Normanno Pisani, head of media partnerships UK at TikTok, explains the rationale behind and the plans of the video-sharing platform’s global sponsorship deal for soccer’s Euro 2020, now scheduled for June and July of this year.

Why did TikTok target an official partnership with Euro 2020 as this is a new initiative for a platform such as yours?

We are always looking for new ways to engage and inspire creativity in our community, which is why we were so excited to announce our partnership with Uefa Euro 2020. It’s the first time a digital entertainment platform has sponsored a major international tournament for Uefa.

Football content has had an incredible rise on TikTok this last year, with over 85 billion views of the #football hashtag. TikTok brings a fresh, creative approach to the football industry, and what better place to do this than at one of the most iconic football events in the world.

How does the tournament resonate with your users and what will be the level of following?

The culture of the Euros chimes perfectly with the TikTok community who live to celebrate and participate in football culture in creative ways that are unique to the platform. I can’t wait to see how TikTokers engage this summer – some of my favourite recent campaigns have been seeing TikTokers’ skills and home training in the #SoccerAidSkills challenge with Unicef and #BackInTheGame with the Premier League, which showcased how organisations can co-create with users and create exclusive content with a country’s top teams.

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We have lots of exciting activity planned for our community in the lead-up to and during Euro 2020. There is already an official TikTok account (@euro2020) which has attracted more than 3.6 million video views – clearly the community is just as excited as we are.

How important is football for TikTok, and how will Euro 2020 complement its current activity around the sport?

TikTok is fast becoming a home of football fandom and culture. It’s a place where football fans anywhere in the world can connect with their favourite teams, clubs, players and even freestyle creators, as well as create their own football content like memes, goal celebrations and commentary on games. Fans can be part of the game and connect with their footballing heroes on TikTok in a way they can’t anywhere else.

For clubs and players, it’s a totally new and exciting way to engage with fans. TikTok is an unfiltered camera into football culture and commentary. You really see the personality behind the club or player on TikTok in ways you just won’t on other platforms – which I’m sure will be the same with the content around Euro 2020.

Our unique For You feed helps players and clubs to reach a wider community of people who may not know them already because it shows people content based on their interests rather than who they follow. As a result, we see a wider variety of people become followers solely because of their content, not just because they are a fan of the club or player.

Clubs have also found this model really engaging. Today, over 70 per cent of top league football clubs in Europe are on TikTok, including 18 of the 20 Premier League teams, with all of them seeing great engagement. Several have passed the 1 million follower mark, including Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.

The beauty of TikTok is that clubs of all sizes can grow their following such as Brentford who joined in February and got 3 million views on their second video. The FA uses TikTok to get closer to England fans and feature the #ThreeLions and #Lionesses who have been performing brilliantly in-app.

What is the appeal of Euro 2020 being held in 12 countries and having media coverage all over the world?

We’re delighted to be partnering with Euro 2020 and bringing the spirit and passion of the tournament to fans on TikTok. Its global prominence is perfectly matched for our incredible community of creators, which spans 150 countries and 75 languages, and the football leagues active on the platform – from LaLiga in Spain, Serie A in Italy and the Bundesliga in Germany. Together we’ll give fans all over the world a fun and unique Euro experience.

What specific activation plans do you have for the tournament?

We’ll be launching a range of exciting features with Uefa including AR effects, hashtag challenges, TikTok LIVEs with football stars and new Sounds to experiment with, so that our community can recreate, celebrate and amplify the action on the pitch. Fans worldwide will be able to access exclusive behind-the-scenes content from Uefa as well as current and archival footage from the competition on the new account. We also have our in-app Football Hub which is updated weekly, where users will be able to find the latest trending Euros content, including hashtags, creators, memes and commentary.

We’ve found from past partnerships that the content that works well on TikTok really leans into the unique make-up of the platform, built on the challenges and trends in the app. Our community loves to co-create, with multiple users jumping on trends, and it expects you to bring your own personality and individual flair to those trends too. This goes for all sporting bodies – so you can expect lots of engaging Uefa content with great backing tracks, commentary and hashtag challenges to come.

In what other ways have you engaged in soccer?

We are constantly looking at new ways to get our partners excited with new features, tools and projects. This includes livestreams, such as the TikTok LIVE with @soccer_aid which featured a penalty shoot-out special and our clickable donation stickers to help raise funds for the charity. Other tools partners like to experiment with include the Duet function (e.g. #Wrighty Reacts with football legend Ian Wright) and ‘Respond To A Comment With A Video’ function (e.g. Phil Foden sharing his ultimate five-a-side-team).

We have lots of exciting activities planned for our community, including interactive and educational sport livestreams as part of our #LearnonTikTok initiative. We already have clubs like Leicester City showing how stadium screens work and everything that goes into bringing a goal to life during a live game, while we have Everton showing fans how it works backstage at Goodison Park.

Off the back of the Euro 2020 deal, TikTok has announced a content partnership with UFC. What are the benefits of these official tie-ups?

By boosting fan engagement, TikTok presents a huge opportunity for sport organisations of all kinds – not just football clubs but broadcasters and brands too. TikTok helps them reach new untapped audiences and grow their brand outside of sports – from surfacing the human stories and behind-the-scenes sneak peeks to taking a greater stake in skills and learning.

For that reason, TikTok has become an important strategy for all sport organisations to engage with their fans, both while teams continue to play to empty stadiums and when we return to a new normal post-pandemic.