The new playing field for sports fans and advertisers

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Here's how brands can capture the attention and hearts of sports fans and turn them into loyal customers, says Oath's head of US field sales.

Every season, dedicated sports fans are glued to their screens following the game of the moment and the latest news from their favorite league or team. Watching sports has evolved to become a truly interactive experience across screens, alongside the rise of online fantasy sports leagues. Thanks to sharper quality video and better access to news updates on mobile devices, fans can now take their sports experience wherever, and whenever, they go.

For advertisers, sports fans represent a massive and diverse audience of extremely committed viewers. They not only follow their favorite team’s games on the big screen, but also across sports apps, news sites and social media.

In fact, apps in the Sports category saw a 43 percent increase in usage and a 25 percent increase in time spent year-over-year. With so many touchpoints to engage these fans and raise brand awareness, many new brands are diving in.

But it’s important to understand that today’s sports fans have very high expectations when it comes to advertising. So how can brands successfully capture the attention and hearts of sports fans—and then take it one step further, to turn them into loyal customers?

Data offers a 360-degree view of your audience
First, advertisers need to spend time understanding the sports audience behaviors and mindset with trusted data, before designing their next campaign.

From demographic data, such as age and location, to mobile app behavior and content consumption, there are many insights that can help better inform marketers and ultimately make the ad experience that much better for sports fans. Analyzing these data points and the consumer journey will be key to understanding what type of content or experience this specific audience wants to see from brands, and how. 

Capitalize on sports fans’ competitive nature
Sports fans thrive on competition not just on screen, but via fantasy sports leagues and more. Brands can be part of these friendly competitions to win mindshare with fans. Pizza Hut scored with football fans in the Squares Pick’Em mobile and desktop game during this year’s Big Game.

The Super Bowl is one of Pizza Hut’s busiest days of the year, and the brand was able to build a stronger connection with fans by offering a fun, interactive version of the popular game. Sports is about passion and connections; and aligning brands in those experiences creates distinction.

Keep it short and make a lasting impression
Sports fans love to watch expert analysis, interviews and replays around each game, but brands need to capitalize on this engagement in the right way. Brands must find that sweet spot between delivering the right message, natural to the experience, and creating an ad that’s 15 to 30 seconds long.

Ads that are much shorter, say 5-second ads, drive far less aided recall and purchase intent by comparison. Native video ads can also be a win with sports fans, since they don’t take away from the overall content experience.

Engage with fans in the moment with live video
Live video’s popularity has skyrocketed. Consumers prefer watching live digital video because it enables mobility, the ability to multi-task—and let’s not forget, it’s just plain exciting! For many sports fans, there’s no such thing as a day off. Their eyes are glued to their brackets, live games and news so they don’t miss out on the latest.

Not surprisingly, live video is more emotionally engaging than other video formats and can actually boost positive emotions in viewers. That’s pretty powerful for brands that align themselves with live video to boost brand awareness and consideration. What’s more, it’s attracting massive audiences at scale, especially around key sporting events!

Sports fans are demanding more digital video and better quality branded content that they’ll actually enjoy engaging with. Plus, live video viewership is poised for continued growth this year, with more live content in those passion-based areas of sports, news, finance and more. Advertisers that capitalize on these opportunities to reach fans will be able to redefine the playing field and upset the competition.

Courtney McKlveen is Head of US Field Sales at Oath.