Online food delivery companies have had such a good pandemic, it’s a wonder there isn’t a conspiracy theory afloat about the whole thing being started by Big Pepperoni.
Take the Anglo-Dutch empire Just Eat Takeaway.com, still known to Irish users as plain Just Eat. It spent much of 2020 investing its way to gains in market share, before pocketing for dessert the proceeds of a 79 per cent surge in first-quarter orders. Lockdown 3.0 was a festival of grease-stained food boxes, and there were apps for that.
But that was then. Now the newly orange-logoed Amsterdam-headquartered group, the product of a merger between Just Eat and Takeaway.com, is busy lining out as one of the official sponsors of Uefa Euro 2020, unveiling a television ad in which a football spins tantalisingly into a pizza. Eric Cantona co-stars.
We have entered the season of Euro 2020 commercial hoopla, which means Currys PC World will be trying harder than ever to persuade everybody to buy a television the size of the old Savoy One and various bookmakers will be taking a keen interest in people doing stuff responsibly.
Alas, the backdrop for the event isn’t what any paid-up sponsor or passing ambush-marketing chancer would have expected four – sorry, five – years ago. That it’s not actually 2020 is the least of it.
The continent-wide tournament kicks off in Rome on June 11th, with RTÉ's Darragh Maloney presenting live coverage of Turkey v Italy and, before that, what is bound to be one of soccer's beautifully naff opening ceremonies. Our sense of normality returning to the world depends on the opening ceremony being not just terrible, but confounding in its terribleness.
From the announcement in 2014 until the recent intervention of the pandemic gods, Dublin was due to be one of the host cities, ensuring a local angle that could not be guaranteed by the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland qualification campaigns. That's all gone now, leaving Irish involvement to take musical form.
We Are the People by Dutch DJ Martin Garrix "featuring" Bono and The Edge has been unleashed as the official song of the pan-European sporting shindig. According to Uefa, it "looks at the challenges facing the world, while at the same time aiming to find a unified response to these issues", which is a lot to squeeze into three minutes and 40 seconds.
The theme of Euro 2020 is unity, adds Uefa, which seems an odd sentiment for a competition with 24 teams and only one winner. The choice of official lyricist is inspired, to be fair. If anyone can find a unified response to the challenges facing the world, it is surely Bono. Let’s just hope that when he does, he doesn’t hide it away in a song that everybody ignores.
Lest these gently anthemic stirrings fail to put more casual football watchers in the mood for the VAR-contingent delights of Euro 2020, Uefa has the back-up plan of a pre-tournament digital marketing campaign that implores social media users to “get #EuroHyped”.
The effort is commendable, though hype to me is less something you agree to feel and more something that just confronts you, like the chorus of a Cypriot Eurovision entry or the wall of Pringles at your nearest Tesco.
It has been a subdued time for the sponsorship market, with revenues hurt last year by the sea of cancelled events, budget retrenchment and short-term decision-making by the usual big spenders. The vast sponsor nettings that covered up the empty seats, occupying unprecedented percentages of our television screens, weren’t enough to offset the recessionary climate.
But amid the top tier of Uefa partnerships, the money has been handed over, the agencies have been hired and the activation strategies are under way. Joining Just Eat Takeaway.com as official Euro 2020 sponsors are football stalwarts Coca-Cola and Heineken, as well as Qatar Airways, Chinese smartphone manufacturer Vivo and Chinese-owned video app TikTok.
Uefa's national team football official sponsors, meanwhile, are FedEx, Booking. com, Volkswagen, Chinese mobile payments giant Alipay, Chinese electronics manufacturer Hisense and Gazprom. Indeed, it will fall to everybody's favourite energy giant to introduce the inevitable non-fungible tokens into proceedings, with the scorer of the best goal set to be awarded a digital trophy by Gazprom.
Because what can incentivise excellence in front of goal quite like the prize of unique Russian crypto-art?
Back in the more familiar, old-school world of television advertising, Cantona’s understated Gallic approval to the arrival of a 12-inch seems about as apt for the moment as it can get. Who now is bouncing about with glee at the sight of yet another takeaway on the doorstep?
The aforementioned bumper rates of online food ordering throughout this whole crisis suggests it is not a time to feel sorry for the giants of the takeaway trade. Nobody, absolutely nobody, has been rationing treats, Safefood-style. If it hasn’t been off-limits, then we’ve had it, because we deserve it.
But this extended period of at-home indulgence is precisely the reason why the marketing context for Euro 2020 has changed. An international carnival of football is typically a glorious opportunity to leave the office early, stop off at an off-licence on the way home and settle in for a midweek evening of television entertainment, beer uncapped, food on order. It’s a brilliant novelty, at least at the start, before the heartburn flares up and everything starts to sag.
If Euro 2020 had taken place last year, it would have smashed all viewing records. But other sporting events have been welcomed back to the schedules for some time. Fifteen-plus months into a pandemic, feeling enthusiastic about another night in with a takeaway is almost as hard as trying to make people feel enthusiastic about another night in with a takeaway.
The true excitement now lies somewhere other than our own sofas.