Unpacking the Wider Media Impact of Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool
It seems impossible not to know that Liverpool was staging Eurovision this past weekend.
If you often travel with Merseyrail, you may have heard announcements from well-known UK personalities such as singer-turned-media personality Rylan, Eurovision host Graham Norton, and Ukrainian music star Julia Sanina.
Local television, radio and newspapers – let alone the national and international coverage – were jam-packed with coverage of the free music events, semi-finals and the Saturday night finale saw Sweden’s Loreen become the first female ever to win the competition twice.
Stockholm may now be calling for 2024, marking the 50th anniversary of ABBA’s victory, but what about the lasting legacy of Liverpool’s hosting?
If last year’s event in Turin is anything to benchmark by, the wider media impact from Liverpool’s spectacle could be enormous.
With an estimated global audience of 180 million watching throughout the week, there are some key points to factor into how much effect this year will have had, and what considerations going forward broadcasters, brands and advertisers will no doubt take on board.
Liverpool Arena’s standard corporate branding, M&S Bank Arena, was obscured during the event will have been bittersweet for the company as for the rest of the year, it can be seen loud and proud from the River Mersey, but this was one of the stipulations for hosting – similar to when staging major international sporting tournaments.
However, it did not stop them from getting involved with the festivities across all their social channels right through the build-up to the final.
Will it hit the host broadcasters?
Juxtaposed to branding in general is how the national broadcaster, the BBC, does not proactively support advertisement, being that it is public-funded through the TV Licence fee.
The BBC have had to foot a significant amount of the bill, as well as their commitment as one of the “Big 5” who pay for their place in the contest alongside France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
The Eurovision Song Contest, which was previously only broadcast on the BBC in the UK, now airs on its own YouTube channel and, this year, live-streamed on TikTok, the official entertainment partner of Eurovision.
With a week to go, the hashtag #Eurovision2023 had already garnered over 1 billion video views on the app.
It means that advertisers in the UK will no longer receive the dreaded ‘nul points’ for their commercials during the contest.
At the time of writing, there have been 36.5m views on YouTube of the 26 grand final performances shown live on YouTube.
Dr Paul Jordan, a leading commentator and expert on all matters Eurovision, understands the progression the contest has made in recent years, speaking to The Guardian: “Social media is a big part of the attractiveness for brands,”
“Songs have gone on to become viral hits thanks to TikTok. Armenia’s entry last year came 20th on the night, yet went on to become a huge hit online – probably the most successful ever in terms of streams and downloads,” he added.
It may be that funding comes from the main broadcasters to get it to air, but the question of what will become of the long-standing public broadcast in future will no doubt linger unanswered for several years to come.
Ja Ja Ding Dong! Eurovision’s Grip On The Globe
An unlikely flag-bearer for the competition in recent years has been Hollywood comedy star, Will Ferrell.
Introduced to Eurovision through his Swedish wife, Viveca Paulin, in 1999 when Sweden again took the title, his love affair with the musical extravaganza led him to write, produce and star in the Netflix film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.
It was supposed to coincide with the 2020 show, but with its cancellation due to Covid-19, the film became the de-facto replacement for Europe’s dose of fun and frolics.
Naturally, in an age of streaming and devoid of the regular event, the film took a life of its own; nominated for an Oscar for Best Song, a UK Number 1 album for its soundtrack and endless memes involving the highly suggestive track ‘Ja Ja Ding Dong’.
The latter became meta of sorts, as one of the movie’s stars, Hannes Óli Ágústsson, reprised his role announcing, in character, the 2021 jury vote from Iceland. His pleas to give 12 points to Ja Ja Ding Dong instead of the actual result provided further light relief, viral content, and a real sense that there is a world open to Eurovision.
For many years, there had been attempts to want to stage an American Song Contest. However, in 2022, it was an effort that was tried and failed. Never quite matching up to the European original, the American network NBC chose not to renew it for another year.
And sometimes, the original just cannot be bested.
It is why the clamour for this year’s event in Liverpool, for all of its political reasonings aside, hosted in a city renowned around the world, had the opportunity to go above and beyond.
TikTok: Slaying The Competition?
As the BBC knows, it has needed to change its entertainment products to face the challenges presented by the likes of YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime – but what of the challenge from the social media upstart?
Last year’s UK entrant Sam Ryder was catapulted to stardom originally via TikTok with his impressive vocal talents even before he was announced as our entrant for the 2022 contest.
It has become a hotbed of undiscovered artists throughout the pandemic and beyond.
However, the warning lights are there for live streaming, despite the best attempts to downplay anything in the future.
James Stafford, TikTok’s general manager of marketing and operations for the UK, Ireland and Nordics, distanced the platform from detracting from the host broadcaster’s efforts. They wanted to be the prelude to it and even involve the BBC.
“The hour before the live show on Saturday, the BBC will be doing an exclusive live stream on TikTok that is designed to capture as much attention and audience from TikTok as possible, and direct them to go and tune in and watch the live broadcast,” said Stafford ahead of the grand final.
“We would much prefer that we are a complement to those broadcasters and we can help them discover the next generation of fans who are going to tune in and watch Eurovision live on the BBC.”
Twitter certainly still had its fair share of in-the-moment involvement and mood-capturing.
From Hannah Waddingham becoming a trending national treasure as host with her fluent French stunning audiences, Peppa Pig at the helm of a conga during the second semi-final, to stand-in commentator Mel Giedroyc questionably churning butter in the Grand Final during an interval (calling back to the 2014 Polish entry – nothing more intended!) – scenes to savour.
However, it feels as if there is a definite shift in generational purpose and intent for Eurovision with their partnership with TikTok.
For now, it remains a support act to the main event, it seems. One must remember though, this is business, and the financial impact cannot go unnoticed.
Big For Business
Liverpool City Council said the city’s main reason for pushing to host the competition, aside from support to the country of Ukraine, was economic recovery according to interim chief executive Theresa Grant, noting 50,000 jobs supported by being the selected host, combined with a visiting economy worth almost £5bn.
57% of visitors to Turin during the two weeks leading up to the 2022 event were there purely for Eurovision.
Much was made about the ramp-up in hotel prices when announcing Liverpool as the host city.
Hotel reservations in and around the city saw cancellations then listings reappear but for considerably more than the original price, as the rush to secure a bed for the night(s) went into overdrive and many saw an opportunity.
Booking.com was named the official travel partner, signing up 2014 winner Conchita Wurst as an ambassador, featuring in adverts promoting a range of ways to stay in Liverpool.
Wurst also featured with another well-known brand wanting to get in on the act.
Baileys, the Irish liqueur, signed an exclusive three-year deal and had the Austrian drag queen making up Baileys-based cocktails. The beverage was prominent at the Eurovillage at Liverpool’s Pier Head during the week of the free music event, and benefitted greatly from coverage on their Twitter feed, regularly retweeted by the official ESC account.
Paul Carton, Baileys’ global marketing director, said it wanted to be part of the “world’s most joyful global celebration of inclusive and diverse cultures and communities”.
Finally, there was a very tongue-in-cheek attempt from one of the leading supermarkets.
Tesco celebrated the UK’s love of cheese; both the food product and perhaps a ribbing aimed at the contest, by running a singing competition on TikTok with a Eurovision-themed theme.
They invited users to sing along on TikTok Duets with three of the original line-up of Buck’s Fizz, to win various cheese-themed prizes. You can make your mind up as to how cheesy this probably ended up being!
What Next For Eurovision To Conquer?
Ultimately, it remains to be seen until later this year with any full brand impact reports from the European Broadcasting Union, to what extent Liverpool’s efforts have had, or what may develop in future with the wider marketing prospects (TikTok are due for renewal and review later this year).
However, the marketing efforts for the Eurovision event in Liverpool were undeniably successful in creating widespread awareness and engagement among audiences, navigating and managing the responsibility of representing Ukraine in the most positive manner and presenting an array of valuable marketing opportunities for brands.
The event’s immense popularity was fueled by its extensive media coverage, the participation of renowned personalities from Liverpool and beyond, and its strategic use of social media to bring this all together.
Likewise, the event received generous support from a range of prominent brands.
Collectively, these factors contributed to the event’s resounding success, leading many to consider it one of the most engaging Eurovision Song Contests of an entire generation.
The sense of loss to this festival of music leaving the city was summed up in a final fan tweet, mirroring the closing moments of the iconic Liverpool soap opera Brookside, as residents packed up for pastures new.
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