It is fair to say Euro 2016 will be remembered for a combination of moments rather than quality football. We had Wales, Iceland, Robbie Brady, Griezmann and a moth. Regardless of what happens at major sporting events, Ireland consistently proves to be a nation of sports lovers; we watch, we engage and we consume. Over half the population declared an interest in Euro 2016 before a ball had even been kicked with a third of us believing that the Rep. of Ireland would advance to the knock-out stages. In the end, 84% of us had tuned in to watch at some point, with 6% making the trip to France. With such high levels of interest it is no wonder broadcasters, sponsors and advertisers matched the intensity on the pitch by battling for the attention of fans. More than a week on from Portugal’s triumph Livewire Euros Insider assesses the impact of Euro 2016 on fans, sponsors and brands alike.

The Livewire Euros Insider is brought to you by Livewire, Ignite Market Research and Radical – all members of Core Media Group. To find out more visit

The Battle for Wallets

While ‘casual fans’ make up the clear majority of those who watched the tournament, 44% of people said they watched only a few matches, it is the 21% ‘die hards’ who watched, or tried to watch, every game that proved important consumers for most sponsors and advertisers. Die hard fans spent 39% more on alcohol, almost 12% more on football memorabilia and 24% more on gambling over the course of Euro 2016 compared to everyone else who watched the tournament.

Our research shows that on average consumer spending increased less than what people predicted at the start of the tournament for certain items, including TV & audio equipment, smart phones, tablets and computers. However, over the past month, people said that they still spent more on categories such as food and drink, gambling and football memorabilia.

Those that did spend more than usual on gambling as a result of Euro 2016 spent, on average, €105. Those that spent more on food and drink spent, on average, €133; and, those that spent more on football related memorabilia spent, on average, €151.

While these increases are undoubtedly linked to the performance of the boys in green, sponsors and advertisers that invested in the tournament put themselves in pole position to capitalise. The trick for maximising this opportunity was activation and communication strategies that connected with football fans and the mood of the nation.

For example, 24% of people aware of SPAR’s sponsorship of the Rep. of Ireland football team stated that they are more likely to shop at SPAR as a result of its sponsorship. The brand’s sponsorship activation, included a competition to send a team of ‘Gary Breens’ to France. The activation ran in-store, alongside a broadcast partnership with Off The Ball on Newstalk as well as online.

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SPAR also made sure to leverage the association with the Irish team by running Euros inspired lunch deals throughout the tournament.

Lifestyle sports, not a team or tournament sponsor, had significant presence throughout the tournament, ensuring it was well placed to benefit from the surge in spending on memorabilia. The brand chose to drive its presence across outdoor advertising and on social media; its #FootbALLorNOTHING was the most used brand hashtag in Ireland over the course of the tournament pipping Three’s #MakeHistory to first place.

Brand Hashtags Share of Voice


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Source: Radical

Our research also highlights the interest of female fans, an area that sponsors and advertisers did not seek to exploit. Over a third of women said that they planned to watch Euro 2016 when in fact 80% ended up tuning in. At the same time over half of women spent more money than usual across the categories of TV & audio equipment , food & drink, alcohol, football memorabilia, smartphones, tablets, computers, travel / holidays and gambling during Euro 2016. In particular over a third of women spend more money on food and drink during the tournament.

Interestingly, it turns out that we are getting better at saving for big events. Of the 6% of people who made the trip to France, 32% had savings already in place a further 28% saved specifically to travel. Like the generations who have gone before, 19% of those who travelled to Euro 2016 got a loan from the credit union to fund their trip.

The power of TV

It is fair to say that TV is still king. In an age where a plethora of devices can be used to watch and follow sports tournaments 57% of those who watched Euro 2016 said that they just watched the matches solely on their TV, highlighting the pull and engagement of TV only viewership.

Our pre-tournament research highlighted that 90% would watch Euro 2016 on television at home. This statistic cements the importance of television advertising for sponsors and advertisers alike. Indeed we estimate a total of over €4m to have been spent on advertising across RTÉ and TV3 throughout Euro 2016, considerably more than was spent on either Euro 2012 or the 2014 World Cup.

The level of awareness of SOCAR as a tournament sponsor is a good barometer of the impact of TV exposure. Unknown to most of us before the tournament, the Azerbaijani energy supplier was prominent on television sponsorship stings and on pitch side perimeter boards throughout the competition. Collectively tournament sponsor stings, rotated between the brands around the live play during this year’s tournament performed excellently with 3,257,000 people seeing the stings at least once on RTÉ 2 and 2,426,000 on TV3. As a result, our research shows that awareness of SOCAR rose significantly from 11%% to 34% between the start and end of Euro 2016.

As identified above, a number of sectors benefited from increased consumption over the course of Euro 2016. Not surprisingly these sectors were significant spenders on television advertising. For example SPAR took full advantage with views of its adverts during Rep. of Ireland games topping the 900k mark.

On the whole the gambling sector was expected to contribute approximately 20% of total television advertising spend over the course of the tournament, making up 11% of all adverts shown during Rep. of Ireland matches. The Betway ad just before the second half of Ireland’s match against Belgium was seen by 900,000 people.

Of all sponsors (and advertisers) Three’s ad, just before the second half of Ireland’s crucial game against France recorded the largest number of ratings, hitting over 1m TV viewers.

A look at the top four most watched games, not including Rep. of Ireland, highlights the appeal of Euro 2016 to fans, advertisers and sponsors alike. All four matches come from the latter stages of the tournament and featured on RTÉ 2.

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Source: Livewire

The numbers of people tuning into watch Rep. of Ireland matches was extremely high compared to almost any other programming on Irish television A whopping 83% of people watching TV tuned in to watch our defeat to France. To put that in context, that’s higher than firm family favourite, the Late Late Toy Show (72% share in 2015), often the most watched show of the year. Below, we have analysed the viewership figures for all of the Republic of Ireland’s matches in Euro 2016 to see how they stack up against each other:

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Source: Livewire

For the first time, the television coverage was split between RTÉ and TV3, giving brands greater choice and access. The average viewership of matches on TV3 was 231,000. With regards to regular TV3 programming, only X Factor on TV3 draws a higher average viewership – 331k for the 2015 season. Other shows such as Big Brother (130k) and The Restaurant (156k) command notably smaller audiences.

TV3 enjoyed average viewership of 345k for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. With figures like this it is clear why TV3 is investing in sports rights, which include the Six Nations Championship from 2018. A glance at the average viewership of a selection of the biggest sporting events of the past year further highlights the role of live sport for generating commercial revenue for Irish broadcasters.

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Source: Livewire

While RTÉ sub-licensed 22 of the 51 games to TV3, the broadcaster held on to the Rep. of Ireland’s three games in Group E as well has having first choice on games in the knockout stages – most notably the match between Rep. of Ireland and France. The result was an average viewership of 458k. Again, this is a very strong figure, trumped only by average viewership of 558k for the 2015 season of The Late Late Show. It is clear that RTÉ’s exclusivity for both semi-finals played a major role in these impressive figures.

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Source: Livewire

Despite sharing coverage of the final for the first time, Irish viewers chose to tune into RTÉ 2 in massive numbers at the expense of TV3. An average of 782k viewers watched the game on RTÉ2 which is an almost identical number of viewers who watched the 2012 Final on the same channel. In fact, with an average viewership of 116k, TV3’s final coverage represented one of the lowest for any TV3 game during Euro 2016. This is surprising considering the momentum that TV3 appeared to be building and the recruitment of Martin O’Neill as a panellist for the final. A combination of reasons might have been a factor – a preference for RTE’s coverage, a lack of promotion of the final coverage by TV3, an assumption by viewers, after exclusive coverage of the semi-finals, that only RTÉ was broadcasting the final and the fact RTÉ was featuring John Giles’s last match as a pundit. The John Giles effect is further illustrated by Google search trends, showing a spike in interest for the football legend on the day of the final.

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Source: Radical, Google Analytics

However, combined, the numbers tuning into both RTÉ and TV3 shows a greater number tuned in to watch the 2016 final compared with the 2012 show piece.

The role of social and digital media

While TV remains king for live match viewing, the role of social and digital media for further fan engagement is clear. A number of sponsors supplemented television advertising with strong social and digital media content.

43% of people who watched some of Euro 2016 used a second device to look at content or follow the tournament. Laptops / computers (23%) and smart phones (21%) were the most used devices. 66% of people spent their time on Facebook following matches or looking up content related to the tournament while 28% used WhatsApp and 24% Twitter. Not surprisingly the majority of Irish sponsors turned to social media to capitalise on this trend, with Facebook proving the preferred medium.

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Source: Livewire

Interestingly, second screening is a favoured behaviour of die hard fans, with almost 60% using a device while watching matches, 39% choosing to do so on computers / lap tops.

Planning for the unexpected is a much used cliché in social media marketing. But being ready in advance for these moments, is often the key to success. A couple of brands stood out with nimble and timely content on social media.

Team and tournament sponsor Carlsberg received significant engagement for its reaction to Ireland’s defeat to France, becoming one of Ireland’s most tweeted handles in the process. The use of a famous and endearing phrase was a touch of class from the brand while simultaneously touching the emotions of the Irish fans.

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In fact, Carlsberg made good use of social media throughout the tournament, accounting for 55% of the chatter on Twitter by Irish team sponsors. Much of the sponsor’s content focused on its official Man of the Match activation which, over the course of the Euros, generated 70k sponsor mentions with an average of 4,776 per match. Our research shows that 22% of people aware of Carlsberg’s sponsorship of the Rep. of Ireland team are more likely to purchase Carlsberg as a result of the sponsorship.

Three’s long-term association with the team gave it the legitimacy to tap into the emotion and heritage associated with Irish teams and big tournaments. The brand did this with an emotive TV and outdoor campaign backed, throughout the tournament, by exclusive interviews with Irish football stars reminiscing on key moments in Irish football history. These videos have to date clocked up close to 1m views. At the same time Three made sure to have fun with fans with a series of social and digital activations. For example the brand created a website to give fans inventive excuses for taking the day off work following emotionally draining Ireland matches.  By the close of the tournament, and with the Rep. of Ireland team long gone, 16% of people aware of the Three’s sponsorship stated they were more likely to purchase Three as a result of the sponsorship.

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Google search trends paint an interesting picture as to the interest of fans over the course of the tournament. For example, while Euro 2016 commenced amid fears of a possible terror attack, the focus of Irish fans turned to traveling to France in the wake of Ireland’s win against Italy.

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Source: Radical, Google Analytics

The interest in star players over the course of the tournament maps individual performances on the pitch. Interestingly, despite Ronaldo providing a talking point during last weekend’s final, it was Antoine Griezmann who dominated Google search, perhaps indicating the pressure on the French star to produce a goal in the wake of Ronaldo’s exit.

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Source: Radical, Google Analytics

The Ambush

Every major sporting event features some degree of ambush marketing. While ambush tactics can create short-term gains, they have less impact on longer term objectives such as enhancing brand image or building affinity. Sponsorship is a much more potent tool for achieving these objectives.

For Euro 2016, Iceland (foods) certainly made hay while the sun shined. Careful not to associate directly with Euro 2016 or with either team, the brand created plenty of fun and engaging content over the course of the tournament generating an immense amount of good will in the process.

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In fact the reaction following England’s defeat to Iceland (football team!) provided a number of brands with an open goal and Ryanair took full advantage.

While not doing much to build brand affinity with its English customers, this tweet is an example of a non-sponsor cashing in (ambushing) on a big tournament moment. Not always easy to do. The combination of being nimble and smart usually involves planning for the unexpected.


It took a well organised team, ready to take full advantage when opportunities arose, to win Euro 2016. The same can be said for the best sponsors and advertisers. In particular Livewire Euros Insider highlights the importance of great content built on sound activation strategies for leveraging sponsorship, especially in the face of savvy ambush tactics. While sponsors and advertisers can benefit from high exposure during major sports tournaments, it is die hard fans who have the greatest willingness to spend and who are most likely to look for deeper forms of engagement across social and digital media. In sum, TV continues to be the king medium for consuming live sport but sponsors and advertisers must utilise social and digital media to capture the hearts and minds of fans.