UEFA Champions League Final Is More Popular Than All US Sports Finals Put Together

  • Inter Milan was a huge underdog in the Champions League this year
  • Manchester City has bulldozed through the competition as expected
  • The 2021 UCL Final got 700 million viewers, 6 x more than the Super Bowl
  • Super Bowl television ads are far more expensive than the UCL, however
Champions League trophy
The UEFA Champions League Final in Europe is more popular than all of the North American Major League finals by far.

The final is here

The historic UEFA Champions League (UCL) Final returns Saturday as Italian team Inter Milan prepares to enter the arena against the gladiator of world soccer that is England’s Manchester City.

the highest level of soccer in the world

The iconic match is an annual installment of what is widely regarded as the highest level of soccer in the world. On average, the big game is close to four times more popular than the most viewed final in North America, the Super Bowl, and is one of the largest marketing draws in sports altogether.

If the match is anything like the thrilling FIFA World Cup Final 2022, viewers around the world are in for a real treat. As the countdown begins for the event, VegasSlotsOnline News has taken a look at some data to assess how popular the final really is, in addition to providing some information on the competitors.

The road to Istanbul

Inter Milan, otherwise known as the Nerazzurri, have arrived at the Champions League Final largely against the odds. The Italian team was +4000 to win the competition when their season started in August, compared to Man City, who had a much more favorable +250.

Despite the Nerazzurri finishing third in the Italian Serie A and dealing with out-of-form striker Romelu Lukaku for stretches of the campaign, they arrived in the final just the same. To make it even sweeter, they defeated their inner-city rivals, AC Milan, 3-0 across two legs in the semi-final to secure their place in the championship match.

Man City’s arrival in the final match was much more pronounced and violent—like comparing a dragonfly landing on a flower petal to a SWAT team busting through a locked door.

advanced through the knockout by a combined score of 17-3

The English champ claimed a fifth domestic league title in six seasons, won the FA Cup, and advanced through the knockout by a combined score of 17-3. The team has won everything under manager Pep Guardiola except for the Champions League. Man City fans certainly believe this is the year that changes.

Digging through the data

So, now we know who is going to play, just how many people are likely to tune in on Saturday based on previous years?

The short answer: a lot. The big game averages around 400 million worldwide viewers, and the 2021 final between Chelsea and Man City brought in roughly 700 million. 

nearly 3.5 times higher than the most-watched Super Bowl ever

The 2023 Super Bowl, for comparison, drew 115.1 million viewers during the Kansas City Chiefs’ bout with the Philadelphia Eagles, according to Nielsen Media Research. That means that the Champions League Final’s average viewership is nearly 3.5 times higher than the most-watched Super Bowl ever, and the 2021 Final was over six times more popular.

Predictably, soccer’s crowning jewel for soccer also dwarfs other championship games in the North American Major Leagues such as the NBA, MLB, and NHL.

The 2022 World Series between the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies was the most-streamed World Series ever but still only managed a hair over 12 million viewers, about 33.3 times fewer than the Champions League’s average.

Game 1 of the ongoing NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat averaged 11.5 million onlookers, and the 2022 Stanley Cup featuring the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning averaged 4.6 million viewers—nearly 87 times fewer than the Champions League Final. This means the Champions League gets more average viewers than all of these leagues put together.

The cost of advertising

Despite the enormous popularity of the match, the cost of television advertising for the Champions League Final is actually not as high as it is for the Super Bowl.

The NFL’s championship game charged as much as $7m for a 30-second ad slot

Data isn’t available from recent finals, but estimated broadcasting rights costs from 2015 demonstrate the Super Bowl was more than twice as lucrative as the UCL. The NFL’s championship game charged as much as $7m for a 30-second ad slot during the most recent event. In contrast, the only available data for the UCL suggests brands paid just £250,000 ($313,528) for a UCL ad slot with UK broadcaster ITV several years ago.

Television isn’t the only way that companies advertise themselves during Champions League matches, however. The 2021 UCL Final took place while COVID restrictions were still in effect to varying degrees across Europe but still resulted in $14.7m in media value for sponsors, per Relo Metrics.

The most productive advertising mediums for the UCL were sideline LED boards and kit sponsorship. The sideline boards produced $11.2m in sponsor media value (SMV). Jerseys resulted in $3.4m SMV. Relo also said that there are opportunities to expand the marketing reach beyond simple television ads by incorporating virtual signage, larger LED boards, and goal-frame ad spots.

Online presence

On top of everything else, the Champions League Final is the most popular event online. It became the first sports game to result in over 1 billion social media interactions during its 2019 showdown between English sides Liverpool and Tottenham.

also came with 136 million engagements

Real Madrid, winners of the most recent final, also gained 1.7 million followers across their social media platforms the weekend after hoisting the trophy. That also came with 136m engagements on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Compare that to the Super Bowl LVII, which drew 78 million engagements on the league’s channels, which was a huge record. Although that pales in comparison to Real Madrid’s engagement, close to 70% of Super Bowl onlookers engaged with NFL content online during the game.

The bottom line of it all: the Champions League Final is the most popular non-international competition in professional sports. Saturday’s final between Inter Milan and Man City will be a reincarnation of the tale of David and Goliath and should prove one for the ages.

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