Europa League Final: How the 2020-22 showpieces performed digitally

The Europa League Final has become a key moment in the European football season. With six different teams making it through to the showpiece and two penalty shootouts taking place in the last three seasons, the tournament is often more unpredictable and just as exciting as the Champions League.

This year, Eintracht Frankfurt and Glasgow Rangers made it through to the Final, playing out an entertaining 1-1 draw before a dramatic shootout ended in victory for Frankfurt.

But how was all this reflected on digital platforms? In this piece, we look at relevant data for the last three Finals, covering this year’s, the 2021 match (taking place on in May 2021 between Villarreal and Manchester United) and the 2020 game (taking place in August 2020 between Seville and Inter Milan) to understand how the Europa League Final impacts Search and Social.

Seville and Inter rule Search

The 2020 game was by far the most popular of the three, attracting more than double the number of searches as the 2021 game: 31.5m versus 14.3m.

Interest in the 2020 game starts high (7.3m) and reaches its peak in Week 3 (the week of the final) when it hits 13.1m. An understandable drop-off to 1.4m takes place in Week 4.

The 2021 Final simply can’t compete with these numbers, starting very low (1.5m in Week 1) and sitting some 4m searches behind the 2020 game in the week of the Final (9.1m in Week 4).

The 2022 Final struggles to compete with the 2020 and 2021 showpieces, but it experiences a consistent level of interest from weeks two to four inclusive.

The weeks marked in the above chart correspond to the weeks of the month the Final took place in. Week 1 is the first week of the month, week 2 the second and so on. The Finals in 2020 and 2022 took place in Week 3, while the Final in 2021 took place in Week 4.

Looking specifically at the teams involved in these Finals, we can see that Manchester United clearly lead the way, though not for their involvement in the match against Villarreal.

United enjoyed two significant peaks during May 2021. The first came in the second week, during which the Old Trafford club played three games in the space of five days, including home defeats to Leicester and Liverpool. The second came at the end of the month when transfer gossip dominated and targets such Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo appeared on the radar.

Crucially though, United are also ahead of the other clubs in the week of the Final, besting their opponents Villarreal by a huge margin (20.5m searches v 726,000) and also Seville (9.1m) and Inter Milan (13.1m) during the week of their Final.

Rangers and Eintracht Frankfurt lag behind the other four clubs, and Rangers (on a total of 10.7m searches for the month) are ahead of the German club (on 2.6m).

The weeks marked in the above chart correspond to the weeks of the month the Final took place in. Week 1 is the first week of the month, week 2 the second and so on. The Finals in 2020 and 2022 took place in Week 3, while the Final in 2021 took place in Week 4.

Instagram drives growth on Social

Looking at social media, the 2022 Final has generated the biggest growth in following for the Europa League accounts, particularly on Instagram. Indeed, Instagram has seen bigger growth than Facebook and Twitter for all three of the Finals, generating an additional 3.2m followers as opposed to 693k (Twitter) and 253k (Facebook).

For this data, we’ve analysed three months of follower data starting two months from the month of the Final and finishing in the month of the Final. For example, our data for the 2020 Final starts in June 2020 and finishes in August 2020.

On Instagram, 398k followers were added during the 2020 Final, another 436k across the 2021 Final and 2.3m for the 2022 Final. Growth on Twitter was steadier but still substantial, with 174k joining for the 2020 Final, 189k for 2021 and 329,000 for the 2022 Final. Facebook brings up the rear and the 2021 game is the most significant driver there, with 197k new followers joining for that match compared to 6,700 (2020) and 49,700 (2022).

Looking specifically at the clubs involved in the games, we see that Inter Milan added significantly to their Facebook following in 2020 and Man United added to their Twitter following in 2021. Twitter is the biggest driver of follower growth (1.8m versus 1.5m on Facebook and 1.3m on Instagram). However, as both Inter and United’s figures are so inflated compared with other numbers, it’s likely that factors beyond the Europa League (for example, the start of the Serie A season in 2020 and the end of the Premier League season in 2021) were at play.

This season, Frankfurt were the big winners, adding more than 103k followers to their Facebook account and 147k to their Instagram profile. Growth was achieved on Twitter as well, with Frankfurt gaining 31k and Rangers gained 37k. By way of comparison, Inter Milan added 33k followers in 2020.

Key Insights

  • The 2020 Final dominates on Search, which is likely due to the COVID-enforced unusual nature of that game, which was the culmination of a post-lockdown mini knockout tournament.
  • Instagram is a key platform for the Europa League’s own channel, which has seen a massive growth in followers, though Twitter was the most significant for the clubs.
  • Frankfurt and Rangers both benefitted from their participation in the 2022 Final, but mostly through social. Frankfurt’s key channel has been Instagram, while Rangers have succeeded through Twitter.