Much like Chicago winters, the post-Super Bowl sports world can leave sponsoring brands cold and desperate for any ray of warmth. The indisputable fact is that when it comes to ratings, football is king. What happens to tune-ins between now and August when America’s game kicks off? Brands need to develop a concise strategy around major upcoming sporting events to get the most return on their sponsorship/marketing dollars.
NCAA March Madness
March Madness is the platform to grab the attention of the most college hoops fans. This year’s tournament is more intriguing than ever with no clear favorite to win it all. In 2012, the first rounds received a 5.3 household rating, their highest in 18 years. With no clear front-runner, will there be monster ratings, or will the casual fan become disinterested?
The NCAA’S March Madness Live mobile platform has signed a handful of sponsors, with the live-streaming microsite and mobile app being presented by brands like AT&T, Capital One, Coke Zero, Buick, Infiniti and LG Electronics. With the rise in second-screen viewing, it will be interesting to see how these sponsorships pay off in comparison to brands with traditional TV ad placements.
NASCAR is riding high now, especially after a 30% increase in ratings for this year’s Daytona 500. Danica Patrick’s pole position and leading lap certainly helped, and sponsors must feel validated for all of the money put into motorsports. Motorsports sponsorship spending is estimated to total $3.76 Billion in 2013, according to a study by the IEG Sponsorship Report.
Additionally, NASCAR recently launched their biggest brand campaign yet, with nine new advertisements. Will the push produce results for a new sponsor such as Bass Pro Shop? It will be interesting to see if NASCAR can ride this momentum for the rest of its 38-week season.
The MLB has not been shy about its need to boost ratings. The solution is more primetime games coming to Fox this year, anticipating that the new slot for national games will drive more viewers. Baseball is looking for younger fans, thanks to their young superstars, particularly Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. After having monster rookie years, baseball hopes they can continue their rise and boost the game with a youthful new fan base.
MLB sponsors are expecting the same thing, especially cellular phone company, T-Mobile, which put its sponsorship dollars to good use by re-inventing the bullpen phone, swapping out the old devices for T-Mobile touchscreen smartphones. According to a recent article in Business Week, the average baseball game telecast shows five calls to the bullpen, worth over $6.7 million in advertising value.
While the early season has been tough on golf’s TV ratings; the upcoming majors hope to turn that around. Can a young star, like Rory McIlroy, and the possible return of Tiger help boost ratings? Despite last year’s exciting playoff between Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson, the 2012 Masters saw a 22% drop in ratings, the worst since 2004. But golf is still a safe bet for sponsoring brands trying to reach the high-income demographic, which explains why all but one PGA events have title sponsors signed through 2014.
The PGA has plans to expand quickly, with exciting new opportunities for sponsorships. This includes a PGA Tour-wide mobile app, releasing this year according to Sports Business Journal, which will tap into simulcasting PGA tour events, and plans to hold six new Fall PGA events to kick off the 2014 season. These new PGA elements allow brands to grow alongside the sport.
After a shortened season and LeBron’s first championship, the NBA has continued to build in the right direction; a 13% rise in ratings for this year’s NBA All-Star game was a positive sign. While most sports host an All-Star game, the NBA stands apart by hosting a weekend of events, each with a separate sponsor. Even with Sprite’s Slam Dunk Contest, Foot Locker’s Three-Point Contest or the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, more sponsorship opportunities over the weekend still exist. The NBA’s wealth of marketable stars, and the ability to add sponsors on team jerseys in 2013-14, provides the opportunity for more brands to tap into the NBA.
The key for sponsors with these properties, different from the NFL and college football, is to be more strategic with where they put their money. With the right strategy and research, sponsors can find events and platforms that build a ratings bridge, all the way from February to August, and back into football.