How should programmatic change our approach to the Super Bowl?

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Opportunities exist for advertisers to approach big sporting events such as the Super Bowl without huge budgets and still achieve high impact results.

The world’s biggest annual sporting spectacle is back with a bang. Super Bowl. It’s safe to say that many of us in adland won’t be watching to see what city the Vince Lombardi Trophy calls home for the next year. We will be watching to see which brand is able to gain the most traction and make the biggest splash.

Of the huge budgets associated with the Super Bowl (CBS charged $5 million for an advertisement in 2016—and the average cost for 30 seconds of air time is $2.8 million) much of the investment will still be in traditional channels.

However, we are seeing an increasing portion being spent across digital channels and, specifically, programmatic buying. And as programmatic techniques and philosophies become mainstream, there are opportunities for advertisers to approach big sporting events such as the Super Bowl without multimillion budgets and still be able to achieve high impact results.

Bid wisely and stand out

Consumer behavior fluctuates heavily over the course of the three-and-a-half-hour game with moments of elation, boredom, sharing, celebration and commiseration. And with this, online browsing behaviors and users’ reactions to advertising also change.

Bearing this in mind, advertisers should look at an event such as the Super Bowl as a series of micro moments rather than one huge event. Real-time data feeds relating to events within the game and how sports fans react to these, can now enable brands to intensify their presence during the moments that they want to associate themselves with or, more simply, which lead to greater engagement.

Sponsoring touchdowns, interceptions, plays involving certain people or owning positive social sentiment for a given team are all increasingly common requests from marketers.

Programmatic is therefore an ideal channel to execute this kind of moment ownership. Hyper-aggressive bidding when it matters most can cut through the high levels of noise from other advertisers while also capitalizing on spikes in ad supply caused by increased browsing during the event.

Unsurprisingly, consumers enthralled by a sports match are more likely to engage with ads that directly relate to in-game events. So, the other way to leverage real-time data is to not only influence bidding but also the creative message. 

Advertisers with a creative message that is relevant to an in-game moment are on average 25 percent more effective, however in some instances, it can be three or four times more effective.

Insights First

Another important practice for advertisers is to access insights first, and then plan their strategy second. Again, the data available through programmatic can help to inform this process. During a regular NFL game this season, browsing in relevant cities increased by15 percent. During the Super Bowl this is likely to be much higher.

One can also see that certain moments are more influential than others—timeouts have a larger impact on behavior than touchdowns, for example.

Advertisers therefore need to think carefully about when they trigger ad delivery, and how long for, to achieve the right results.

Predict and react

Some things in sports can be predicted, but many things can't—that’s one of the many reasons why sports are so exciting. However, through carefully planned creative execution, budget distribution and content creation, a brand can exponentially increase its chances of creating a successful campaign.

Running out of budget too soon, and not having relevant content and creatives to address a key moment are some of the most common ways digital sponsorship can fall flat. 

The beauty of programmatic means that you are able to mitigate against these pressures. Budgets can be scaled, activity can be reviewed, amended, dropped or enhanced in real-time to create genuinely agile planning.

Of course, there are some things you will never be able to predict. In the UK, for example, few could have guessed that one of the most tweeted about moments from the Olympics was Team GB’s gold medal in hockey.

As such, it was only brands that were triggering delivery based on social volumes that were able to capitalize on this. The important lessons for brands are that they need to have the ability to identify, plan and react to these unexpected moments.

These practices are not exclusive to programmatic, in fact most of them can now be applied to the full gamut of channels in one form or other. Branding driven by real-time data, with moment-based dynamic delivery and tailored messaging is going to become more commonplace. This not only drives efficiency, but also creates a campaign that will more than likely capture the imagination of its intended audience.

If a brand embraces the approaches of the programmatic world, then it doesn’t need to part with the huge sums associated with partnering with sporting events; it enables you to pick the moments that matter, and ignore the ones that don’t.

Now, what marketer wouldn’t want that?

—John Goulding is global product director at Media iQ.