The UEFA Champions League Group Stage returned this week – the biggest annual football tournament in the world with elite stars playing each other in the most popular sport.

So how should the industry measure their digital footprint and engagement? What constitutes success? The classic ‘big number’ on the press release? Or something more granular, showing deeper audience trends and developments.

We’ve often heard the comment ‘we’re not into vanity metrics, we want more than the big numbers, give us something deeper,’ only for the big number requirement to hone back into view once Press Release time comes around.

The pressure to find the reductive success metric is ever-present.

UEFA’s press release this week was interesting, both for its big number lead and its method of calculation. It led with the headline:

‘Over 1 billion social media interactions record at UEFA Champions League final’.

An impressive big number, especially as it was up 110% from the year before.

The 1 billion figure took me back to 2014 when I was Head of Digital at FIFA.

With Mediacells’ expertise, we calculated the metrics for the Global Stadium – the social, online and mobile hub for fans to follow the games live and engage with friends, worldwide fans, players, coaches and celebrities.

The 2019 UEFA figure of 1.09 billion is for interactions which includes all engagements (likes, shares and comments) which were tracked across UEFA’s accounts plus crucially the teams, players and ‘various media organisations’ around the world.

Do you see the Big Number as having a promotional role? What are the most useful day-to-day metrics for digital output? Join the debate here:

So what’s the value in this figure then? It’s all publicity with media value, but the teams and players may have different partners to UEFA and governing bodies cannot monetise these external opportunities.

Mediacells works with partners on granular metrics to enable live changes to be made on the fly, adapting to the audience’s content needs as the action takes place. Engagements per post is probably the most useful in a basket of metrics. But when it comes to press release time, the attraction of the Big Number will probably never die.

Where do you stand on the question?