ITV is in line for an advertising windfall from its coverage of the Euro 2020 football tournament after netting as much as £500,000 or more per 30-second spot during England’s semi-final against Denmark.
England’s victory at Wembley on 7 July attracted 27.6m viewers at its peak across ITV, ITV Hub and STV, making it “the most-watched football match ever shown on one channel”, according to ITV.
That drove up advertising prices to what is thought to be a record level for UK commercial broadcasting, plus the match went into extra time, which meant ITV sold additional advertising air-time at a premium and brought in several million pounds of extra revenue.
Ian Daly, head of AV at Bountiful Cow, said: “The game going to extra time on Wednesday massively helped ITV. Viewing peaked during extra time, so the breaks at 90 minutes and full time ended doing much bigger TV ratings than if the game ended at 90 minutes.”
Adam Turner, chief investment officer of Omnicom Media Group UK, said: “The full-time ad break at 120 minutes did about half of all ABC1 men in the country, which is incredible in today’s fragmented media world. That’s only reported viewing – there’ll be a quite a high level of unreported viewing with people in pubs and other people’s homes.”
Multiple sources said the top-paying advertisers spent in excess of £500,000 for 30 seconds during the semi-final, although one well-placed source estimated some advertisers paid in excess of £600,000.
“When you get a unique situation, you get high prices,” a broadcasting figure said, noting it was the first time in 55 years that England had won a semi-final at a major football tournament.
The final against Italy is likely to bring in less money per spot for ITV – in the region of £150,000 for 30 seconds, sources predicted – because it shares the TV rights with the BBC and has previously attracted only around a quarter of the viewing audience when both channels are covering a major national event.
ITV declined to comment on its advertising prices.
“Almost as lucky as Gareth Southgate”
The National Lottery, McDonald's, KFC and Vodafone were among the brands to advertise during the semi-final. Booking.com and TikTok also featured in the sponsorship idents at the start and end of the ad breaks because they are official tournament partners.
Advertisers do not always pay the same price, depending on where they appear in the break and other factors.
Some brands will often buy a package for multiple games upfront to get better prices and ad slots. Those that book at the last minute tend to pay the highest amount.
ITV had the exclusive rights to the England semi-final after picking the match in advance while the BBC chose the other game between Italy and Spain.
“They have almost struck as lucky as Gareth Southgate to pick the semi-final that England was in,” one agency source said of ITV.
TV coverage of the final is set to generate significant advertiser interest.
Steve Bignell, chief executive of Publicis Media Exchange, said: “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity with England performing in a final. While rates are high, it is an opportunity that advertisers seem to be flocking towards.”
Turner added: “It’s a fantastic reach opportunity – it’s gone beyond sport, it’s a national event, whether you’re supporting England or not. If we forecast an audience of seven to eight million on commercial TV, that is a very significant audience – it’s just nothing like on Wednesday [in the semi-final that was only on ITV].”
Daly said advertisers will also be looking at other media channels: “The amount of punditry content, on audio particularly, has grown massively and could be an avenue for brands who can’t afford to access the final or don’t have a TV commercial.”
ITV has been benefitting from an advertising recovery after last year’s lockdown and has told shareholders that it expects ad sales to be up as much as 90% in June thanks in part to its Euros coverage and the latest series of Love Island.
“Generally, the ad market is really strong and TV is performing very well,” Bignell said. “In a time of high advertiser demand, with brands wanting to claw back some of the lost momentum of the last 18 months, TV has strong content and is taking advantage of the opportunity.”
However, another agency source noted that some advertisers have been “disappointed” at the rate of TV inflation.