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Marketers Guide To Advertising In Sports Events On Streaming Services & CTV

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

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the movement of cord-cutting was steadily gaining traction, with more and more individuals making the jump from traditional satellite and cable TV to digital streaming platforms. Since COVID-19 has altered consumer behavior and created a new normal, there has been a noticeable surge in streaming. 

35% of Americans are streaming an additional 2 hours per day since the onset of the pandemic. 

The downside is that with nearly all production being frozen or paused due to COVID-19, there has not been a lot of new material to consume. Television watchers are desperately starved for new content, and sports content is now one of the only remaining categories where there is something consistently fresh to watch. This makes advertising in sports events a big opportunity for marketers and media buyers alike.

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What should you know about advertising in sports events on streaming services?

It is an interesting year for sports fans, with many teams and leagues not allowing spectators in the stands. For the individuals who loved frequenting sports bars and restaurants to watch the game, this experience has also been impacted by the social-distancing regulations brought upon by COVID-19. This means that the dedicated, loyal sports viewers will have to lean more heavily into streaming from home to stay up to date with the games. 

With such large potential for brands and the quality of targeting CTV/streaming services empower, it is a no brainer that marketers should capitalize on the opportunity. Here are some of the most common questions we get about advertising in sports events: 

1. Do I have to pay upfront commitments?

No! This is one of the biggest benefits of advertising in sports events on streaming services. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many of the very large marketers are abandoning their upfront commitments in droves, forcing networks to make more inventory available elsewhere to make up for revenue lost in the upfronts. 

With Strategus, advertising on streaming services during sports Via OTT/CTV (connected TV), there are no upfront or long term commitments (this is not the case for all OTT/CTV sports advertisers, so make sure to ask). In fact, marketers have the ability to stop, pause, or even change a campaign, at a moment’s notice. Additionally, in terms of cost per placement and overall required investment, each campaign will likely launch with a much lower cost compared to traditional broadcast/cable sports packages. 

2. Which sports do I have access to? 

Each firm that you work with will have access to different inventory. Strategus has custom-curated, live-sports PMP dealIDs for all major professional leagues. In other words, our team has spent time thinking outside of the box in order to create our own deal IDs. This is significant because it allows the brands we work with to circumvent inflexible, ultra-costly, non-targetable broadcast/cable sports buys. 

Here are list of the PMP dealIDs available through Strategus:

  • NFL – in-game ad inventory on ESPN, NFL Network, Fox, Fox Sports which includes Monday and Thursday night games
  • NCAA Football – Fox, Fox Sports, Big 10 Network*, Pac 12 Network*, SEC Network — *If their season commences.
  • NBA (and playoffs) – TNT, ESPN, NBA TV, etc. 
  • MLB (and playoffs) – FS1, ESPN, TBS, MLB Network 
  • NHL – in-game ad inventory on ESPN, Fox, Fox Sports, 

3. How can I measure user engagement and conversions?

Traditionally, streaming and CTV ads are not easy to attribute results to. This is because advertising in sports events on streaming doesn’t offer an option to make the ads clickable, which makes conversions notoriously difficult to track without the right supporting technology. 

To address this dilemma and ensure our clients can fully take advantage of all the perks of sports advertising on streaming services, our team created the Attribution Suite — a full-function product suite with 6 customizable components for online and offline attribution, the first of its kind in the industry. 

  • Post View Attribution – who visited the website after viewing the in-game ad on CTV
  • Purchase Attribution – who made a purchase from the brand (including on Amazon) after the game and where was that purchase made
  • Foot Traffic Attribution – who visited the physical store location of the brand after the sports ad
  • UPC Attribution – how many of a specific product (via universal purchase code) were purchased by those exposed to 1 or more in-game ads
  • After-Ad Influence (AAI) – Evaluate a user’s online browsing behavior before and after ad exposure
  • Offline Conversion Tracking – Match-back offline purchase/CRM data to see those users who were exposed to the sports advertising campaign

4. Why should I choose CTV/Streaming over display, search or social media advertising if it’s not actionable? 

It can be easy to fall into the modern-day trap of being heavily conversion-focused with marketing and completely ignore mediums like CTV because it was thought of as a “brand awareness” play only. Even though CTV is the premium device in the household being the largest digital device in the home, making ads delivered via CTV far more impactful. But even with that, many marketers ask, “But what about web traffic and clicks?” 

Well, although we can’t technically make sports advertisements actionable directly on the connected TV itself, we can get very close by using post-view retargeting to create a series of call-to-actions on a viewer’s phone immediately after an ad is streamed in the middle of the game. This can be done with Encore Omnichannel. We are proud to say that our innovation team here at Strategus has basically gotten post-view retargeting and tracking down to an art form. 

5. How can I take advantage of audience targeting when advertising in sports events?

With the shift to advertising on streaming services and CTV, marketers have a lot of room to cater to the individual beyond the standard age, gender, location demographic. In fact, with the amount of big data that is available, hyper-targeting is a great way to optimize the ad campaign even further. 

Here are some of the ways that marketers can refine targeting via ads served in streaming games:

  • Behavioral Targeting – targeting audiences based on interests, hobbies, online activities, lifestyle, etc. Is your viewer an NFL fan who goes fishing and shops at Home Depot? Or are they an NFL fan that is also into sports betting? 
  • Contextual Targeting – targeting audiences based on viewing history e.g. sports, comedy, outdoor shows vs. sports, action, thrillers. When they’re not watching the US Open or the NBA kick off, what else are they consuming? 
  • Time of Day Targeting – targeting individual audiences at different times of day, based on when they are most active. Different fans of the same sports team may be watching the game at different points in the day. Serve the ad to each person only when they are paying attention.
  • Technographic Targeting – targeting audiences based on device characteristics i.e. hardware, operating system, connection speed, etc. Are they streaming the game from a prehistoric laptop? Maybe that might be one NBA fan to avoid targeting. 
  • Geographic Targeting – targeting audiences based on their real-time location and where they are streaming the game from and/or where they physically go on a regular basis. After all, where people are willing to go in the physical world is more valuable than which sites they frequent on the internet. 
  • Demographic Targeting – targeting audiences based on objective data points i.e. hometown, income, education level, etc. 
  • Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) Targeting – targeting audiences based on the program viewing habits on their CTV, this can be what they have historically watched or if they are currently watching a particular program/special (think Masters, Wimbledon, etc.) 
  • Purchasing Targeting – targeting audiences based on their historical spending habits and/or large purchase intent (credit-applications). Purchase history can be narrowed down to specific brands in most cases
  • First-Party Data/CRM Activation – in this targeting scenario, you can take an existing database of past and/or current customers and target just them with a hyper-focused spend

The Bottom Line

Advertising in sports events through streaming platforms is revolutionary. In the past, booking a premium sports slot would take massive amounts of money. Now, it is much more democratized, but also more focused. And the new technology available through streaming via CTV offers a more robust way of managing and fine-tuning any sports ad campaign to maximize results. For any questions on how to elevate your next campaign, contact our team.

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Posted by Strategus