Reach, viewability and fans – why sport is the best game in town for marketers
Adding sporting events to your marketing mix is a key way to engage with this sports mad nation. Anne Parsons on marketing and sport.
This article was sponsored by QMS to let readers know about QMS Sport – the opportunity to reach national audiences across elite sporting codes and events. It is part of our current special focus on out-of-home media.
We all know that Australia is hailed as a sport-loving nation – we’re known for a few other things as well, but certainly there is an international perception of our sporting prowess both as players and as spectators. It’s no surprise, therefore, that sporting content so unfailingly attracts a large and attentive audience. It is the ‘stuff’ that the majority of Australians love to see. In fact, over 16 million Australians tune in each year to watch the AFL and NRL alone.
Sport is infallible content when it comes to marketers buying a receptive audience to market their brand. While content proliferates and the choices multiply exponentially, sport stands out for its solid audience foundation. Against the relative vagaries of some other content choices that promise to offer incremental reach or a highly targeted environment, sport is the content choice that will always deliver a mass audience.
We only need to look at the battle played out between media owners to purchase the Australian Cricket broadcast rights – with the season shared across both Foxtel and Channel Seven for an annual cost of $200 million – to gain a sense of its importance in attracting an audience. Sport coverage now includes 34 codes, from netball through to cricket, and provides a brand exposure to a highly engaged audience. In 2017, sport delivered seven out of the top 10 rated TV programs and accounted for over 30,000 hours of television viewing.
Our commitment to watch, to participate, to follow a team and to hail a sporting hero or heroine is equally reflected in countries and cultures internationally. This is a global phenomenon. Daniel Ricciardo is a well-known name across all continents, Arsenal t-shirts are worn as a symbol of camaraderie and prominent events in the national calendar, such as ANZAC Day, see games pitch sporting rivals against one another in front of sellout crowds.
The attributes of sporting content smash all the key criteria for effective placement of a brand’s communication. Sport answers reach, frequency and engagement requirements and then kicks it out of the park with viewability, a solution to ad avoidance and the buzz of fan engagement.
Let’s start with the pursuit of reach. Sport not only reaches the masses, it does so consistently throughout the season.
The average telecast audience for NRL is 948,000 and AFL 619,000. Regardless of your communication strategy, whether it be the launch of a new product or brand, retail event or offer, sport’s inclusion as part of the communication mix ensures maximum awareness of the message. Frequency of message is the way to ensure your communication is understood.
Sport offers the natural consistency of being scheduled weekly and enabling your message to be received with the right frequency over time. The frequency that can be built within a match means less reliance on other media. This has a positive financial impact but also enables the marketer to manage a more streamlined campaign. Engagement has become more important with the proliferation of advertising channels and the challenge of connecting with a consumer in a relevant environment.
Sport offers you a highly engaged audience every time. Your message within the broadcast is powerful, but is of course diluted when that message appears in the ad break where viewing eyeballs are reduced. However, your message on an LED screen within the stadium means it becomes an organic part of the broadcast and visible throughout play. Without this signage boost, it would be like delivering a brand message at a card game only while the cards are shuffled and dealt and as the winner takes the money, but not while the hands are played and the victory is won.
In stadia, screens at games provide the opportunity for advertisers to be present during the action. They are there when the big moments happen. This is a great dual channel opportunity; however, digital LED stadium signage on its own allows the advertiser to be part of the major sporting environment at a fraction of the broadcast cost.
At a time when the premium for sponsorship is unsustainable for many, this is an alternative way of reaching these attentive eyeballs with a communication they value.
It is rare to feel that you are getting the win-win in media, but when your message is carried on an LED screen or virtual in-stadia signage, then that message is exposed across all broadcast devices during play. Stadia signage becomes the common denominator making its presence felt in the stadium, on any one of the TV networks, on Foxtel or Telstra live streaming.
Finally, to close the loop on the untouchable power of sport, when it comes to engaging an audience and doing that in multiple forms, we must acknowledge the fans.
Fan power is the thing that gives sport greater life during a game and a longer life beyond the game. Fans are a breed of devoted followers. They are engaged with their hearts and their minds. They become, in a communication sense, advocates who can be communicated to within the stadium and provide a level of engagement that goes beyond the usual. So, they become the recipients of additional opportunities for speaking with them directly, getting their feedback and using their interest and commitment to extend the brand relationship.
What occurs in the two-and-a-half hours of an AFL match is the stuff that is then talked about at water coolers around the country for the rest of the week. This level of animation and care is representative of what the consumer feels about their sport. It is reflected in their attention to the game and their receptivity to the messages they receive as part of that environment.
A recent Neuro-Insight study on brain patterns showed that AFL broadcasts have 28% more engagement, 32% more emotional intensity and are therefore 23% more effective than regular TV programming. Chemist Warehouse is the perfect example of a brand that strategically uses sport to deliver a powerful through- the-line communication program. LED signage across major sporting codes is used to deliver mass awareness, club sponsorship drives community, and grassroots alignment and game day activations are used to get product samples directly into consumers’ hands.
The game of marketing is more serious now – good or bad, it just is.
There is big money at stake, there are many more ways to invest it, there are increasing ways to measure it and the focus on the results is more intense. Marketing always wanted to be taken more seriously and now it is. Senior roles are won, lost or swapped on the basis of the campaigns delivered and the results achieved. Never before has it been so essential to understand the environment, the opportunities and how to present, measure or consider the results.
Sport is the best game in town when it comes to ensuring your audience is big, engaged and consistent. Starting with sport ensures you are a serious player – and the only thing left to chance is who wins the game.
Anne Parsons is non-executive director at QMS Media.
QMS Sport: Reach national audiences across elite sporting codes, events, and concerts.