as jumping on a bandwagon.  For unlimited examples, head straight to the Condescending Corporate Brand Page on Facebook.