This NFL Season, Tackle Contextual Advertising Or Get Sacked

If you're looking to advertise to anyone in the U.S. this fall, you are in a very unique position: You know exactly what your audience is doing every Sunday.

America will be watching the NFL.

During the 2013 NFL season, a record 205 million unique U.S. viewers tuned in to cheer for one of the league's 32 teams. That’s 81% of the television homes in the country. To give you some perspective, 26.5 million Americans tuned in to the World Cup. I guess football still trumps futbol around here…

At the end of the 2013 NFL season, the Pew Research Center reported that 74% of the American people are also now active social media users.

No matter what audience you are trying to reach next Sunday, the Sunday after, and every Sunday between now and Christmas, those people ARE on social and they ARE cheering for their favorite team.



While traditional advertising is an effective route to the eyes watching the millions of televisions glowing on game day, consider this: Each of those TVs also comes with at least one (or more likely, several) mobile devices that are also being watched.

As we’ve repeatedly seen during events like the Emmys, the World Cup, and the Olympics, social media is the universal place to be for second-screen activity during live, televised events. And between now and early February, this truth will only become more universal. This is particularly true of the 41 million Fantasy Footballers who wouldn’t be caught dead without their computers open on game day, tallying points and talking smack on social.

Bottom line: If you're serving mobile targeted social ads on game day that don't take the context of the game day experience into account, or if you're not targeting ads on social at all, your competition will be eating your lunch this season.

For every out-of-place tweet or post that you serve during "Sunday Night Football," you’re flushing money down the drain — putting content in front of highly engaged audiences that they will scroll right past to read stories about the latest big play.

Think of it this way: I just watched Brady throw a 41-yard touchdown, and now I’m seeing your post during the commercial break that follows. Is it relevant?

Serving up contextual ads should extend beyond just “Does this make sense?” and extend into, “Is this what my audience is thinking about and looking for right now?” Treat each game as an in-line experience, and create a native ad to match.

Football fans are some of the most loyal people on the planet. Bud Light leveraged this in 2012, releasing localized packaging that featured the NFL shield and team logos relevant to each market. Brands make these investments because they work. The same approach to segmented co-branding can easily be translated to unpublished Page Post ads on Facebook in which your brand delivers 32 different ads, each timed to unique game-day schedules, and targeted to unique cities.

I understand that for some brands it makes no sense to join conversations about football. So don’t. But don’t forget that’s what on your audience's mind, either.  

Spray-and-pray advertising may not be dead yet, but it's got one foot in the grave. The future of advertising is here and it's contextual. Soon, the only marketers worth their salt will be delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time.

This NFL season is your chance to test and learn, and to hone those skills. So strike now, while the gridiron is hot.

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