While UEFA Champions League TV viewing figures continue to impress, UEFA further expanded its digital outreach as Saturday's final was enjoyed by fans around the world.
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The UEFA Champions League final may have been an all-German affair in 2013 but its worldwide appeal continues to grow, with hundreds of millions of fans across the globe enjoying the world's most-watched annual sporting event on television and social media platforms.
FC Bayern München's 2-1 Wembley victory against Borussia Dortmund was aired in more than 200 countries to an estimated global average audience of 150 million and a projected global unique reach of over 360 million viewers.
The final attracted a peak of 23.78 million (average 22.5 million) viewers in Germany, a record for a UEFA Champions League fixture in the country. The competition has provided that nation's top three most-watched broadcasts so far in 2013: Bayern's semi-final second leg away to FC Barcelona and Dortmund's semi-final first leg against Real Madrid CF occupy second and third spots respectively.
Indeed, the final is one of 15 matchdays in the UEFA Champions League calendar and all of them proved to be extremely popular with fans, generating global audiences of between 105 and 228 million viewers during live match broadcasts.
The UEFA Champions League continues to be the prime driver of traffic to UEFA.com, with a 13% year-on-year growth in visits and 25% in visitors to the competition's homepage – a section recently nominated for a prestigious Webby Award.
Complementing traditional coverage was the use of key digital platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube, extending the number of followers of UEFA's official social media channels to around the 22 million mark.
UEFA further expanded its digital outreach with innovations at the four-day UEFA Champions Festival and at Wembley Stadium, where over 1,000 tweets and posts from fans and famous names were displayed on the giant screens before and after Bayern's victory.
Key engagement points during final week included:
• 4.8m tweets referring to the final, the teams and the players from 90 minutes before kick-off until 30 minutes after, with a peak of 117,601 tweets per minute after the final whistle was blown.
• Around 190,000 uses (150,824 on final day) of UEFA's chosen hashtag, #UCLfinal, which was adopted by both finalists, with monitoring carried out by never.no.
• The first European integration of a live stream and Google+ hangout for the Ultimate Champions match.
• 4 million people have either +1'd or followed the UEFA.com Google+ page – an increase of 3.7 million since the 2012 final.
• 175,000+ new Facebook likes, including a UEFA record 200,000 likes for a single post on Saturday, pushing the total number of supporters on the official UEFA Champions League page close to 9 million.
• 85,000 interactions using RFID (touch-in) technology at the UEFA Champions Festival from 13,000 registered cards.
The RFID concept was created to increase viral momentum across the social networks. The 34,000 or so visitors who attended the UEFA Champions Festival in Stratford, east London, were invited to 'Join the Game' by registering their RFID card and linking it to their Facebook or Twitter account. Once registered, users could follow their progress on an interactive leader board after participating in various challenges, with prizes available to the best performers. Another 6,000 people visited a second site at Trafalgar Square, which was illuminated at night by a 3D projection of great UEFA Champions League moments and players.
Some of those players were also present in the flesh at the annual Ultimate Champions match on Saturday, as an illustrious cast of former footballers showed off their talents. Following on from Olympic great Usain Bolt last year, the event received some additional stardust as Will Smith and son Jaden took part in a penalty shoot-out against Edwin van der Sar and Jens Lehmann before getting the game under way.
Fans from around the world engaged in a live hangout around the match, during which former European Cup winners Ian Rush and Karl-Heinz Riedle took time to drop in and chat. For the first time, fans voted for the man of the match, Robert Pirès, via Google+ and Twitter. UEFA Champions League final ambassador Steve McManaman, Patrik Andersson, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Pirès all featured in earlier hangouts.
Another first was the use of the innovative Twitter Mirror in a footballing context. The mirrored tablet took photo-booth style headshots of football aces such as Zinédine Zidane and Fabio Cannavaro as well as those of the Hollywood and Bollywood variety, Will Smith and Abhishek Bachchan, and sent them out via the official @ChampionsLeague Twitter account.
The latest Facebook analytics, provided by Sports New Media, reveal that UEFA's pages are growing at a faster rate than every other sports league in the world. Along with the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League and UEFA.com pages have grown by over 100% over the last five months, while the official UEFA Women's Champions League page has enjoyed 248% surge over the same period.
That final, two days before the men's, also delivered a German victory, for VfL Wolfsburg against Olympique Lyonnais, plus encouraging viewing figures as the host broadcaster reported an audience of 7.8 million, plus an additional 1.73 million in France. Roll on Lisbon in 2014.