Sporting events can win you marketing gold

Mediaocean’s Summer of Sport webinar explored how brands can utilise sporting events to their advantage in their marketing strategy.

Sports stadium

If brands missed the opportunity to capitalise on the Olympics, there are still many sporting events to come this year. The Paralympics begin on August 24, followed by several cricket events, two golf cups, the London Marathon and the Rugby League World Cup.

During a recent webinar, hosted by Mediaocean, marketing experts advised on the best advertising strategies surrounding sports events.

The software company’s own recent study has examined brands that advertised during the UEFA Euros tournament. This research measured and compared each brands’ social media engagement in the two-minute period before and after the start of a TV ad. Heineken, for example, experienced a 207% increase in social lift, 84% of which had a positive sentiment. Trends also revealed that adverts featuring celebrities were particularly successful, in addition to ads focused on bringing people together following the pandemic.

How sports fans are watching

During the online event, Katie Gilsenan, trends manager at GWI, explained how, over the past two years, sports fans have increasingly watched events online, rather than on TV. Importantly, viewers are scrolling through social media while watching sport. For the Olympics and other events without live audiences she, therefore, emphasised the importance of a multimedia approach.

How to advertise

Cal Knight, head of global agency & platform solutions at Twitter, echoed Gilsenan’s advice on the importance of connecting with brands on social media platforms. “Don’t concentrate your efforts just in the game,” he advised, clarifying that a marketing strategy should be consistent throughout an event. His own research confirmed that when brands advertise before, during and after a sporting event, their ads on Twitter become three times more cost efficient by receiving more engagement.

Knight returned to the novelty of fanless games, saying: “Attention to digital and social is even more paramount that it has been before.”

He encouraged brands to get involved in the conversations surrounding sport, and for events with a time difference, such as the Olympics, to post highlights or updates as people will want to catch up on events happening overnight.

Having fun

Knight also revealed that Twitter’s recent studies had found an 11% increase in positive sentiment around sporting events in the last year. For this reason, the panel all advised: have fun with your advertising. Knight named, for example, Doritos’ engagement with the athlete Christina Clemons, after she wore a pair of Doritos earrings during her Olympic hurdles trials.

“Brands need to not take themselves too seriously,” Knight encouraged, also pointing out that not every marketing strategy has to cost millions, if you are reacting in the moment.

Gilsenan agreed that humour was playing a great role in the current advertising climate. She said: “People want light-hearted, funny content right now.”

She named Aldi’s sporting-commentary analysis of a BBQ as her favourite sporting ad from the summer. She also noted the Twitter engagement of VW’s remote control car that brought the ball onto the pitch at the Euros.

David Grainger, chief strategy officer at iProspect, also highlighted a Euros advert as his favourite sporting ad of the year so far. He named Bud Light’s Euro 2021 Box Heads for the simplicity of its entertainment value.

The Individual Athlete

Gilsenan discussed the trends of younger sports fans, particularly her research that 58% of young people follow athletes on social media. She described how many athletes are becoming bolder in their altruistic values, for example Marcus Rashford on free school meals, Raheem Sterling’s outrage at the racism which followed the Euros, and Naomi Osaka’s outspokenness on mental health.

Gen Z care greatly about these opinions that athletes stand behind, Gilsenan explained, so brands should prioritise the individual sportsperson in their advertising. Winning over future fans means aligning with their values, she simplified: “The individual athlete is now as important as the sport.”

Stuart Smith, EVP, customer success at Mediaocean, added the example of Cristiano Ronaldo removing two bottles of Coca Cola out of shot during a press conference. Although Ronaldo’s actions possibly cost the drinks brand $4 billion, Ikea was quick to take advantage of the live event and appeal to Ronaldo fans by renaming its water bottle Cristiano.

In addition, Knight raised the responsibility of brands to shed light on lower profile athletes who are rising talents. 

Sports documentaries

The panel’s host, Stuart Smith from Mediaocean, asked how brands can take advantage of Amazon’s live sport or sporting documentaries, such as those on Netflix.

Grainger raised a discussion on Tiktok’s recent sponsorship of Wrexham FC in response to an upcoming documentary. The club has been bought by Hollywood stars, Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds, and Tiktok was quick to secure the advertisement opportunity, anticipating the documentary’s success. David observed how, although Wrexham FC is exceptional, there are many ways for brands to move into sport without focusing solely on massive tournaments.

In conclusion, Knight added that most of these documentaries are not ad-supported, so emphasised once again the role of social media. “Twitter and TV go hand-in-hand, a match made in heaven,” he said.

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