The Sports Solution To Brands' Live Video Woes

After a serial killer used Facebook Live to broadcast his confession, having used their video platform to share footage of himself murdering an elderly man, many marketers were left asking: Do we really want to be on the live bandwagon right now? 

Sinister events like this trigger a renewed sense of urgency for brands to revisit their live content strategy — even if the best strategy is to stay away.

But is it? 

There are less risky yet lucrative ways brands can capitalize on live content — and sports is an excellent place to start. 

For starters, live sports are aligned with tradition. Especially in times of uncertainty and change, people yearn for the comfort and predictability of a simpler, more wholesome time. Watching sports is a time-honored, shared experience for millions of consumers and their loved ones. It’s a way to engage in those legacy rituals, like indulging in beer and pizza with friends and family, or marking the start of spring with a season opener with hot dogs and (more) beer. This holds a major opportunity for brands to connect with consumers while they are in a mindset and environment infused with positive feelings.

Of course, people also watch sports for the suspense. Who wins, who gets benched, and how the refs call the game are all elements that make tuning in worth viewers’ time. But there is also a reassuring lack of variation in sports: the same seasons, tournaments, and drafts happen annually. That means advertisers can go into a sporting event with confidence about what certain games are going to deliver. 

This should be especially valuable to media buyers. As content formats have multiplied, the buy-side of advertising has been under tremendous pressure to assess a seemingly infinite number of opportunities and their accompanying risks. Live sports can make life easier and less crisis-prone for them, too. Media buyers can take comfort in knowing they’re probably not going to be advertising during a live murder scene. 

When it comes to sports, marketers should consider both linear ads and brand integrations. This kind of sports advertising can be very effective if the placement aligns with who you are as a brand. Everybody associates Gatorade with the celebratory spirit of its product being dumped on the heads of the game-winning football team. Accordingly, Gatorade is seen as a drink for elite athletes, with a halo of victory and festivity. 

Brand integrations in these competitions can be especially effective in an environment where consumers continue to engage in that age-old practice of turning their attention away during commercial breaks. Research confirms that those who are active on a second screen while watching TV are less likely to notice and engage with the commercials they’re exposed to during the show. One thing working to brands’ advantage here is the parallel engagement consumers often experience on social media. Capitalizing on real-time and post-game online chatter, with a tightly integrated, brand-building strategy, can help extend and deepen the impact of advertising. 

No matter how live content evolves, the demands on marketers remain the same:, create awareness, build the brand, persuade consumers to consider your product, and ultimately increase sales. And while live video might be the flavor of the month, brands ultimately need to execute in a way that’s ready for prime-time. In contrast with the danger and uncertainty of live streaming, consumer-generated video, live sports offers both a safer bet and one much more likely to pay higher returns. Bonus: It’s ready for prime-time and weekend afternoons.

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