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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 June, 2004, 10:22 GMT 11:22 UK
Battle for hearts and minds
By Duncan Walker and Megan Lane
BBC News Online Magazine

The Euro 2004 marketing blitz is in full swing, with official sponsors and "ambush marketers" alike keen to tempt fans at home and in Portugal. Is there more to it than shifting product during the tournament?

Handing out Tango boomers in Lisbon
Freebies galore for footie fans
A gaggle of bare-chested English lads are quickly reeled in as Susan yells: "Make some noise for the boys, guys" in Lisbon's central Rossio Square.

It hasn't escaped the football fans' attention that she's pretty, in a short skirt, and handing out freebies. Their reward for coming over is a couple of bright orange boomers - inflatable tubes which sound like a snare drum when hit together. Crucially - for Susan and her employer, Britvic - they bear the brand name "Tango".

While the soft drinks manufacturer is not an official sponsor of the tournament - it instead funds the England Supporters' Club band - it is among many companies using Euro 2004 to push their wares.

"This is a way to get the glory and the atmosphere of a major tournament on the cheap," says John Williamson, of branding consultants Wolff Olins. "Air time during matches costs a lot of money; this is a way to try to get the magic of the event to somehow by osmosis transfer to their brand. Whether it works depends on the quality of the stunt."

It's a tactic first tried by Nike during the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, when the company put up billboards along the marathon course proclaiming "Just do it USA".

Sales pitch

Adrian Troy, of Britvic, says Euro 2004 is the highlight of the year for Tango's target drinkers - young males aged between 13 and 24. "It's too good to miss. As a youth brand, we have to be part of it and have to view it from a fan's perspective."

Fan sips a beer in Lisbon
Fans can spend spend spend
As a brand which pitches itself as irreverent and fun, providing noise-makers for enthusiastic supporters fits right in. And in England, the company runs daily radio updates by archetypal England fan Fred Card, voiced by Little Britain's Matt Lucas.

Other organisations have direct links to the organisers Uefa, after spending an average of 20m euros each to be associated with one of the world's biggest sporting events.

It is the size of the potential market that has companies flocking to the Euro 2004 party. More than one million match tickets have been sold, and the tournament is the third most-watched sporting event in the world after the World Cup and the Olympics.

Among England supporters alone, 60,000 have made the journey to Portugal and a further 21 million armchair fans are expected to watch Thursday's game against the host nation.

Gifts galore

For football fans arriving in Portugal, there are giveaways to be had almost from the moment of touchdown. Waiting in the arrivals hall are gangs from UK companies handing out condoms, talk time on mobile phone networks, and guides to the tournament, to name but a few of the freebies on offer.

The girls from Zoo with England fans (photo courtesy of Emap)
Zoo girls: Up close and personal
The delivery method is simple - young women who, like Susan, look good in skimpy clothes. Often they have been flown in from England to appeal to the predominantly male fans.

"It's pretty obvious we're here for our looks," says Susan, a model from the Lush agency and part of a team of six from Tango. "They say it's also to calm the guys down, but haven't they heard of testosterone?"

Similar tactics are employed by Zoo, the weekly men's magazine with content dedicated to "sex, sport and stupidity", which gives out free copies on match days, in Portugal and at Tesco supermarkets in England as fans pile in to stock up on beer and barbecue supplies.

"The magazine started in February, and Euro 2004 has always been part of our launch strategy," says Nial Ferguson, of Zoo's publisher Emap. "This is the biggest event of the year for our target market - men aged 18 to 34 who like sexy girls and football. Normal blokes."

This magazine is very good; in Portugal we have nothing about football AND girls
Student Andre Blanco
It is these "normal blokes" who make up the bulk of the travelling army of supporters (although women form a sizable minority). And in this demographic, even those on low incomes tend to spend freely on beer, football tickets and - Mr Ferguson hopes - his magazine.

There's no doubting their product has made an impact, and not just among the English.

"This magazine is very good; in Portugal we have nothing about football AND girls," says student Andre Blanco, as he pores over a copy with a friend.

A deliberate tactic, says Mr Ferguson. To concentrate solely on football would mean losing readers once Euro 2004 is over.

Fan zone

While so-called guerrilla - or ambush - campaigns are a serious business in themselves, these pale into insignificance when compared to those run by the official partners.

Fanzone in Lisbon
The crowd erupts in Fan Park
At Uefa's Fan Park in Lisbon, which screens games for those without tickets, fans eat McDonalds and drink Carlsberg or Coca Cola, have souvenir photos taken by Canon, and perch upon a scooter bedecked with Adidas logos. For these multinationals sponsor the tournament and are thus granted kiosks in the ground.

While sales in Fan Park look to be healthy, the turn-over will hardly cover the price tag of becoming an official sponsor.

Uefa's head of marketing, Philippe Margraff, says the use of official partners is vital to the tournament's success, providing 300m euros in sponsorship alone. The companies also raise the tournament's profile through their own ad campaigns.

And some partners make practical contributions to the running of Euro 2004, which lasts only 23 days but involves huge costs. Car manufacturer Hyundai, for example, provides 500 vehicles for the transport of teams, officials and Uefa staff.

None of these companies are involved for goodwill alone. They stand to get a great deal in return. Advertisers are attracted by the chance to reach huge numbers of people - both men and women.

"We have unbelievable coverage, not just in Europe, but in 50 markets including India, China, Japan and Thailand," says Mr Margraff. "It's not just the young men; you get the full spectrum. That's why they put so much effort into it - it appeals to absolutely everyone."

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