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Sports Advertising on CTV/OTT — The Comprehensive Guide For 2020+

It is a revolutionary time for sports advertising. Historically, marketers could expect to pay massive amounts of money to secure sports slots, and they may not even be able to guarantee premium placement. Now, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the space has become much more democratized, and in a sense, the playing field has been leveled. With the number of advertisers abandoning upfront commitments in droves, major networks were forced to make more in-game inventory available on streaming channels to recoup the revenue lost from the upfronts.

This makes it a prime time for marketers to double-down on their strategy for advertising in sports events via CTV (connected TV) and OTT (over-the-top). Unfortunately, the CTV/OTT landscape alone can be overwhelming to navigate with how quickly it is changing. For that reason, our team has put together a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know regarding sports advertising on CTV/OTT. 

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In this guide, we will cover the following topics. You can click on any of them to be brought to that section: 


Advertising In Sports Events On Streaming Services/CTV

When it comes to streaming platforms, the production of new content has been placed on hold for the most part due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, many consumers are starved for new material, lending a large opportunity for sports. Although there is a lot of room to capitalize, CTV advertising is still relatively new and we get a lot of questions. Here are the key things to note:

  1. Do I have to pay for upfront commitments? – With a partner like Strategus, there are no upfront or long term commitments (this is not the case for all OTT/CTV sports advertisers, so make sure to ask)
  2. Which sports do I have access to? – This will differ depending on the firm that you work with. Strategus has custom-curated, live-sports PMP deal IDs for all major professional leagues including NFL, NCAA, MLB, NBA, and NHL.
  3. How can I measure engagement and conversions? – The Strategus team has created the Attribution Suite for both online and offline attribution:
    1. Post View Attribution – who visited the website after viewing the in-game ad on CTV
    2. Purchase Attribution – who made a purchase from the brand (including on Amazon) after the game and where was that purchase made
    3. Foot Traffic Attribution – who visited the physical store location of the brand after the sports ad
    4. UPC Attribution – how many of a specific product (via universal purchase code) were purchased by those exposed to 1 or more in-game ads
    5. Inferred Brand Attribution – Evaluate a user’s online browsing behavior before and after ad exposure
    6. 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 if it’s not actionable? – Although we sports advertisements are not technically actionable, we can still generate conversions using the Encore Omnichannel by using post-view retargeting to create call-to-actions on a viewer’s phone immediately after an ad is streamed. 
  5. How can I leverage audience targeting when advertising in sports events? – Hyper-targeting is one of the biggest advantages of running a campaign on CTV:
    1. Behavioral Targeting – targeting audiences based on interests, hobbies, online activities, lifestyle, etc. 
    2. Contextual Targeting – targeting audiences based on viewing history Time of Day Targeting – targeting individual audiences at different times of day, based on when they are most active. 
    3. Technographic Targeting – targeting audiences based on device characteristics i.e. hardware, operating system, connection speed, etc.
    4. Geographic Targeting – targeting audiences based on their real-time location 
    5. Demographic Targeting – targeting audiences based on objective data points i.e. hometown, income, education level, etc. 
    6. Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) Targeting – targeting audiences based on the program viewing habits on their CTV
    7. Purchasing Targeting – targeting audiences based on their historical spending habits and/or large purchase intent (credit-applications). 

—>Read our full post on advertising in sports events via CTV here


Best Practices For Sports Advertising Campaigns on Connected TV

With how quickly the industry is evolving, we are often asked whether there is a “rule of thumbs” to follow in order to achieve the best results with CTV advertising campaigns. While our team has never believed in a one-size-fits-all approach, there are several high level best practices that can be utilized to maximize success.

  1. Take a blended approach of CTV ads with other ad channels
    1. CTV + Retargeting: Retargeting allows for higher recall, an important factor when it comes to capturing the attention of the sports fan who may need more than one ad mid-game to have their interest piqued.
    2. CTV + Programmatic Display: Seeing the same brand across different mediums will make it much more memorable, and trigger recall of the ad outside of game time
    3. CTV + Paid Search: Sponsored content over the course of a season can slowly push a consumer to complete a transaction as they gain familiarity with a brand over time
  2. Use lookalike audiences and hyper-local targeting
    1. Lookalike Audiences: When there is enough data to show which individuals take action and become high-value customers, create lookalike audiences to replicate the success.
    2. Hyperlocal Targeting: Where is your audience watching the game? Reach individuals down to their exact address and push specific restaurants or businesses within range of the audience. 
  3. Leverage sports advertising on CTV for brick and mortar businesses
    1. You can learn more about the capabilities of GPS-driven geographic targeting in this article. The benefits are immense for a brick and mortar business looking for the best edge in TV advertising. We can even deliver ads only to fans that are comfortable visiting physical locations during COVID.

—>Read about best practices for sports advertising on CTV in full detail here


NFL Advertising On CTV — How To Reach The Fans

Having a commercial run in the middle of a major NFL game has always been a premium. What marketer hasn’t fantasized about landing a major Super Bowl placement? The reality is that most never will due to the sheer cost. CTV gives marketers that chance, although it is a smaller piece of the overall pie. Here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  1. No upfront commitments with the right partner (Talk to our team) – Given the economic uncertainty, having the flexibility to avoid upfronts is a huge advantage. Our team has done the leg work and heavy lifting to bring premium, curated inventory & deal IDs for zero upfront commitments for our clients.
  2. Reach your audience in a more cost-efficient way through focused targeting – The NFL season is one of the most popular in the sports world. Fans come from all walks of life and it can be expensive to cast a wide net to find your ideal consumer. Hyper targeting allows marketers to narrow it down to a focused group which can decrease cost.
  3. Ads are non-skippable and actionable – On traditional broadcast, viewers can skip over ads when a game is recorded on a DVR device. This causes marketers to lose out on the view rate and the conversion. NFL advertising via CTV means the ad is not skippable, and leveraging clever retargeting campaigns, ads are also actionable. 

—>Read our full post on NFL advertising in 2020+ here


NCAA Advertising In 2020+ CTV Is The New Normal For College Football

Despite the uncertainty with COVID, there is a fall season for college football, although it definitely won’t be what we’ve grown accustomed to. Each conference has their own respective plan for the season on how to handle COVID, making it a little difficult to determine the best advertising strategy. Here are a few things to make note of: 

  1. Higher view rates and non-skippable advertising – advertising on CTV allows for higher overall consumption when the ads cannot be skipped
    1. You will be serving ads to an actively engaged audience 
    2. Overall higher view rate – ads on CTV have nearly a 100% view-to-completion rate
    3. Non-skippable advertising – this means you increase the chances of maintaining audience attention 
  2. College football advertising on CTV can be made actionable – using the Encore Omnichannel and Attribution Suite, marketers can tactically deliver retargeted ads (on a different device) to individuals who finished watching a CTV ad. They can also track what actions those individuals took afterward.
  3. Accessible during election years without upfront commitment – Presidential election years such as 2020 almost always box out non-political campaigns. CTV gives marketers a fighting chance. Additionally, with the right partners, marketers don’t have to place upfront commitments.

—>Read our full post on NCAA Advertising in 2020+ here


MLB Advertising in 2020+ Programmatic CTV is Changing Everything

Although the season is shorter overall, the 2020-2021 Major League Baseball (MLB) season has resumed, making many marketers question how to approach advertising for the year. We believe the clear solution given the times we are living in is advertising via CTV. Here are the primary reason why:

  1. Advertising on CTV can be hyper-targeted – Traditional TV is limited to household targeting and we know baseball fans don’t fit into a “one size fits all” box. Hyper targeting can answer questions about your audience like: where do they normally sit? In the nosebleed section or in the boxes? Do they prefer wine or beer? Hot dogs or hamburgers?
  2. CTV is a premium option for MLB advertising over traditional broadcast – with streaming resembling linear TV in the last couple of years, MLB advertising on CTV means higher consumption of ads and better results.
  3. Accessible during an election year without upfront commitments – Similar to NFL and NCAA advertising, CTV levels the playing field for MLB ads when traditional channels are dominated with political placements. There are also no upfront commitments.

—>Read our full post on MLB Advertising in 2020+ here


Sports TV Advertising — How to Adjust For Connected TVs Post-COVID

Prior to the global coronavirus pandemic, there was already a cord-cutting movement shifting television viewers away from traditional cable over to digital streaming platforms. COVID-19 accelerated this trend and created a unique opportunity for marketers in sports advertisers as major networks like ESPN make more in-game inventory available for purchase. Here are a few things to keep in mind when adjusting for CTVs under the “new normal”: 

  1. Have a mindful creative approach – empathy is crucial during this unique time and marketers should remember the following when planning their ad campaigns
    1. Dramatic income changes during the economic shutdown may lead to higher reservations about spending
    2. There is a lower risk tolerance in general with the level of uncertainty that is happening 
    3. Household dynamics have shifted with the social distancing orders forcing families and individuals to spend more time in their home than previous
  2. Revisit your take on content targeting – take advantage of Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) Targeting, where you are not limited to buying media according to a general audience
    1. Targeting audiences based on whether they watch a particular program or special feature i.e. Wimbledon, the Masters, Super Bowl, etc.
    2. Target audiences based on their viewing history and habits as well e.g. how frequently they watch TV and the time of day they usually consume content
  3. Further refine audience targeting – because there is more viewership happening on personal devices due to COVID, it is important to refine audience targeting within one household
    1. Leverage time of day targeting and technographic targeting to serve ads to specific individuals of the household 

—>Read about adjusting sports TV advertising for CTV in full detail here


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