Twitter's Football Attraction

Following last year’s postponement, UEFA EURO 2020 finally kicked off in June and Twitter was at the heart of the conversation between the players, the fans and brands. Theo Luke, Director of Content Partnerships in EMEA at Twitter, provides insights into the conversation around football and what brands are doing to engage with fans.



“Football is the biggest sport on the platform; it’s the biggest conversation driver in the UK. The only thing that comes close is Love Island”


Twitter and the Euros

My team sees this through two lenses; one is the organic activations, the number of impressions and the number of engagements we can generate on the platform by working with partners like UEFA. We also look at it from a commercial point of view. How many advertisers do we bring on and how many dollars are generated through our ad exchange? We will make more revenue than we did for the FIFA World Cup (2018) which is a sign of the trajectory the Twitter business is on but also how mature our product is.


We have eight advertisers buying ITV’s clips from Google to Heineken, to Subway to JD Sports. We also have The FA running a number of activations around the Lions’ Den as well as UEFA running sponsor activity, so it’s a really good mix. Last season’s Champions League drove over 60 million tweets and I’m almost certain we will top that over the course of this tournament.


Exposure & monetisation

The main product we use is called Amplify and the germination of that goes back eight years. We recognised two things were happening; the first was brands were trying to inject themselves into conversations that were happening on Twitter. One example which lives in Twitter folklore is Oreo Dunk in the Dark, which responded to the lights going off during the Super Bowl in 2013. Oreo were really quick to produce some imagery about how you could still dunk Oreos in the dark – that was seen around the world and generated a huge number of re-tweets.


At the same time, partners were beginning to experiment putting video and multi-media into tweets. At the time we didn’t have a video platform but it’s got much more refined since then. As a business now, we are very video-centric. Video is the biggest part of our business and Amplify, which is the advertising wrapped around video content, is a growing and significant part of that.


Football is the biggest sport on the platform; it’s the biggest conversation driver in the UK. The only thing that comes close is Love Island so there’s a lot of space in the auction for brands that want to target football. With Twitter digital marketing there is no wastage because you are hitting your target audience.


Developing a content strategy and being engaging

Creating a strategy depends on how active a brand wants to be around content. The Player Room diaries Google and Coca-Cola are running with The FA, for instance, whilst dependent on England’s performance – the activity will move around if football really does come home and we get all the way to the final. There will be a big reactive push, but if things don’t go as we hope then activity may reduce. Ultimately you need something that is creative, punchy and pops out at fans on the platform. Some brands are all about performance advertising, driving users through a purchase funnel. Others brands are about resonance and affinity. What Twitter does really well is, via the dashboard, allow clients to see in real-time the performance of their creative, so they can switch it out if needed very quickly. They’re able to see if they’re performing up to the metrics they require. We see the smartest advertisers tweaking campaigns as they go along to ensure they’re relevant creatively.


Complimentary not a competitor

There are brands where we are a very significant part of their overall media mix because they see the advantages of using our platform. Ad relationships are like falling in love. They start tentatively but before long you’re wedded at the hips. We’re seeing more brands invest in our platform and that’s down to product improvements, it’s down to a general migration of users towards digital platforms and it’s down to having a full range of analytics and data to support marketing decisions. An event like the Euros is a good opportunity for us to show our products and videos at its best.


Twitter is complimentary to advertisers rather than a conflict or a competitor and you can see that through how The FA is using Twitter as a service to reach its audience. We’re an extension to the things they’re doing. We’ve worked with ITV for five years across a whole range of tournaments – the World Cup, the Rugby World Cup – we’re a small piece of that overall TV package.


Real-time fan conversations

The reaction to the Christian Eriksen incident was overwhelming. Everyone from fans though to former teammates to the Royal Family were using Twitter as a place to send messages of support to Christian and his family. That’s a example of Twitter being a good forum for that kind of thing.


Another is the Schick wonder-goal from the Scotland v Czech Republic game. I knew there was a wonder goal because a colleague tweeted ‘What a Goal’. Now questions have to be asked why he was watching a match in the middle of the day and not working but it was an example of how Twitter allows you to be connected all the time with what’s going on and dip in and out. During big moments in big matches we see an uptick in time spent on our platform relevant to other platforms. There’s a 22% viewership increase. Because of the real-time conversation that happens on Twitter you’re more likely to migrate to Twitter during a match than you are to another platform.


Another new development is Spaces – a place where live audio conversations happen on Twitter. Now there is a way to tweet and talk and football has been quick to use Spaces as a way to immediately engage with fans. An example of its use saw UEFA host The Euro Show ahead of the tournament with sponsor Qatar Airways.


Managing the negative aspects of social media

It goes without say that no one at Twitter wants any abusive content to be on the platform. It’s not to the benefit of Twitter, our users and of our partners. We take it very seriously. It’s come into focus recently and we are working with the Premier League, The FA and other football stakeholders to improve our processes. 90% of all abusive content is now removed before it’s reported to us.


Historically we’ve relied on people to report abuse before it’s removed but we are refining our processes to include some proactive technology so that stakeholders like The FA can report abusive content to us and it’s looked at immediately. We’ve also tightened up how our direct messaging service works and you limit who can message you.


If you zoom out, abuse is a problem that is endemic in society and has been a problem in football for a very long time. That’s not to mitigate what we have to do to remove it from our platform. There’s a technological challenge around how we create better safeguarding to stop abuse and victims seeing that abuse.


What is happening is helping us refine our processes, streamline them and apply more technology, but it’s very tricky. It’s a constant refining process to ensure that we are removing abuse before anyone sees it or almost immediately after it’s been posted. It’s not a simple task and we put our hands up to where we fail but we are desperately trying to improve. The Premier League generates 30 million tweets, 7,000 were removed for breaching our terms. That is a 0.02% ratio. To be clear, the vast majority of tweets about football are not abusive, they are the weird and wonderful stuff you’d expect but a tiny minority ruin it for everyone else.



Image: Imago Images/Xinhua