Tips & Strategies for Sports Advertising & Marketing
Aligning your brand with sporting content can be a valuable strategy for companies looking to engage with a loyal fanbase. Learn more about sports advertising.
Whether it’s football or basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, golf, or NASCAR, sports fans represent a significant and passionate demographic for advertisers to target. With an unparalleled love of the game, this massive audience is highly engaged, and brands can tap into a large and receptive audience that is more likely to pay attention to their brand messaging. The stats speak for themselves:
- 94 of the top 100 telecasts of 2022 were sports events, including 82 NFL games
- 81% of sports consumers either completely or somewhat trust brand sponsorships aligned with sports, and these sponsorships can drive a 10% lift in purchase intent among the exposed fanbase
But what’s the best way to connect with these passionate fans, capture their attention, and increase your sales? For brands looking to jump into TV, streaming, and digital advertising alongside sports content, we’ve collected best-practice tips to connect with sports fans.
What is Sports Advertising?
Sports advertising promotes a brand’s products or services through various marketing channels within the context of sports. Fans are passionate and engaged, and brands can align with the excitement, values, and sense of community that come with supporting a certain team or athlete. Brands often see a halo effect, and aligning with the hometown team or favorite all-star creates positive brand associations that help to drive consumer loyalty.
Additionally, targeting sports fans allows advertisers to tap into a large and engaged audience can be a big win for brands that capitalize on the values, emotional connections, and passion that fans have for their favorite teams and athletes. Doing so can generate brand awareness and visibility while driving consumer engagement and sales.
The Advantages of Sports Advertisements
In aligning with sports content, brands have several ways to score new and repeat business. Opportunities to connect with a large and loyal fanbase, high viewership, and live events are just a few slam dunks any veteran – or a rookie – marketer can add to their scoreboard.
Connect with a Loyal Fanbase
Through thick and thin, fans stick by their teams. They cheer. They boo. In the end, they still love their team – and spend money. Not only do loyal fans help drive revenue, but their connection to your brand will likely last longer than most. Having a loyal fanbase should be the goal of any marketing team.
Build Brand Awareness
Thanks to extensive media coverage on several platforms, sports are a power hitter at building brand awareness. Often considered the first stage of the marketing funnel, creating brand awareness is the first step in reaching audiences with buying power that may be looking for YOUR brand’s products and services, even if they don’t know it yet.
Consider adding the following to your marketing plan to help reach this goal:
- TV, streaming, and digital advertising
- Sponsorships and content partnerships
- Stadium branding
- Athlete endorsements
- Experiential marketing
High Viewership & Live Events
For fans, watching sports on TV is a must. Nielsen finds that 98% of the top 50 most viewed programs on broadcast or free-to-air were sports. Not to mention Super Bowl LVII, which became:
- The third most-watched television event in history, with more than 113 million viewers
- The most-streamed Super Bowl ever, with an average of 7M streams
- The most-streamed event in FOX Sports history
The massive viewership illustrates the power of live events – on linear broadcast and streaming- are key players to add to your marketing roster. Not only do live events like the Super Bowl, March Madness, and Olympics offer a large audience to target, but brands can leverage the excitement and positive emotions associated with the event to create real-time interactions, memorable experiences, and events, resulting in increased brand recognition, loyalty, and trust among consumers.
Better yet, this audience is also less likely to fast-forward through commercials for live events than they are for pre-recorded content. For example, a 2021 survey found that 43% of viewers tune into the Super Bowl just for the commercials! This behavior is due to several reasons.
- Live events offer a real-time experience. Viewers often actively engage in live events and don’t want to miss important moments – even the commercials.
- Viewers do not have control over when commercials air during live events. Broadcast in real-time, a viewer can’t fast-forward ads. This lack of control encourages viewers to watch the commercials rather than skip them.
- Viewers know commercials are part of the experience. As a result, viewers are more inclined to pay attention to the commercials and engage with the advertised content, especially if it is relevant.
- Live events are social experiences, with people gathering to watch and discuss. In such group settings, viewers are less likely to fast-forward through commercials as they may engage in conversations about the game and the commercials.
While it’s important to note that some viewers may still find ways to avoid commercials during live events – changing the channel, taking a bathroom break, or looking at their phone – the right frequency and message can still get people talking.
Big Game, Big Screen, Big Impact
Most sports are on a big screen, and a 2022 study from MediaScience compared ad recall on TV and streaming versus digital environments – or big screens versus little screens. According to the survey, TV has the following advantages:
- TV ads receive more visual attention. Participants watched 71% of TV ads and only 30% of digital mobile ads.
- TV had higher rankings in creative messaging versus digital mobile ads.
- TV gives brands a better first impression. On first exposure, there was 3.4 times better recall for TV ads, leading to a more substantial impact on forming brand memories.
Sports Advertising Opportunities
From Little League to the Big Leagues, the sports calendar is rarely empty, with big events happening all year round.
The Olympic Games represent many things: hard work, dedication, inspirational wins, and heartbreaking losses. Most importantly, the world unites through sport and goodwill. This must-watch event reaches a global audience and, for advertisers, presents a unique opportunity to create a brand experience that touches on all these heartstrings. Here are a few examples of how brands have harnessed the power of the Olympic Games.
It’s a time employers dread: more than $17.8 billion was lost in worker productivity in March, thanks to the NCAA basketball championship. Millions of Americans engage in March Madness each year by watching games, reviewing highlights, and filling out brackets. Advertising around local teams reaffirms a brand’s place in the community, and the March Madness tournament offers advertisers a lot of frequency and exposure.
Beyond 162 regular season games, MLB hosts various events that attract widespread attention, such as the All-Star Game, postseason playoffs, and the World Series. Advertisers can secure sponsorships for these events, gaining exposure during broadcasts, in-stadium branding, and promotional activities associated with these high-profile occasions.
Football & the Superbowl
The NFL dominates viewership in the US, and 82 NFL games were among the top 100 telecasts in 2022. Super Bowl LVII garnered 113 million viewers; the year before, Super Bowl LVI amassed 104.4 million viewers. With a growing audience, aligning with NFL content allows you to move the chains toward the end zone.
FIFA World Cup
Played every four years, the FIFA World Cup is a cultural phenomenon with the power to captivate, motivate, and unite. For one month, the world stops to watch 32 nations on their quest to become champions. In 2022, FIFA reported the championship game – Argentina’s shootout win over France – reached a global audience of 1.5 billion viewers.
The Indianapolis 500 is more than just a race. It’s an entire month of festivities and celebrations. “It’s a huge Indy community celebration,” says Christine Warren, Director of Marketing at TEGNA’s WTHR. “It’s not just a race. It’s a month of celebratory events uniting people throughout the city. There’s a marathon race, parade, concerts, festivals, kids’ activities, and porch parties. There’s so much spirit, pride, and camaraderie!”
Types of Advertisements
Sports marketing offers various advertisements to engage with audiences and promote brands effectively. Some common types of ads in sports marketing include:
TV advertising is still one of the most effective and profitable ways brands can reach a large and engaged audience – especially in sports. In 2022, Sports Business Journal found that 92 of the top 100 largest TV audiences were live sports broadcasts reaching more than 370 million viewers. That’s a lot of eyes that are not only watching the game but watching the commercials that come with it.
Better yet, you don’t have to place a nationwide ad – a best practice for live sports is creating a media plan focusing on local TV advertising during big games and alongside sports-related programming.
With viewership happening on broadcast and streaming platforms, an effective marketing plan will include both. These platforms work together to provide extended reach, advanced targeting, and measurable results, which allow for mid-campaign optimizations and greater ROI. Learn more about the advantages of combining broadcast and streaming TV here.
Digital advertising encompasses a range of online strategies, including banner ads, pre-roll video ads, native ads, social media campaigns, influencer collaborations, and targeted display ads. Digital advertising allows precise targeting, real-time analytics, and the ability to engage with sports fans across various platforms and devices, such as the second screen when looking at their phones during commercial breaks!
Podcasts are growing in popularity among sports fans. In May 2023, TEGNA’s Locked On Podcast Network recorded a new record: 24 million listens and views across all of its podcasts. On top of this large and engaged audience, here are some insights to consider:
- The Video Advertising Bureau says podcasting is the “peanut butter to TVs jelly,” and “adding podcasts to the media mix can build consideration and purchase intent.”
- The Edison Research Podcast Super Listener Report found that 86% of people who frequently listen to podcasts say they recall ads on podcasts more than any other channel – even more than social media.
- The same report found that 65% of avid podcast listeners say they have purchased a product or service from a brand they heard advertised on a podcast.
- Ad Results Media found that 49% of podcast listeners say their opinion of a company is more positive when they hear it mentioned on their favorite podcast.
Podcasts offer a targeted and engaged audience of sports enthusiasts, providing an excellent opportunity for advertisers to reach a dedicated and loyal fan base. It’s important to select podcasts that align with the brand’s target audience and values to maximize the impact of podcast advertising.
6 Tips for Sports Advertising Campaigns
Every successful sports advertising campaign requires creativity, strategic thinking, and a deep understanding of your target audience. By implementing the following tips, you can create compelling and impactful campaigns that connect with sports enthusiasts and drive desired outcomes for your brand.
1. Focus on the Fans
Understanding your target audience will help you tailor your advertising campaign to resonate with them. Creating Persona Profiles is a great way to get started and get to know these fans. Learn about their rituals, traditions, and emotional connection with their favorite sport. Incorporate these elements into your campaign to create a sense of belonging and camaraderie.
You can encourage fans to create and share their content. Run contests or campaigns that invite fans to submit their photos, videos, or stories. You can promote fan meet-ups, organize watch parties, or host fan forums where they can share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences while creating user-generated content for your advertising efforts.
Also, consider tailoring your advertising messages to make fans feel special and connected. Use fan data and insights to deliver personalized content, offers, or experiences. Addressing fans by their names, acknowledging their loyalty, and rewarding them for their support can go a long way in building a deeper connection.
2. Leverage Content Sponsorships
You don’t have to advertise within a big game to win with sports marketing. A content sponsorship – whether at the high-school or professional level can be just as engaging and effective as a Super Bowl ad. WUSA’s Game Day Guru is one example of how a brand can align with sports content through content sponsorship to make meaningful connections in the local community.
3. Create Emotional Connections
Sports have the power to inspire the masses, and so does your brand. When audiences connect emotionally to an ad, it improves brand awareness, recall, and purchase intent. Capitalize on the emotions that sports spark and turn them into a brand message that creates a relatable situation while showcasing how your brand can help solve a problem. P&G’s ‘Thank You Mom’ is one example, widely considered one of the best Olympic advertisements ever.
4. Hit a Homerun with Humor
Humor captures attention, makes audiences laugh, and humanizes your brand to improve recall. Oracle found that 91% of Americans prefer brands that use humor in advertising, especially Gen Z (94%) and Millennials (94%). Humor is the most wonderful way to sell a product, but it must be done right. I like to think it’s because we’ve all had funny moments in our lives, so humor hits at all of us, just on a basic human level. True humor in advertising should be tackled and addressed by a copywriter experienced in writing it. Otherwise, it can come off as cheesy and mostly ineffective. You don’t want to turn your potential customers off.
5. Create a Sense of Community by Leveraging Local
Community is more important than ever, and sports fans are attracted to the community that comes with their team. Local TV advertising – allows brands to showcase their commitment to the community, which in turn helps to generate trust and further build brand awareness.
6. Create a Cross-Channel Strategy
Championship teams don’t have a single strategy to win games, nor should your brand. A cross-channel strategy is key to winning business. We recommend using the power of combining broadcast TV and streaming to build a powerful brand image, then using digital and podcasting to reinforce that message.
Examples of Successful Sports Advertisements
The Farmer’s Dog Walks in a Super Bowl Win
Of the 50+ ads aired during Super Bowl LVII, USA Today’s Ad Meter crowned The Farmer’s Dog as the night’s champion. Much like Google’s emotional Loretta ad that stole the show in 2020, The Farmer’s Dog stirs emotions as we follow Bear, a chocolate lab growing up alongside his owner, Ava, from her childhood to having a child of her own.
“Shrewd marketers utilize their Super Bowl campaigns well beyond the Lombardi Trophy presentation to continue conversations with consumers on digital, social, and streaming platforms,” says Tim Fagan, SVP, Chief Revenue Officer at TEGNA. “It is a story-telling opportunity like no other, which makes it simply the Mecca of marketing opportunities.”
Spencer’s TV & Appliance Team Up with KPNX for Big Olympic TV Giveaway
Spencer’s TV & Appliance wanted its customers to see the Tokyo Olympics bigger and better than ever — the retailer gave away 65-inch TVs to 12 lucky people in the greater Phoenix area. Here’s how TEGNA station and NBC-affiliate KPNX are helping amplify this message and improve brand recall for Spencer’s.
“We are always giving back to the community. We are 100% red, white, and blue. Any opportunity we have with KPNX to do something community-driven that represents our country, like the Olympics, we’re definitely on board,” says Anthony Conti, Director, Digital Marketing at Spencer’s.
By The Yard Generates Results with Quirky Commercials
“Our goal in our Olympic sponsorship has always been to create memorable campaigns and stay true to our brand. We are a small, family-owned business, and it’s essential that we represent that,” says Leah Steidl of By the Yard. “Some By The Yard family members can even be seen in some spots, giving it that real hometown feel.
“We love it when customers come into our showrooms or wherever they see us and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I remember when I saw your chair swimming in the pool,’” says Steidl. “That’s always our goal, to create a memorable, funny, tongue-in-cheek campaign. We create that moment for them, and it kind of gets them talking and keeps us top of mind.”
Advertise with Team TEGNA
Our ultimate goal is to equip brands with insights to capture the hearts and minds of sports fans nationwide. Team TEGNA knows the power of cross-platform ad campaigns that combine TV, streaming, and digital assets, and we’re ready to jump-start your campaign today. With 64 broadcast stations in 51 markets nationwide, TEGNA has a unique ability to reach drivers across Broadcast, OTT Streaming, and digital solutions. Contact us today to see how we can accelerate your advertising.