Promotional feature

The best Euros ads ever – what can we learn?

ITV is offering one brand a free ad spot in the rescheduled Euro 2020 final

The biggest live event of the year is coming: Euro 2020 kicks off on June 11. And, with it, ITV is reviving its Euros Ad Competition, which will see the most engaging ad appear during the Euro final - for free. 

More than 44 million people tuned in to ITV Euro coverage in 2016 and, this year, the pull is expected to be even greater.  The June 18th match between England and Scotland, in particular, is set to attract huge attention. And with pent-up demand for live sport finally unleashed this summer, predictions are for a Euros that will deliver brands a level of reach and audience never seen on this scale before. 

Entries to the Euros Ad Competition will be judged using System1 methodology and technology that predict ad success on the basis of three key measures. The winning ad will be announced by July 7th, ahead of the final on July 11th. The closing date for entries is June 27th.

So how can creative teams stand out on one of the most coveted stages in UK advertising? 

In sports, they say your greatest lessons come in defeat. And if you’re an English football fan, those lessons come unfairly wrapped in heartbreak. But in the advertising world, the biggest learnings sometimes come from the ads that triumphed.  

A great Euros ad – in fact, any great ad – does three things really well: It’s memorable, it leads with emotion and it is distinctively on-brand. Or, as System1 measures it, they have fame, feeling and fluency. These are the three key predictors of an ad’s impact on market share and form the basis of the company’s ad-testing technology.  

When the Euros kick off, tribalism and competitive stakes will be at their peak. Not only is this one of the grandest stages in football, but it’s also a golden opportunity for advertising creatives to bring the fun, cheek and storytelling nous to mass audiences – and hopefully snare that free ad spot in the final.

As ITV notes: the eyes of the nation will be on the tournament and also the advertising. Not surprisingly, the broadcaster has launched its own technicolour, pre-Euro ad campaign as the excitement builds, with England and Arsenal footballer-turned-pundit Ian Wright delivering the message: “The Good Times Start Here”.

So, before the June 27th closing date for entries, we asked three industry experts from Zalando, Carat and McCann Manchester for their favourite Euros ad of all time that had: built a legacy or had long-term fame; was emotionally engaging, and made good use of brand assets. All System1 predictors of ad success.

In our micro-sample, 2016 was a rich year for creativity, with Paddy Power beating Lufthansa 2:1.

“Flying with the Germans!” Lufthansa - Euros 2016 
Germany’s main airline took a jovial swipe at England supporters travelling to France for the Euros in 2016 with this ad which provoked a chuckle among many people, including Melissa Weston, marketing lead, UK & IE at Zalando.

“This ad made me laugh and was memorable to me during the Euros, as it really plays on the stereotypes that some English people may have about Germany,” she says. “As an English expat myself, living in Germany, it resonated more with me.”

The commercial shows a couple of England soccer fans who are horrified at being unexpectedly put on to a Lufthansa flight and it scrolls through their imagination of what the experience might involve. Cue their stereotypical preconceptions including boisterous passengers - including one playing the French horn - and quintessentially German food that fails to impress.

Finally, the England supporters are back in reality and, to their great relief, enjoying a quiet trip with all the in-flight service and environment they desire. Except for a young boy behind them who teased them in their imaginings and continues to do so in reality.

Weston admires the emotional storytelling and drawing on all the visual stereotypes - ““with passengers all dressed in Lederhosen, with a cuckoo clock on the wall, and the young boy teasing them by showing four fingers - the number of times Germany has won the World Cup.” Just how English football fans might imagine a Lufthansa flight as “flying with the Germans”.

Showing the comfort and service on an actual Lufthansa flight made great use of brand assets, she adds.

“Vive La Bantz Paddy Power!” Paddy Power - Euros 2016
For Imogen Tazzyman, executive creative director at McCann Manchester, Paddy Power’s Scotland’s Euro 2016 Anthem, where Scottish celebrities march through a misty fog, chanting their desire for an English defeat, “had everything.” 

She’s not alone in her admiration of this classic which was the top pick for two of our three experts. The ad beautifully blends humour and football’s unique tribalism to harness lasting emotional engagement. “Vive La Bantz Paddy Power!” chants Carat UK’s chief strategy officer Matt Willifer.

Play to the crowd and build a legacy
Broad reach is a key determinant of fame. Just so, the always-adventurous Paddy Power took Fat Les’ famous England 1998 World Cup song, “Vindaloo”, and turned it into a rallying call for the one nation that didn’t qualify for the Euros – Scotland.

“When Scotland didn’t qualify for Euro 2016, they saw an opportunity to build on their established brand platform – by giving the fans an anthem,” explains Tazzyman.  

Not only did the ad reach adoring football fans, it also touched a powerful note with a far broader audience. This was partly achieved by resisting the temptation to use cliched football references that only hardcore fans would connect with. As Tazzyman says: “In a sea of ads featuring football, in the middle of 90 minutes of football - barely a football in sight. Good stuff.”

Play the Beautiful Game
“[Paddy Power’s Scotland Euro Anthem] created emotional engagement through both humour and tribalism: the ad was underpinned by a call to arms to Scots to bet against England,” says Willifer. 

An ad’s reach is nothing if it fails to hit the right emotional cords. Paddy Powder’s ad was never directly about the teams in the Euros. Instead, it sensed the fun of celebrating the losers and leaning into old rivalries. 

Choose your strongest side
Both Tazzyman and Willifer agree: Paddy Power’s Euros ad is clever, rebellious and fun. It just feels like a Paddy Power ad without detracting from any of the emotive storytelling. In Willifer’s words, “the tone and the voice over were both unmistakably Paddy Power.”

Perhaps only Paddy Power could pull this masterpiece off.

For more details on to enter the ITV Euro 2020 creative competition and for full terms and conditions, see here.  


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