The need for speed — How Wow Air won hearts after the England-Iceland match

Yesterday, something amazing happened. The Iceland football team beat England 2-1 at the pre-quarterfinal stage of the Euro 2016 tournament. This prompted the Wall Street Journal to describe the defeat as “another exit from the euro” for England. It is the classic David Vs Goliath story where a small underdog beats and eliminates what was supposed to be one of the best teams in the competition.

It was the classic David vs Goliath story, with Iceland (a nation of merely 330,000 people and only 22,000 registered association football players) coming up against the nation that invented the sport.

It wasn’t, however, the only David vs Goliath story that played out that day. Iceland has two major airlines: Icelandair — an established airline famous for its stopovers — and Wow Air, a new low-cost airline that has been making waves with its innovative marketing and Snapchats. Both airlines backed their national team, but last night only one emerged as a clear winner.

Sponsorships aren’t enough

At the time of writing, Icelandair’s last post on Facebook dates back to 9 days before the match. It features a well-produced video on the history of the small nation’s football team.  The video is beautiful and gives a sense of history and national pride. It is also completely out of sync with the (unexpected) celebrations that are currently sweeping the country.

Meanwhile, on Wow Air’s pages, the party had just started. The airline reacted on Twitter within minutes of the victory. Soon afterwards, the team’s celebratory dance was shared on Facebook. Meanwhile, on Snapchat, the snapchatter they had sent to explore Montreal joined the celebrations while also watching the game live and — of course — sharing snaps.

Wow air euro 2016 snapchat

Before the match, the airline had also shared photos of its crew at Nice Airport dressed in the colours of their national football team.The posts were both a show of national pride, and a smart marketing idea — Nice is the city where the game was being played, and is also one of the airline’s destinations.

Speed and adaptability

Iceland’s victory was an unforeseen event that neither airline had likely planned for. The difference, however, was that the younger airline was able to react quickly and made the most of it.

As I pointed out in a recent article, the G.O.Ds (Good Old Days) of communication are now long gone, but their legacy is often present in today’s airlines. Icelandair has done good work in the past, but this time could not match the speed of a young airline.

Icelandic pilot predicts the #ENGISL result
(photo from WOW Air TF-MOM via

We live in a world where communications are assumed to be instant; where events are shared live almost everywhere; and where reactions are expected to be instantaneous. It is a world where everyone can share content — and good content can come from the most unexpected sources as the Wow Air pilot ably demonstrated. Budgets no longer matter as much. Icelandair was the official sponsor and has a good marketing team that has proven its worth in the past. But they were slow to react and missed the chance to ride the wave before it passed. Meanwhile, Wow Air, as a low-cost airline, is used to working with limited budgets and quick, simple but effective ideas. They managed to spot the opportunity and jump in. For that, we tip our (imaginary) hats to them.

Not the only airline match of the day

Meanwhile, on the same day, Italy played Spain and won 2 – 0. Alitalia started the friendly banter with a series of posts providing Iberia with “5 good reasons to let Italy win”. The tweets featured several reasons to fly to Italy as well as some football related jokes such as “not wanting to miss another Italy Vs Germany football match” or “not having to wear that white shirt again“.

Iberia fought back with a fake ticket for the Italian team to fly home via Madrid.

Unfortunately for Iberia, and for Spain, Italy won and eliminated the Spanish team in the pre-quarters. Alitalia was quick to reply and sent Iberia’s ticket back pointing out that the date was wrong.

Marco Serusi

Marco Serusi

Former Director of Consulting at SimpliFlying
Marco Serusi was Consultant at SimpliFlying from November 2011 to January 2019 and has worked on major client projects with the likes of LATAM Airlines, London Heathrow and Airbus. He has also delivered training in digital aviation strategy for hundreds of executives globally and spoken at several aviation conferences worldwide. He is well known for his cutting-edge research into crisis communications and social media trends.
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  • Sigurdur

    And then, at the final whistle in Nice, Wow’s booking site went down and when it came back up a few minutes later, the prices to Paris had been raised 15-fold.

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