Is Buying TV Advertising During Live Sports Worth The Premium?
6 Minute Read
92 of the top 100 biggest TV audiences in 2021 were live sports broadcasts.
Professional sports dominate today’s TV landscape. According to Sports Business Journal, nine of the top 10 programs with the largest audiences last year were sports matchups (all NFL games) generating more than 370 million viewers.
Television media buyers, advertisers, and customers have been navigating eroding TV ratings, time-shifted viewing, and other big changes in the way people watch TV for some time now. If you want to maximize the impact of your TV advertising campaigns, you need to focus on today’s “must-see TV.” Primarily, this consists of live programs like sports, awards shows, and news and current events.
Any savvy media buying strategy starts with identifying the target audience. With so many options for viewers to watch television content, you need to have confidence that your ads will reach the right people and drive business amid declining ratings and audience fragmentation.
The Winners in Live Television Advertising
Even viewers who prefer streaming tend to tune in on broadcast TV for big “event” programs. If you watched football playoffs and conference championships, Sunday Night Football, the Olympics, and other top shows last year, you likely noticed that the biggest brands were there, too.
Commercials from Toyota, Amazon, Cheetos, Rocket Mortgage, and State Farm (to name only a few) made a big splash among live TV viewers in the last year. These companies stood out because they bought ad time during the most-viewed programs of 2021.
TV shows that generate the most eyeballs are always going to be the most coveted for advertisers. However, big brands are the big winners in this space because they can afford the high advertising costs that networks charge for these high-profile spots.
Competition for the viewer’s attention during live sporting events is fierce. Not only do you see traditional 15 and 30 second spots during commercial breaks, but you also see many advertisers included in sponsorships within the game. From timeouts to highlights, score reports to halftime breaks – advertisers clamor for the opportunity to have their name integrated into the game.
Because of the large ratings, live sporting events are expensive to advertise in. It’s hard to leave a memorable impression on potential customers, especially if you can only afford to air one spot.
The Underdogs in Live Television Advertising
Companies that are not on the Fortune 500 but have large advertising budgets often negotiate season-long packages with networks that air sporting events. This includes broadcast networks such as Fox, NBC, and CBS, as well as cable networks such as ESPN. Having a contract with these networks helps advertisers secure better placement within the event and potentially get higher frequency for TV ads.
But how can small and mid-size businesses compete in this environment? You might reach more people through a single TV spot during an NFL game than you could through all of your other advertising campaigns in one week or, depending on your advertising frequency, one month. However, the success of this strategy depends on capturing the attention of the maximum number of potential customers on the television when your spot runs.
Such a strategy is risky. To maximize your ROI, it is in your best interest to create a more diversified ad portfolio than to shoot the moon on a single TV commercial.
Gaining a Competitive Edge in Television Advertising
1. Purchase Local TV Ad Spots During High-Profile Events
When you think about all of the commercials that air during “The Big Game,” the ads that come to mind are likely the ones that aired nationwide and captured the attention of tens or even hundreds of millions of Americans all at once. However, not all of the advertising that airs during The Big Game and other major programs is reserved for national spots.
Local affiliates also sell ads during TV broadcasts with the biggest draw. If your business focuses on a particular target market (such as a city, state, or region), a local television ad is a cost-effective way to reach a captive audience of consumers who are more likely to buy. Best of all, you can reach these valuable viewers without having to pay the exorbitant costs for a national ad spot.
2. Buy More TV Ad Spots During Less Competitive Times
Another superior strategy is to buy more spots across more dayparts on more stations. In our experience, consistent advertising with three times the frequency at 50% reach is the most effective television advertising strategy for being memorable and breaking through the clutter.
Commercials that stick with TV viewers reach them at the right time with the right message. In many cases consistency – rather than one exposure during a high-profile TV event – is key for generating the top of mind awareness that turns a viewer into a customer.
3. Invest in Digital Video
Traditional or linear TV is still an effective advertising medium. However, as Think with Google recently noted, many of the statistics you see on the reach of television advertising are retrospective. If you are going to succeed in the digital advertising space, you need to update your marketing mix for the ways people watch video content today.
Digital video ads are growing in reach, and the trend isn’t going to stop any time soon. With more and more consumers gravitating toward a plethora of streaming platforms in lieu of a single cable package, you need to identify where your audience watches content and create ads that hold the attention of viewers who are accustomed to being able to skip ad breaks.
Read More: Connected TV Ads – Know Before You Buy
4. Build Your Reputation First
Today’s customers place a premium on trust. Before they buy, they want to know that the business aligns with their values. In a time when people are practicing “ethical consumption,” it is extremely important that you have a genuine relationship with your customer base.
Sinking your advertising budget into a big TV commercial before you build a receptive audience is money down the drain. First, you should invest your time, effort, and money into the following aspects of your marketing strategy:
- Brand Identity: The best, most memorable commercials have a clear message. The only way these TV spots work is because the company that creates the ads knows who they are, who their ideal customer is, and how to convey their identity in advertisements. To get to this level for your business and manifest it in your advertising, you need to spend time determining what your brand is.
- Website Design & Development: A professional website is essential for making a good first impression with new customers. When people look for you online, the destination should be informative, engaging, and representative of your brand.
- Organic SEO: When consumers see commercials that connect with their needs and goals, they search for the business behind the ad. You need to optimize your website and other aspects of your marketing so customers can find the information they need when they search for both your business name (known as branded search) as well as your products and services (unbranded search).
- Reviews and Reputation Management: Online reviews are among the first things potential customers see when they search for your business. Before you put your brand in front of a TV audience, you need to make sure your reputation is positive. This means dedicating time to disputing and removing negative reviews, engaging customers who leave positive reviews, etc.
- Social Media Presence: Marketing and advertising on social media are among the most effective (and cost-effective) ways to build an enthusiastic online audience. Providing relevant content, participating in your community, and having a consistent presence in your customer’s daily life is the basis of a long-standing and loyal relationship. When you run a spot on television among dozens of other advertisers, your fans will take notice.
People buy from the brands they know and trust. Taking these steps will lay the groundwork for successful TV advertising.
Optimize Your TV Advertising for Today’s Audience
For years, it has been apparent that network television can’t survive without the NFL and other giant sports organizations. Although sports draw the biggest audiences, non-Fortune 500 advertisers can survive and even thrive without investing everything in the most competitive and costly TV ad spots.
Before you blow all of your budget on an ad for The Big Game or another major event, it is crucial to be strategic in your media buying to maximize results. Television and other traditional media strategies still work, but they are most effective when employed as part of a robust marketing mix with other digital marketing strategies.
At Twelve Three Media, we are obsessed with getting our clients the biggest bang for their buck. If you are unsure how to invest your marketing and advertising dollars wisely, our expert Media Buyers can help. Contact Twelve Three Media today to gain the unfair marketing advantage!