Live Sports is a Unicorn, Here’s What Brands Should Think About For Game Day

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Live sports are one of the last remaining live viewership opportunities, which makes it an important moment for brands, but also one that is fleeting and needs to be supported with a robust pre and post strategy.  Live sports are best viewed in real-time, and quickly afterwards, become old news. But, with proper alignment of audience and messaging, brands can create a meaningful impact.

Live sports aren’t simply events. They provoke emotion. Live games provide  an atmosphere and a connection to something real and tangible an outcome of satisfaction (or perhaps desperation if you’re a Dolphins or Knicks fan). It’s these feelings that brands need to tap into.

Carry the Message Through.

Even during the largest events on the planet (i.e. Super Bowl, World Series, etc.) brands must integrate their sponsored ads into the game, and then follow through with a plan that has the message at its core. It’s a fundamental requirement for a successful campaign. A one and done does not work when it comes to live sports. We have worked on 12 Super Bowl Games with our clients, and can safely say that planning is imperative. If a brand is running a spot during the Super Bowl and doesn’t have a thorough pre and post-game continuity plan, it is wasted money. Consumers are sure to forget about your brand within 48 hours, or less. To ensure success, you need to build messaging and on-site delivery as well as activation, and then a post strategy that builds credibility and reliability for consumers.

Don’t forget the Apps.

With the growth of live sports via apps like ESPN+ and DAZN, thought must be given to integrating brand messaging in programming and on-the-ground event activations, and to the viewership confines of what may be seen on consumer devices, including TV, phone, connected TV, etc.

It’s important to consider the way consumers are viewing this content, in real time. They want to watch live, so you must be prepared to engage that audience wherever they are located.

Ensure that your messaging is shown across platforms and strive to engage those digital viewers with other assets, including social media and game statistic platforms. There are many games that consumers can’t access in their local markets, which means game trackers get high viewership and should be targeted by brands, accordingly.

Align With Media Channels.

Brands often invest in onsite execution at sporting events from billboards, to executions on the field in the shape of a jersey, equipment sponsorship, etc.

No matter what, it has to be aligned with media in some capacity. Firestone for example is “The Official Tire of The Indianapolis 500” yet they don’t stop there. They engage race fans via TV, connected devices, search and social media buys, as well as on-site, where they activate content that is shared on social media, featuring racers such as Josef Newgarden, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon and Mario Andretti. It’s a comprehensive approach to reaching the target consumer in all places, while providing an emotional connection to the sport, the athlete and the brand.

If brands want to get the full potential from sponsorship, they need to really engage within that platform and beyond in a unique and thoughtful way.

Be authentic.

When it comes to live sports, if brands want to be authentic, they need to understand how they are going to attach their authenticity to a sport or athlete, OR to the audience.

Brands need to consider how their product’s attributes relate to the sport they are engaging with, or, they need to be humorous and relatable to the audience.

Authenticity is always important, no matter what field of the industry you play in (pun intended). However, when it comes to live sports, if brands want to be authentic, they need to understand how they are going to attach their authenticity to a sport or athlete, OR to the audience. Recall the Campbell’s Soup ad with Clay Matthews? In it, he was called a ‘Mama’s Boy’ and his Momma was there to serve him a meal of – you guessed it, Campbell’s Soup. There was zero focus unintentional or otherwise on how the soup would increase his athletic performance, because everyone knows it won’t. But it was relatable. Mom and a meal. Authentic.

Continuity is also key, and engagement needs to be maintained throughout the season wherever possible. It’s not good enough to simply run ads periodically or in the short term. Sports are seasonal, there are a lot of games and there is a lot of content out there. Engage for its entirety or you will be lost.

Over the last couple of years, we have been fortunate to experience some great content from a company founded by Tom Brady, Michael Strahan and Gotham Chopra called Religion of Sports. And at its essence, that’s what sport is. A Religion – a following, a belief, a faith, a sense of belonging to something greater than oneself. As ROS stats, “show up and miracles happen.” And as a brand you need to be part of those miracles.

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