In 2013 UEFA reported a global audience of 172.6 million viewers when Bayern Munich defeated Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium. As the final for this year approaches it is expected that the global viewership will surpass these numbers when Real Madrid and Atletico face off in Lisbon.
So why is the UEFA Champions League such a successful ¨product¨?
If we analyze the tournament from a business perspective we can come up with the following conclusions:
The Champions League is one of the most well-marketed sports properties in the industry. The best way to measure the success of a property is by analyzing its audiences and the levels of engagement and interest that it generates. As is stated above, the Champions League matches are eagerly anticipated every year drawing huge global audiences throughout the season making it an attractive property for commercial sponsors.
UEFA´s UCL sponsorship program is one that has adopted the ¨less is more¨ approach with only eight official sponsors (Gazprom, Heineken, MasterCard, Sony, Unicredit, HTC, Adidas and Ford, soon to be replaced by Nissan) allowing for true partnerships that add great value to the engagement for both sides.
Furthermore, sponsors get a huge impact in the form of commercial airtime along with on-ground benefits that can be activated during the eight-month duration of the competition, along with logo placements at pre and post-match interviews and VIP ticket allocation.
UEFA has mastered the art of branding its star product. Every football fan across the world recognizes the tournament’s official logo and anthem, and regardless of whether a match is played in London, Barcelona or Milan, all stadiums look exactly the same on television.
In addition, all matches are played at exactly the same time on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings having created what is known in the industry as an ¨appointment to view¨ for the past 20 years, building massive brand strength for the property.
The tournament is made up of the best football clubs from across Europe who in turn have the best players on the planet. This leads to very competitive matches that are attractive to audiences in neutral markets. (For example, a match such as the recent semifinal between Atletico Madrid and Chelsea FC is not only viewed in the UK and Spain, but in fact performs very well in many ¨neutral countries¨). This means that the competition is not only attractive in local markets, unlike many other football leagues and tournaments across the world.
So wherever you may be on May 24th watching the final between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, remember that behind all the marketing and commercial success of the Champions League there is a fantastic football product.
Written by: Diego Valdes, Program Director, Sports Business Institute Barcelona
-The Sports Business Institute Barcelona provides online sports management training for the football industry.