Why Football Season Could Be Your Best Bet in Sports Advertising
NFL and NCAA games deliver a viewing audience primed to purchase
On August 24th, sports advertising kicks off its most productive time of year: the NCAA football season, followed by the NFL's 2018-19 season starter. With preseason and regular season games running on multiple cable networks, the opportunity for local business advertising to reach sports fans is at an annual peak. If you are deciding whether to spend on sports advertising, take a look what research has shown us about people who watch live sports events on TV:
This audience is huge.
In many markets, TV viewing has seen decline in direct proportion to the rise of digital media. But one type of programming that digital disruption is not dampening is live sporting events. In fact, Nielsen reports that more sports content is available now than ever. In 2017, more than 134,000 hours of sports-related content were created, including news, live events and commentary programming.1 And that content is still wildly popular. Sunday night football is still the most watched program in prime-time, a spot it has held for the past ten seasons.2 ESPN's Monday night football was the number one ranked show on cable last year, crushing cable mega-hits Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. Overall, NFL games accounted for roughly 74% of the most-watched programming on TV, which means if you're looking to expand your reach, AdAge writer Anthony Crupi makes it clear: "The NFL is still a solid bet for those brands, whenever and wherever it airs."
Marketing researchers have long extolled the loyalty and emotional attachment of sports fans. Studies have noted that sports fans experience high levels of personal identification with their teams, a phenomenon researchers have called "brand love,"3 and feel a strong sense of gratification during games. Businesses advertising during live sports events can leverage that enthusiasm by connecting local brands with the powerful, positive fan experience. When you consider the fact that many fans watch live events with friends and family, the possibilities for expanding a strong brand connection are even greater.
Nielsen data suggest that nearly 80% of people who are watching live sports events are simultaneously active on a tablet, phone or other device. And if it's a younger market you're trying to reach, take note: In the 2017 article "We Are Wrong about Millennial Sports Fans," media analyst Dan Singer says the "number of millennials watching the NFL actually increased from the prior season."4 He points out that these viewers, even more than older sports fans, are likely to be checking scores and sports news on social media, too. In fact, surveys indicate that sports fans are just as engaged with their teams online as they are in front of a big screen because social media allows them to satisfy their hunger for more information and to engage with other fans, co-creating sports-related content even as they're watching the game. How does this platform-jumping benefit a local business advertiser? If you partner with a media company to produce commercials that run during a live event plus ads that appear online for a limited time surrounding that event, you've dramatically increased the number of times potential customers are exposed to your brand across multiple platforms.
Most importantly, these sports fans are your customers.
Once upon a time, businesses bought commercials that saturated an entire city, whether or not their customers were likely to come from the other side of town. Now it's possible to micro-target the reach of an ad so it is viewed during a specific sports event and only in the geographic area most likely to drive new customers into that local business. Not only does this precision make ad spending more effective, it makes it more cost-effective. That's right: advertising during live sports events in a tightly targeted zone is much less expensive than you might think—especially when you design a package that allows you to place your ad on both cable TV and in safe, sports-related content areas online. And if you want to capitalize even further on the trends driving sports audiences in 2018, focus your commercials on the good work your business is doing in your community, and—surprise—reach out to women. Nielsen trend researchers are encouraging content providers to take advantage of the continued impact of socially responsible businesses and the "booming" growth in the women's sports sector.5
The 99th NFL regular season runs through December 29, 2019, and the NCAA college football season continues through January 13, 2020. For local business advertisers, that's a chance to score big with one of the largest, most passionate audiences in media.