It seems like just yesterday that sports properties and their brand partners were beginning to discover mobile video as a synergistic platform to enhance their activations. Today, it seems almost impossible to find a sports-related social media or online posting that doesn’t include at least one video.
To demonstrate the ubiquity of the platform, I call out a recent Forbes article, citing Cisco forecasts that a million minutes, or almost 17,000 hours of video content will cross its network every second, by 2021. The same piece references that over 500 million people watch video on Facebook every day. Needless to say, digital mobile video is no longer a nice-to-have in the sports marketing playbook. It’s table stakes. The power of sight, sound and motion is undeniable. And in the sports vertical, this goes well beyond game highlights.
Yet, while the ubiquity of mobile sports video is undeniable, the broader question that one should ask is, “To what end?” The proliferation of content inevitably creates resonance and breakthrough challenges that might make marketers yearn for days when there were only seven or eight television stations to choose from. Now, marketers must navigate an abundance of content across multiple platforms, coupled with the stark reality (demonstrated by our research) that consumers decide what to watch or close, often in just a few seconds. That’s a lot of marketing falling on deaf ears … or is that vacant eyes.
Research to the Rescue
So video content is table stakes with long odds. But sports marketers can improve those odds. Marketing researchers like myself have always advocated concept testing, and I’d maintain that amidst the sheer volume of content being produced today, this has become imperative, if marketers want to get noticed. Recognize that a click through or exposure yields no guarantee that content will be valued, viewed for more than a blink of an eye, let alone resonate with target consumers and drive home desired brand objectives. I’ve often railed against typical audience measurement currency for measuring the wrong things. Or in the words of one of my former bosses, “You can’t eat impressions.”
In this age of short form mobile video, concept evaluation research runs the gamut from simple qualitative exposure in focus groups or IDIs to sophisticated multi-variate tests. We recently consulted with a client that was literally exploring the impact of placing branding elements at different time junctures within a video, to determine whether that placement impacted retention, recall and stickiness. The chosen methodological approach had to account for projectable cells of similarly framed respondents, each being exposed to one of numerous placement iterations and running lengths in simulated environments that replicated the various platforms where the video content would be placed. This can be sophisticated stuff, but it needn’t be prohibitively expensive.
Of course, the insights yielded by this and similar forms of testing are always going to be unique to content specifics. But, there are still some nearly universal truths that we have gleaned from multiple engagements and one publicly available study that we conducted in the golf vertical for a leading sports media brand a few years ago.
In the latter research, we designed a mixed mode test with over 4,000 respondents, that incorporated elements of experimental design and forced choice exercises conducted both face to face (with in the moment probing and observation) and digitally.
Among the more salient findings was a conclusion that brevity (three minutes or less) is certainly preferable to longer-form video in most circumstances. The research also revealed a hierarchy of specific content attributes that correlated more strongly to viewer enjoyment and retention of key message points. At the top of this hierarchy was the careful selection of a host or narrator that conveyed credibility. Source of the content was also critical along similar lines.
More positive results aligned with video presented or packaged from sources deemed as authentic and objective third parties, absent an overt personal or sales agenda. Among other production values and hierarchically important elements identified, were alignment of the content and its tonality, to a personally relevant context. This was especially true for pre-roll advertising, that often determined whether viewers stuck around long enough for the “feature presentation.”
Clearly the growth in importance and availability of video content has transformed the sports marketing paradigm. To paraphrase an old middle school teacher, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”