On Friday, March 20th, a member of UEFA’s social media team posted an update on Twitter. The tweet stated that the delayed Euro championship is still going to keep its original name, “Euro 2020”, regardless of being delayed until 2021. However, the message was deleted within a few minutes. Immediately afterward, the UEFA once again posted a tweet, this time saying that there hasn’t yet been a decision in regards to the updated tournament name.
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This one gaffe is just an example that demonstrates how all of UEFA’s organizers are overwhelmed by the challenge of rescheduling such a massive event. The Euros are one of the most-watched sports events in the world, coming behind only the Summer Olympic Games and FIFA’s World Cup. Euro 2020 was advertised as being the most extravagant event yet and would take place in multiple cities across Europe instead of being hosted in one country. This was because the championship was celebrating its 60th anniversary, and UEFA’s ex-President wanted it to be “romantic.”
The UEFA’s social media blunder may have seemed harmless, but it actually raised many questions among the Association’s commercial partners and sponsors. Since the tournament will now be held from June 11th – July 11th of 2021, some partners assumed that the tournament’s name was going to be updated to Euro 2021. The UEFA seemed to be leaning towards that direction since its lawyers had registered “Euro 2021” as a trademark just one week prior to announcing the rescheduled dates.
What will it mean for businesses if the name is changed? Even if a “0” turns into a “1”, it does not bode well for the hundreds, if not thousands, of shops who have warehouses chock-full of merchandise branded with the “Euro 2020” logo.
For instance, Konami’s video game about the Euro 2020 is slated for an April release. At this point, there have been many advertisements for the game that includes the year “2020.” On top of that, the packaging also has that year on it. Plus, there will surely be many references to the year within the actual game, which would cost a lot of of time and money to rectify. It took months of work for Konami to create licensing agreements. Plus, Konami had to create agreements with companies that produce the players’ sports jerseys, such as Nike and Adidas.
Adidas has already put its specialty Euro 2020 ball design on the market. It’s possible that consumers won’t want to purchase this if the competition’s name is changed. Perhaps they will wait until next year to see if Adidas will release an updated design.
Coca-Cola, the official soft drinks sponsor of UEFA, began shipping out branded cases of its products to markets about two weeks prior to the postponement’s announcement. Similarly, Heineken (which is the UEFA’s official beer sponsor) was already in the process of promoting its specialty Euro 2020 packaging. Companies such as these have been working on promotions and branding for their products for nearly eighteen months. On top of that, they have to cooperate with major supermarkets in order to figure out shelving requirements.
UEFA has licensed Euro sticker albums that are incredibly popular. When visiting the Panini America website, you can see that they have already released multiple sticker collections and trading cards that are branded with “Euro 2020”. At the moment, the company doesn’t seem to be suffering too badly, as its 50-sticker packet bundles are out of stock. However, come next summer, the company may have to spend a significant sum of money to rebrand the sets.
So, it is entirely reasonable that the UEFA’s sponsors and commercial partners would prefer that the Association retains the Euro’s current name. The process of registering trademarks and licenses is very costly and lengthy, according to sports marketing consultant Tim Crow. Perhaps UEFA can turn to the International Olympic Committee for inspiration. The Committee decided to retain the name “Tokyo 2020” even though 2020’s Summer Olympic Games were rescheduled for 2021.
The marketing director for UEFA, Guy-Laurent Epstein, would not give a statement about the Association’s conversations with its sponsors and commercial partners. However, Epstein did say that the UEFA’s stakeholders will have to “share the pain.” In addition to this, the Association is trying to keep the broad picture in mind and take every pro and con into consideration.
Some companies may choose to continue using the “Euro 2020” branded merchandise, even if the tournament’s official name is changed. For instance, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman has stated that they may continue using the same packaging in order to minimize material waste.
Speaking of material waste, millions of pieces of apparel and accessories manufactured by third-party companies will probably have to sit in storage facilities for several months. Perhaps the companies will decide to sell them as-is, or they might be scrapped altogether.
Even if the Euro championship retains its name, however, some companies may decide to rethink their campaign. Even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, the world will still be reeling. Months of isolation and thousands of deaths could have lasting mental repercussions for survivors. UEFA’s sponsors may choose to go back to the drawing board and rethink their marketing campaigns. One thing is certain: companies will want to promote their products in a sensitive manner. For now, though, these companies will simply have to wait and see what UEFA decides to do in regards to the championship’s name.