Anyone who relies on sporting events to sell off their impulse articles always plays a bit of roulette: If the heroes flop, the articles stay on the shelves. But the fact that major events such as the European Football Championship are cancelled is new and does not only affect brand manufacturers.
For the Football World Cup 2018, food retailers and the FMCG industry offered countless promotional products and World Cup special editions, then the German team dropped out in the preliminary round and the World Cup was also a source of inspiration. However, major sporting events still have their appeal, and so there were once again numerous plans for corresponding actions and promos.
But at the latest when the Bundesliga said, “if the European Championship takes place, we won’t be able to finish the championship under any circumstances”, it slowly became clear that it will probably not work out with the European Championship – the national leagues are always more important than the one-off event. And so the cancellation came as no complete surprise. Coca-Cola, the sponsor of UEFA EURO 2020, had not yet filled any action packs at the time of the cancellation and is expecting to be able to implement a large part of the planned measures in 2021.
EM cancellation hits breweries hard
For breweries like Bitburger and Warsteiner, who had suffered losses in 2018 due to the early exit of the reigning world champion, not only the cancellation of the European Championship was a heavy blow. Andreas Grathwohl, managing partner of Schoepe Display, can assess the sensitivities caused by orders for displays quite well. He knows that the beer industry has been suffering for years and is insanely sensitive to any disturbances in the market. “For them, the Corona crisis now has dramatic consequences: The restaurant business is closed. Events cancelled. No public festivals, no open-air concerts, no sports. Needless to say, we are no longer doing business in this area at all.” When asked how far the preparation of EM-specific promotions had already progressed, neither the long-standing DFB sponsor Bitburger nor Warsteiner wanted to comment.
It is possible that, as with Coca-Cola, no concrete promotions had yet been launched. In the area of snacks and sweets, things looked different. Here, the cancellation for marketing aimed at the end consumer came in time, but at the time of the cancellation, promotional packaging, films and cardboard had already been produced, according to a company that wants to remain anonymous. The rejection came too late and thus some damage was caused. However, the company hopes to be able to use some of the packaging next year as well.
Milka comes in football design
The situation is somewhat different with Mondélez. For the period of Euro 2020, an activation of the retail trade around the topic of football with limited packaging editions and an associated competition was planned, which cannot take place now. However, when the postponement of Euro 2020 was confirmed by UEFA, the products had already been produced. “The amount of waste that would have been generated if the products had been destroyed was not an option for us,” the company says. Consumers should not be surprised when they see selected Milka varieties in a special outfit for the coming weeks. Milka chocolate bars with a football design in the Milka & Oreo and Milka Oreo Sandwich varieties, and the limited editions of the Milka large bar in the Chocolate&Wafer and Champiolade varieties will be available in stores.
For Christiane Schulz, CEO of the PR agency Edelman Germany, the postponement of the European Championships is an opportunity: Although it is now no longer a source of revenue, it will be a great success. But the crisis should “be used by the brands and products as a great opportunity to prolong the EM anticipation”, she quotes the Lebensmittel Zeitung.
Simply extend the promo
Sports marketer Raphael Brinkert takes the same line and points out how the extraordinary nature of the situation leads to extraordinary measures: For example, the Panini booklets with collectable pictures for Euro 2020 were already in print, and the postponement of Euro 2020 posed a major challenge for the publishing house in Italy. The publisher has reacted by bringing the magazine onto the market, albeit in a different edition. “Loyal collectors will soon be able to enjoy a Euro magazine that will hopefully never be seen again,” said Brinkert.
The same applies to sponsors whose promotional packages have long since been ready-made or even on sale: Heineken, for example, has simply kept the promo for the new James Bond film, which was supposed to start on April 4, but was then postponed to November: The six-pack remains available in stores and the promo period has simply been extended.
What are the lessons learned from the cancellations of this year’s major events? “Not relying one hundred percent on the income from big events, not just on a horse, could be a lesson from 2020,” says one market insider. It has proven to be a good idea to have a rather diversified setup. The fact that a broad-based setup has advantages is an old wisdom that many people who are suffering badly now may revive in the future.
Planning uncertainty will remain
Sports marketer Brinkert believes that contingency insurance and exit possibilities will be given even greater consideration at events of all kinds. On the other hand, the crisis also shows how important open communication and transparency are in this segment: “We have to learn more and more that partnerships do not start with the signing of the contract.”
Andreas Grathwohl is convinced that the imponderables that make reliable planning impossible will continue to be part of business for some time to come. The display manufacturer does not expect to be able to return to an old normal before the end of the next 12 months.
“And because there will be no vaccine this year, there will be no more major events this year. This will be a longer lasting state of affairs, because events with several thousand people will not be responsible. No marathons, no European Championships, no World Championships. Whoever lives from the spectators like handball and ice hockey is actually dead. And that includes everyone who does business in this context.”