LONDON: Telecoms brand Orange emerged as the best performing sponsor at the recent UEFA European Championship, thanks to a focus on fan engagement, according to a new study.

The Brand Agility Index compiled by PR firm Waggener Edstrom Communications ranked brands in areas ranging from a campaign's engagement, originality, personalisation, scalability and relevance to the speed it responded on social media.

Before the tournament started, Orange brought football legend Zinedine Zidane on board as "le boss" of the "centre de recrutement des supporters" and continued to emphasise the fan connection during the following weeks.

"The brand's drive to feature a team's colours on the Eiffel Tower managed to drive engagement throughout the tournament and built on fans' passions for their national teams and has ensured people continued to participate over an extended period of time," Gareth Davies, head of digital and insight at Waggener Edstrom, told Marketing Week.

Such activations helped put Orange well out in front in the Index. It scored 167 points to second-placed Hyundai's 138 points. The Korean carmaker also put fans at the forefront of its sponsorship programme.

"By hosting 'viewing areas' for the games they not only pulled fans into a highly branded zone, but helped the activity spill from real life into the virtual world with Hyundai receiving positive praise for being the 'facilitator' of these fan moments." Davies noted.

China's first-ever sponsor of the tournament, electronics brand Hisense, was in third place (129 points), ahead of big event stalwarts such as Coca-Cola (126 points) and McDonald's (84 points).

The need for agility was highlighted – again – in the experience of the England team.

"The notion that you can entirely pre-purchase and pre-plan a schedule six months prior to a major tournament feels as outdated as some of the media executions," noted James Kirkham, head of football content specialist Copa90, writing in Campaign .

And he pointed specifically to "creative extolling the virtues of the safe goalkeeping hands [of England keeper Joe Hart which] appeared in and around a match where his skills were anything but."

Data sourced from Marketing Week, Campaign; additional content by Warc staff