Etihad: Blindsiding the opposition in a sports sponsorship promotion

Travel Case Study
Etihad: Blindsiding the opposition in a sports sponsorship promotion
The Challenge

8020 client Etihad Airways is synonymous with international football through its sponsorship of Manchester City FC. However, at the UEFA Euro Final at Wembley Stadium in July 2021, the name of competitor Qatar Airways was expected to dominate because of its headline sponsorship of the event.

Etihad set us the challenge of taking on its competitor by launching a competition for TV viewers of the match. For a chance to win free Etihad flights for four years, viewers had to tweet #EtihadFreeFlights any time they spotted a travel advert during the game.

As well as competing with Qatar’s brand prominence, we had to work around the inevitable media focus on players and team tactics, as well as topical debate about the foreign ownership of UK clubs, then a hot topic. We needed to cut through this noise to gain traction with football fans, both on social media and in the news media.

The Approach

Given the high profile of the match, sponsorship opportunities with the media were very costly and beyond the competition’s modest budget. We therefore undertook a granular analysis of less obvious media outlets that would offer Etihad the greatest return on investment for the available funds.

We settled on two complementary media houses able to reach a highly targeted micro-audience of football fans at ground level: sports podcast specialist The Athletic and regional radio content provider Radio News Hub, with which we recorded syndicated bulletins about the competition.

The Results

On the Final weekend, more than 200 UK regional stations picked up Radio News Hub’s bulletins, which were broadcast 12 times over Saturday and Sunday. The Athletic broadcast our recording in seven of its popular football podcasts, including The Totally Football Show with James Richardson, The England Show and Euro Stories, reaching a confirmed audience of 220,605. During the match itself, Etihad’s promotional hashtag #EtihadFreeFlights was recorded as trending #2 on Twitter in the UK and UAE, second only to #EURO2020.

Adding in Germany and Saudi Arabia, in which the competition also ran, we helped Etihad to reach more than 46 million football fans and generate 11,000 tweets. The success of the campaign allowed Etihad to achieve more than 400,000 engagements in four markets.