Is Buying TV Advertising During Live Sports Worth The Premium?

Television Advertising

89 of the top 100 biggest TV audiences in 2018 were live sports broadcasts.

In a recent Ad Age article called “Behind the Headlines” we read about how live sports accounted for 89 of the top 100 biggest TV audiences in 2018. Television media buyers and clients have been having this conversation for a while now. We have been navigating eroding television ratings, time shifted viewing and increased advertiser demand for live events, like sports, award shows and local news for some time.  With there being so many options to view television content, we have been dealing with declining ratings for some time. Fragmented audiences are really tough on advertisers because they now need to spend more money to reach potential customers.

The Winners in Live Television Advertising

Using this link, you can see the top 50 largest audience programs in 2018.  Despite your normal television viewing habits, you likely watched most of these programs. And if you were there, you know that big brand advertisers were there too.  You likely saw commercials for Toyota, Coca-Cola, Movie Trailers, Nike, American Express, Verizon, AT&T, Apple, Target, Walmart and other big brands. For highly viewed programs like the ones on this top list, advertising costs are going to be expensive and competition is heavy.

Competition for the viewer’s attention during live sporting events is fierce!  Not only do you see traditional :15 and :30 spots during commercial breaks, you also see many advertisers being included in sponsorships within the game; time outs, highlights, score reports and other features have advertisers connected to them.

Because of the large ratings, live sports are expensive to advertise in and it’s hard to leave a memorable impression on potential customers, especially if you only have one spot scheduled.

The Underdogs in Live Television Advertising

So as a regular, non-Fortune 500 advertiser how do you compete in this environment?

If you have large advertising budgets, you can negotiate season long packages with Fox, CBS, ESPN or any of the other network that air sporting events.  This will help you secure better placement within the event and potentially get higher frequency.

If you don’t have large advertising budgets should you still purchase these highly watched programs?  It’s risky! You may reach more people with one spot in a NFL game, but you are dependent on your potential customer having their attention on the television while your spot runs.

Gaining A Competitive Edge in Television Advertising

A better strategy is to buy more spots across more dayparts on more stations. Experience has shown that consistent advertising with 3x frequency at 50% reach is the most effective television advertising for being memorable and breaking through the clutter.  This is how an advertiser gets consistent presence and top of mind awareness with their desired customer.

Adding digital video to your advertising mix will increase reach of your audience and will support the impressions you are getting on television. Especially with people under the age of 35 where average time spent watching television per day drops by 35%.

Another way to break through the clutter is to focus on your social media presence.  In a time when people are practicing “ethical consumption” it is extremely important that you have a genuine relationship with your customer base.  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.  And the icing on the cake is when your spot runs on television amongst dozens of other advertisers, your customer will notice.

Circling back to the Ad Age article where they suggest that network television can’t survive without the NFL.  Agreed! They can’t. But non-Fortune 500 advertisers can! Advertisers can make a positive impact with their customers without paying the premium of live sports.

If you have questions about your media strategy, please reach out.  We would love to discuss media with you!