While television viewing continues to become more fragmented, and ratings for primetime entertainment programming declines each year, live sports on television continues to be one of the most desirable places for marketers to put their ad dollars.
A recent report by Magna Global, the strategic media unit of IPG Mediabrands, titled Why Sports Persevere, describes live sports as “the ultimate custom experience for marketers’ brands,” and Kevin Collins, senior VP, sports investment, says, “It’s critical to create high-touch partnerships between our clients and media owners that are brand-defining, and that will continue to be our goal.”
While televised sports is often the way to reach the most consumers, the report points out that avid sports fans are also more likely than the general audience to be reached by other media outlets such as radio and magazines, and of course, online.
“The best outlet for reaching younger sports enthusiasts varies by day of the week and time of day,” the report says, but “radio is the dominant medium on weekdays.”
While the report is global in scope, it points out that the U.S. leads the world in sheer amount of sports content available to the consumer 24 hours per day. In the U.S. alone, there are 21 24-hour national TV networks and 60-plus regional sports networks. These networks put on a combined 650,000-plus hours of sports programming per year. There are also 900-plus sports radio stations in the U.S., 178 online sport portals with at least a million monthly visitors and 32,500 sports apps in the iTunes App Store, including games.
The average 18-49 male sports fan in the U.S. consumed 8.6 hours per week of sports content in 2013. And the more avid sports fans have higher income and are more educated than the population in general. The report, citing Nielsen data, says heavy male sports viewers have a median income of $67,400, 40% have four years or more of college and are more likely to work in a professional or managerial position than general audience viewers.
While the mass audience of the recent World Cup soccer telecasts on ESPN/ABC and Univision was well documented during the tournament, soccer viewership in the U.S. has been growing since 2009. The number of white, non-Hispanics watching soccer on television has grown 24%, according to Nielsen data contained in the report.
Here are some other growth data highlights:
• The U.S. television ad revenue generated by sports has increased by $4.1 billion since 2008, reaching $12.4 billion in 2013.
• Sports ad spending on national TV has increased every year for the past seven years through 2013—even during the great recession in 2009.
• Ad spending for nationally televised sports in the U.S. has outpaced national TV growth as a whole.
• The share of sports spend within national TV has increased among key categories such as autos, telecom and entertainment.
• Multichannel subscriptions are stable, and sports has played a significant role in keeping it that way.
• The gap between the ad revenue TV networks take in and what they pay out in rights fees is set to grow even wider.
While ESPN’s SportsCenter franchise is not a sports event, the report still calls it a powerful ad revenue provider for the network. It takes in about $739 million a year and pays out no rights fees, so it is a pure revenue generator for ESPN. In fact, it takes in more ad dollars than most sports leagues.
Bringing Brand and Viewer Together
In the report, Brian Hughes, senior VP, audience analysis practice lead at Magna Global, does a Q&A with Jackie Woodward, VP, marketing connections, MillerCoors.
Woodward says while it’s a no-brainer that large numbers of guys like both beer and sports, the company, with its agency Initiative, builds a “precision strategy” both nationally and locally in every market where the MillerCoors brands can be paired “to the right sports and the right consumer.”
Woodward says it’s more than just throwing some commercials on the air.
“Our planning collaboration with Initiative is sophisticated and robust,” she says. “Every year we delve much more deeply into demographics. We look at behavioral nuances of the consumers of each of the brands in our portfolio. We spend a lot of time understanding the places and spaces that consumers are engaging with our brand. We’re increasingly focused on getting the right message to consumers at the right place, at the right time.”
The goal of the Magna Global report is to help marketers get a solid grasp on the sports marketplace and to help them make their ad investments more wisely.
Says Magna Global’s Collins, who is also VP, director of national broadcast for Initiative, “As video consumption becomes increasingly on-demand, there is unquestionably value in live sporting events that get people in front of the set, as well as commenting in real time on social networks. With the explosion of the sports media landscape, the opportunities for compelling brand content are truly limitless.”