Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Live sport and moment marketing: disruption is the name of the game

By Sydney Vieira, head of customer success, 7th Minute

With Coronavirus clearing the live sports calendar in 2020, this year’s summer of sport has been long awaited.

With the rescheduled Euros, Wimbledon and the Tour de France well underway, the pace will continue to be fast and furious; the Olympics and Paralympics, the British Grand Prix, the golf Open, Rugby League World Cup and the Ashes are just some of the other live fixtures that will keep sports fans glued to their TV screens until well into the autumn.

But it’s not just the fans that are elated.  Marketing machines are also revved up and running. The unique power of sport to engage, combined with vast audiences all in one place is a winning formula.  The first England Euro game against Croatia on Sunday 14 June saw a peak TV audience of 11.6 million for example, with this rising to 20.6 million for the hotly-anticipated England Germany game on Tuesday 29 June (making it the most-watched football match since England’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia in 2018). 

And yet it’s easy for all but the major brands to feel excluded, daunted by the number of zeros on the end of any budget required for sports-related TV advertising.

Tapping in to the second screen

Enter moment marketing – a way to carry out cost-effective, contextual advertising in real-time, based on what is happening at that minute on the pitch, track, green, court, field, road, etc.  Relayed live on TV screens, these events can be invaluable triggers when used in conjunction with the now almost universal trend for second-screening.

Returning to the 2018 World Cup, the game that saw England beat Columbia for a place in the quarter finals drew 23.6 million viewers.  Aside from the searches for specific players, during the match viewers had additional interests; ‘pub’ was a consistent theme – as was ‘waistcoat’ (thanks to the wardrobe choice of England manager Gareth Southgate).  Not only that, but as people went to the pub after that game, search data shows that buying a waistcoat online became increasingly popular (Marks & Spencer reported a 35% increase in sales during the tournament).

However, it’s not necessary to be a drinking establishment or a clothes retailer – or to wait for the World Cup to come round every four years – to benefit from these moments.  They happen all the time, with almost every televised sporting event.

For example, TV ads for a takeaway food brand aired during Premier League fixtures resulted in greater increases in traffic to the website than standard TV ads, while, despite lockdown, the Monaco Grand Prix in May this year saw spikes in searches for flights to the region, hotels in the city and the (Monte Carlo) Casino.

Automation enables active conversations

Showing someone an ad when they are most likely to be engaged with the offering seems obvious; however, it’s only relatively recently that automation technology has been up to the task of providing the real-time insight and activation that brands need to respond effectively as relevant moments occur.

This is a sea-change for advertising because it enables brands to join in the sports talk at the time that it is happening – rather than several hours, or even days, later.

Raheem Sterling’s goal in the 57th minute of England’s first Euro match saw a spike in the online search for ‘football’s coming home’, which was repeated (and magnified) at the final whistle.  The advent of moment marketing opens up a wealth of previously inconceivable opportunities because brands now have the power to deliver an immediate response.  Pre-prepared digital creatives can be as simple as ‘Well done England – football’s coming home!’ – or more specific depending on the product (‘Celebrate with a drink of brand X’, for example).  Creative content can also be on hand to cover different eventualities, such as ‘Better luck next time England’ if the opponents score.

Disruptive thinking – open to all

Moment marketing itself isn’t new. Ahead of the 2015 Super Bowl, Volvo let people know they could win a new Volvo by Tweeting the name of person they would like to give it to whenever they saw a rival car brand advertise during the game; #VolvoContest drove up to 2000 Tweets per minute while the game took place – despite Volvo having no ‘official’ airtime booked.

This highlights the important detail that creativity trumps budget; relevant social and display ads, delivered to the right target audience as a ‘moment’ unfolds also opens the field to all brands, regardless of their size.  Admittedly, Volvo isn’t a ‘small’ brand, but #VolvoContest demonstrates the disruptive thinking that can fuel this new way of advertising; automation has added to the mix by making it cost-effective.

Regardless of the optimistic Monaco searches referenced above, the reality is that the pandemic is continuing to put the kibosh on straightforward foreign travel.  However, that shouldn’t stymie country-related advertising.  Supermarkets could seize the Euro opportunity with ads for their range of Spanish tapas food to coincide with the matches played in Seville, or promote Italian delicacies when Rome hosts the game. Glasgow’s climate also presents the scope for promoting these offerings using a ‘dreaming of warmer shores’ message – as well as ads for warm and waterproof clothing!

A win for brand marketing

Sports related moment marketing is all about being involved in the conversation at the time when the audience is swept up in the match or race.  Brands can join in beforehand, building up the buzz and excitement, engage as the event progresses, and celebrate or commiserate with relevant content at the end – and beyond.

Gone are the days when advertising during major fixtures of this kind required deep pockets and generic messages; with the right mindset, technology and creative team, the (commercial) playing field is now level, and the possibilities for brands to engage with fans unparalleled.

Football may – or may not – be coming home; smart brands can use either outcome to their advantage.