How Brands Can Capitalize On The Growing Online Sports Segment
If the industry needed proof that sports content is becoming a major factor in online advertising, look no further than the approximately $60 million Turner and CBS generated from streaming the NCAA Tournament online in March. While still not on the level of what advertisers spend for a 30-second Super Bowl spot, March Madness on Demand continues to be a clear indication that advertisers relish the opportunity to leverage premium sports video content to deliver their marketing messages to digital audiences.
Content owners and distributors are doing their best to make sports content more readily accessible across digital platforms, with major events like the Super Bowl and The Masters making their way online simultaneous to the live, linear broadcast. However, sports content is different from the typical premium content buy advertisers are used to, given the tight controls exuded by the leagues and governing bodies. As such, there are a few things every advertiser should know before adding sports to their online video plan.
First and foremost, generic “sports” content does not equate to premium. Cutting corners by leveraging “unofficial” sports content negates the entire premise of sports advertising, where premium league-sanctioned adjacency inherently drives value to both the brand and its consumers.
So it's important that advertisers are aware of who owns or has acquired rights to the content they and ultimately their consumers will want. Without licensed rights to video content, advertisers are buying green screens, second- and third-tier talking head analysis and scrolling photos. And that’s neither a desirable nor effective place for a brand message. We’ve reached a point where viewers know what’s real and what’s not, and they’re able to distinguish where sufficient investment has been made (rights or otherwise) and what inferior attempts look like.
Advertisers need to know which media properties have the content they seek and, where appropriate, how to align with those properties. The nature of sports is such that due to its scarcity, you may not get a seat at the table each time, however, with the proper diligences, you’ll always get what you’re paying for.
When thinking about sports audiences, be prepared to define it as exactly that -- sports- and engagement-focused -- from the outset. Whether buying on ESPN.com or a network that distributes sports content, be mindful that sports audiences are proliferated by sport. Make sure to key in on exactly who is watching. While there are general sports fans, avidity is reached by doing more than checking the boxes.
There are also distribution hurdles every advertiser needs to be aware of. The TV Everywhere concept in sports is not actually everywhere. Distribution is confined to the platforms owned by particular media companies for a finite duration of time. In many cases, the pro leagues and cable operators preclude distribution outside of an owned platform. Even the big players have a hard time finding quality scale without taking on more financial risk -- or even worse, the potential loss of platform exclusivity and subsequently audience control.
No one cuts up the rights landscape better than pro sports leagues and college conferences. In doing so, they have created differentiated content platforms for TV, online, satellite and cable. In fact, there are now approximately 26 rights being contemplated in most content distribution deals, with a continued focus on television and digital as the core opportunities for commercialization.
With a well-thought-out plan, built around leveraging the best exclusive content to reach and engage avid audiences, sports content will continue to be a valuable part of a branding campaign. And with companion and second-screen viewership continuing to grow, consumers now can simultaneously engage with statistical data, video, scores, bios and relevant, real-time and credible analysis during live TV broadcasts. Arming advertisers and brand marketers with the right sports content strategy builds and establishes deep engagement platforms that last well beyond the typically allotted 30-second spot.