This time of year, millions of consumers will watch the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament, and because those games often happen during business hours, they will watch online. Big-name sponsors including soft drink makers, cell-phone providers and credit card companies are sponsoring the tournament’s live streaming coverage, ultimately exposing millions to their brand messaging.
March Madness is, and will continue to be, a major online advertising event, which is good news for digital marketers constantly searching for the hard-to-find “premium and exclusive video content.” But online sports coverage doesn’t begin and end in March, nor is it confined to the live streaming of high-profile sporting events. Why is it that authentic sports video, while constantly available online, is never at the crux of the “premium” content discussion for digital marketers?
Marketers are constantly grappling with premium content scarcity issues, especially in video, and tend only to be willing to buy around content considered television quality and brand-safe, eliminating hours of YouTube and similar properties’ user-generated footage. Advertisers, to date, have shown a preference for streaming TV shows, music videos, professionally produced news, long-form content and web series, with the knowledge that this content provides desirable brand associations.
It is clear that they crave engaging, professionally produced content that aligns with their brand messaging and overall goals. While it is often overlooked, online sports video can undoubtedly provide that content
In traditional TV, sports programming is considered “DVR-proof” because consumers still feel the need to watch the tent-pole events live. But not even the most dedicated fans can watch every minute of each game, and it gets particularly hard to keep one’s eyes open when the much anticipated Bulls and Lakers match-up doesn’t end until well after midnight on the East Coast.
Sports video consumption is now transitioning from the constraints of DVR-proof must-see TV to easily accessible online recaps and highlights the next day. Hardcore fans need to catch what they missed -- and even casual fans need to see the walk-off home run, high-flying dunk, or missed field goal everyone is buzzing about at the water cooler and on social media platforms the very next morning.
Great sports moments simply need to be seen, and online video finally gives consumers access to all of these highlights on demand. In fact, online might be an even better model for sports advertising because of this “I-want-it-now!” mentality. Sports video goes viral instantly and, because sports video can deliver ad opportunities that are missing from other kinds of “viral” video, it embodies premium in every sense of the word.
Sports content is always professionally shot and produced, but that premium quality, along with the fact that the leagues monitor their content very closely, creates the appearance of a “walled garden.” When marketers talk about sports online, they mostly think about big events like the NCAA Tournament (with its 10.3 million hours of live tournament game streams) and consider those events inaccessible. Entities like ESPN and the major leagues appear the same, with several of the pro leagues making major strides online by offering streaming video packages to subscribers.
But again, sports marketing opportunities should not be confined to these rare streaming events, nor are they limited to the world’s largest advertisers. Video syndication and publisher sophistication mean that premium professionally produced sports highlights and in-studio shows are consistently available across hundreds of sites, with both national and local audiences, giving even smaller marketers a means of engaging their local consumers through an unmatched passion point.
If the goal of online video advertising is to ultimately reach engaged audiences in brand-safe environments, then sports content should be at the crux of the “premium” discussion. Professional and college sports produce some of the highest-caliber video available online, and better yet, this video is now available at scale across premium and long tail sites, to all advertisers.
Sports video content is available to advertisers and agencies of all sizes, with a built-in, dedicated and avid audience following. Advertisers clamoring for more “premium” content can end their search here.