How fan engagement is unlocking new approaches to identity

Manny Puentes, general manager of advertising, Genius Sports

Even as consumer attention fragments across devices and unlimited content options, sports remain resilient in their ability to collectively capture audiences — especially the NFL in the U.S. 

According to recent data released by Nielsen, NFL broadcasts accounted for 93 of 2023’s 100 most-watched TV broadcasts. That’s up more than 13% from the prior year and more than 50% from just five years ago. 

Hardcore sports fans and casual watchers drive this engagement, and innovative brands are taking notice and doubling down on their efforts to reach this high-value audience. Brands have consistently recognized the importance of marketing to sports fans — consider the more than $600 million in ad revenue earned yearly at the Super Bowl — and fan data and identity have never been more crucial. 

Given significant shifts in sports broadcasting, including the first NFL playoff game streamed exclusively on Peacock and unavailable on cable, a move from linear broadcasting to streaming is accelerating, meaning brands must be prepared to reach audiences digitally. Coinciding with Google’s deprecation of third-party cookies, brands that expand touchpoints, offer unique sports-engagement products and develop tools and partners to understand fans are making the most of their relationships with these increasingly valuable viewerships. 

Immersive fan engagement tools amplify sports and create data touchpoints

Whether sitting in the stadium or on the living room couch, fans appreciate immersive experiences. 

Whether that’s quizzes for new fans to help them find their team based on their interests or outcome-prediction games for league experts, creative implementations draw attention and build lasting affinities between a brand, fans and their favorite sports. Games like fantasy football provide fans with another layer of enjoyment of the sport, and building on these experiences can enhance the relationship between the brand and the fan.

Not only that, but game and experience interactions also provide the data touchpoints that help them reach these kinds of consumers across channels, especially in a post-third-party-cookie world. 

Sports-based segments offer a holistic view of different audience types for personalization

Brands must ensure they’ve incorporated Google Analytics across all their properties and engagement sites and tools to get a complete understanding of fan behavior. 

This measurement provides baseline insight into consumer profiles and enables a better understanding of fan behavior. Are fans more likely to engage with a brand during game day or the days leading up to it? Are they more likely to interact at home in the evening watching the game or in the office Monday morning when comparing fantasy scores? 

This kind of 360-degree view arms teams with the data needed to reach the fan with a personalized message in the right place at the right time. This can also help build a baseline for sports-based segments, giving brands a more holistic view of their different audience types. 

Successful brands are also using surveys as part of their digital strategy. By asking fans questions, marketing teams gain a better understanding of fans and can incorporate that into a segment that can be added to their identity graph. Questions such as “Do you prefer going to the game in person or watching from home?” allow brands to build fan segments such as game-goers and stay-at-homers.

Savvy marketers then use these segments to drive personalized creative experiences. For example, fans with a likelihood of attending the game are shown specific stadium-based ads, and those at home see marketing for pre-game snacks or entertainment. 

Partnerships with experts in sports widen a brand’s addressable audience

While there’s no shortage of identity solutions on the market, category expertise and data will remain central to successful campaigns. For brands looking to reach sports-based audiences, this means finding partners specializing in understanding fan behavior.  

Partners with deep domain knowledge in sports will optimize the segmentation of fans, empowering brands to nurture relationships across an always-on digital ecosystem. Successful brands work with partners that can integrate their engagement strategies across channels and devices and provide privacy-compliant solutions to use the data in advertising and personalization. 

When brands put the fan first in their marketing strategy, they create lasting, loyal relationships and curate the audience data needed to reach today’s and tomorrow’s fans. 

Sponsored by Genius Sports

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