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Best Practices For Sports Advertising Campaigns On Connected TV

This post is part of our larger “CTV/OTT Sports Advertising Guide,” click here to learn more.

Leading up to the global coronavirus pandemic, a new trend had begun to emerge for marketers focused on sports advertising. Live sports served as the final frontier separating traditional TV from digital streaming. But, slowly and quietly, a shift began to take place. First, it was an occasional NFL Thursday Night Football game on Twitter, then maybe it was the occasional MNF game on Amazon Prime or a random MLB game on Facebook…  But now, sports on digital platforms is nearly ubiquitous. In fact, it seems COVID-19 has only accelerated this trend even further. Amazon even gained exclusive NFL games as part of its new streaming deal.

With this shift moving live sports away from major broadcasters like ESPN, what does it mean for sports advertising as a whole? This level of uncertainty with the economy and the pandemic has advertisers playing it safe with their budgets. Not only are advertisers backing out of upfront commitments in hoards, but TV upfront spending is also expected to fall by $5.5 billion (27%) for the 2020-2021 season. 

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How should you approach sports advertising campaigns on CTV

In order to make up for the revenue lost in the upfronts (which, honestly speaking, were an inefficient, non-strategic relic of the mad-men days anyhow), a lot of broadcasters are now embracing making more NFL & NCAA in-game ad inventory available on the streaming platforms. For marketers who are staying on top of the trends, this makes it a prime time to open the door to CTV and keep up with the next wave of sports advertising. 

At a high level, here are the best practices each CTV-based sports advertising campaign should follow:

1. Blended Approach of CTV ads with other ad channels

One of the most important goals of any sports advertising campaign is to ensure the ad message isn’t lost in the midst of the game. Whether you are targeting super fans or casual sports viewers, we need to keep in mind that there are distractions galore, all having the power to overshadow the video ad. Especially if the viewer being targeted is hyper-focused on the game and nothing else. When a commercial break pops up, the audience may elect to get up and refill their snacks, answer a text message, or otherwise turn away and not pay attention to the ad.

That said, this is why a blended approach is considered a “game-winning” best practice when it comes to advertising. CTV allows you to leverage multiple channels in a subtle way to ensure that your sports advertising campaign message is heard, re-heard and engaged with. 

Depending on the brand, the campaign strategy may look include one or all of these: 

  • CTV + Retargeting Combination – Using a blend of CTV advertising and retargeting together creates a strong opportunity for sequential messaging, which is when ads build upon each other to create an overarching narrative. This is perfect for the otherwise distracted sports fan who might need a little more than just one 30 second spot to have their interest piqued. At Strategus, we call this Encore Omnichannel and it’s a great way to overcome the CTV’s lack of clickability and drive conversion actions post-view.
  • CTV + Programmatic Display Combination – When consumers watch ads that are from the same brand, but on different mediums, brand resonance is statistically higher. This is a creative way to reinforce the sports advertising campaign message outside of game time.
  • CTV + Paid Search Combination – Since most sports seasons run over a course of time, leveraging sponsored content in search can give consumers a feeling of brand familiarity when the CTV ad is run, and vice versa. It can also serve as the push that consumers need before completing a transaction.

2. Leverage hyperlocal targeting and lookalike audiences

While audiences on CTV are generally more engaged, marketers still have to deal with the fact that consumers are most likely distracted during those ad spots (but at least they are not skippable like broadcast with DVR). For avid sports fans, the time during ads is likely the only time during the game they will get up or take any sort of break to check their phones. Given the declining attention spans of people in general, marketers will have to get strategic to ensure that their sports advertising campaign is memorable and effective. 

This is where it is important to leverage hyperlocal targeting. Where is your audience watching the game? With hyperlocal targeting, it is easy to reach individuals down to their exact address. This gives marketers the ability to push specific restaurants, storefronts, or any physical location within an appropriate range of the audience. This method was effective before the COVID pandemic and has gotten even more important since then. See section 3 below for more detail.

Once you have a target audience tested and data shows that those individuals take action and become high-value customers, the second thing that is equally important to create lookalike audiences from CRM data based on those existing ideal customers. In other words, allow the magic of programmatic OTT to find other people who fit the same profile.

3. Leveraging sports advertising on CTV if you are a brick and mortar business

With the pandemic creating a lot of hardship for small businesses, sports advertising on CTV is another potential avenue to drive brick and mortar engagement, but with a modern, tech twist. With Strategus’s help, we can deliver ads only to the fans that are willing and able to visit physical locations during the trying time of COVID. Not everyone can or wants to go out in the world during the new normal, so it’s important for brick and mortar ad dollars to only go towards prospective customers that have decided to do so.

Brick and mortar stores have the opportunity to advertise their services that go hand in hand with sports viewership like local food, drink, audio/video, furniture/home decor, outdoor spaces, merchandise, etc. Given that brick and mortar businesses are suffering from low foot traffic and traditional sports advertising was unobtainable for local businesses, this is a huge opportunity for these businesses to get visible on the big game and target people that can actually visit their store. 

Please feel free to ask us how this is possible if you would like more information. For more ideas on how to support small businesses during this time, read our detailed post here.

The Bottom Line

As with many things, chaos often paves the way for opportunity. And in this situation, the loss in TV upfronts and shift to sports being on CTV is actually highly beneficial for smaller advertisers in a number of different ways. As long as marketers are following best practices, ensuring their sports advertising campaigns are properly attributable, and leveraging the advantages of programmatic OTT’s big data, this could be a huge victory. If you’re new to the realm of OTT/CTV advertising and unsure how to approach your next sports advertising campaign, contact us for ideas.  

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