Euro 2016 – Iceland Meets Iceland

Icelandic football has been the talk of this year’s Euros, providing fans with a real lesson about combativity and team spirit “a la Leicester City”. However Nordic football wasn’t the sole beneficiary of the national team’s success. The no frills supermarket and nations namesake, Iceland Supermarket, has taken advantage of the social media chatter and delivered a sponsorship case study worthy of evaluation.


Just before the tournament began in June, when qualifying was an accomplishment in itself, people started to congratulate @IcelandFoods instead of @footballIceland on Twitter. An English discount supermarket specialising in frozen food was being mistaken for a National football team from the far North of Europe, and they decided to capitalise on it.

Some sponsors will work for years and spend millions to be able to build their association with a team, an event or an athlete, whilst big tournaments like the Euros lead to major brands talking football and trying to capture fans interest. However it’s easy to get lost in the noise. Spending thousands on advertising is not always effective, and getting noticed and creating relevance between the fans and the brand can prove a tough ask.

But Iceland realised they had an opportunity. Through great interaction, quick thinking, a sense of humour and a little bit of luck, Iceland Supermarkets were able to situate themselves at the forefront of the conversation with very little media spend, and in the process, turn a plucky football nation into everybody's second team. 

The decision to sponsor the Iceland Football Team was a reactive decision made very quickly after the twitter confusion. The brands ability to listen to social media and be willing to quickly react to it has been a key element in making this campaign successful. Not many companies can manage to get a sponsorship deal signed in two weeks. It usually takes months to work out the strategy, the plan, contracts, and then convince all the stakeholders in the business. In this situation, Iceland Supermarkets did a great job using the momentum and getting everything ready to go within a few days. Whilst short lead times don’t always lead to great activations, Iceland did an acceptable job with the “trolley shooting” drills, and the staff “Viking Clap” video was definitely a win.

Their social media banter was also well timed, and well received. Many brands are afraid of potential backlash, but the supermarket chain replied to tweets promptly which led to further interaction, thus driving exposure for the brand. The fact that fans were also putting the brand at the centre of the conversation, without any prompting or messaging from the supermarket itself, proved powerful and more genuine than any commercial messaging ever could. The supermarket’s social media team should also be commended. Not taking themselves too seriously and some clever tongue in cheek humour were key components of the brands twitter success. Post England victory, and droves of England fans were announcing their support to Iceland, comparing the “cheap” performance of their team with the supermarket. The store handled this very well, creating interaction with the disappointed fans in keeping with their previous humour. And it was the same again after the loss to France. The “This is what happens when you send a supermarket to do a football team’s job…” tweet drove numerous interactions.

Reaction speed and quick wit aside, we can’t deny that luck has certainly been on the supermarket chain’s side these last few weeks. The conversation was initiated by fans’ confusion, and the majority of the time those same fans drove the conversation.  The supermarket did eventually cotton on, sign a sponsorship, and began tweeting Euro related content, but turns out taking a snap of yourself in an Iceland shopping bag is the way to go. The supermarket was again the reactor to fan content rather than the instigator, but getting Jimmy Bullard to post a video of himself wearing Iceland Food bags and doing a Viking clap to his 600k followers was a slice of genius. Genius which delivered amazing reach for the Iceland brand. Nobody would ever have picked Iceland to oust England, nor would they have picked them to reach the quarter finals. Considering the campaign, and likely the sponsorship, ended when Iceland left the Euros, the supermarket can count themselves very lucky the campaign went for as long as it did. Definitely value for your sponsorship dollar.

Iceland’s success (both of them) is a great example of how a challenger brand can use sports to generate exposure with very little spend. If there’s any take-away lessons from this it’s to never be afraid of using humour and wit, as they make your brand appear far more genuine and far more likely to drive interaction than anything else. And always listen. Small businesses have fewer steps between the person manning social media and the decision makers, and that allows them to be reactive. So don’t be afraid to take a look at what’s trending on social media and interact with consumers and fans. Finally, practice your Viking clap. You never know when a plastic Iceland bag might come floating by….


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