Why CTV is the next big branding channel for sports advertisers 

Matt Ryter, vice president, sales, Genius Sports

Brands targeting sports audiences already know that reaching fans is getting harder and more expensive by the day. The costs of traditional advertising channels like linear TV are rising, while the price of a sponsorship splash with a league or team leaves many brands frozen out.

Since sports fans are an unrivaled top-of-the-funnel audience in terms of scale and the emotion the live game evokes gives brands an unmatched way to connect, the question becomes: how can marketing teams get all the same benefits of traditional TV advertising, without breaking the bank, in a world without third-party cookie targeting? 

For many brands, the answer is connected TV. Given that 76% of TV households now own a smart TV, and sports audiences are growing fragmented across multiple platforms and devices, CTV is fast becoming a vital part of the marketing mix for sports advertisers.

CTV ads extend the impact of traditional sports sponsorships

According to a survey by AppsFlyer, 98% of businesses believe that CTV advertising will be bigger than mobile advertising, with a quarter believing it will happen in the next 2 or 3 years. Netflix and Disney+ introduced ad-supported tiers to their streaming platforms at the end of last year, and with the consumption of ad-supported streaming services on the rise, it’s no surprise that CTV spend is increasing

The opportunity is especially impactful for brands looking to reach sports audiences, with more sports adopting streaming options such as Major League Soccer (MLS) on Apple TV. The Trade Desk and YouGov report that 74% of marketers believe buying CTV ads in conjunction with live sports is more impactful than a classic sports sponsorship. 

Viewership via smart TV and CTV devices rose consistently at recent sporting events. For example, Conviva reports 72% of fans that streamed Super Bowl LVI did so via a connected TV or smart TV device, with just 5% tuning in via desktop.

Still, for advertisers targeting sports audiences, CTV is a relatively untapped part of the digital marketing mix. It boasts the advantages other digital marketing channels have over linear TV advertising, including audience targeting and the ability to update creative dynamically.

Contextual targeting and dynamic video gives sports advertisers more control

With CTV, brands reach sports fans via streaming apps like ESPN+, Peacock, and Prime Video with messaging that automatically updates based on their location, viewing history, or the big sports game in their area that weekend.

CTV relies on IP data and geo-location, meaning brands serve highly contextual, targeted video ads that don’t rely on third-party cookies. Ads are served programmatically, using the same buying mechanism as programmatic display, making them great for audience targeting and simple to measure. This opens up a host of opportunities for advertisers to create engaging, relevant content that hits sports fans at the right moments.

Furthermore, CTV’s targeting capabilities give advertisers more control over who they reach and when. With that data, marketers can reduce budget waste and confidently communicate their message to the right audience at the most impactful times.

The ability to design and serve CTV ads that are dynamically designed and updated to match what’s happening in live games means fans will always see creative and messaging that’s hyper-relevant and contextual.

Dynamic creative works like other formats, so campaign creative can include team logos, kick-off countdowns, real-time game, player and team stats and QR codes to keep ads fresh, relevant and memorable.

As part of a single campaign, advertisers could serve a Knicks fan in New York with one automated ad related to their interests and location and a Lakers fan in L.A. with another automated ad.

An added benefit of CTV is that with non-skippable ads and 100% viewable units, advertisers can increase their video completion rates and stay top-of-mind for sports fans for longer.

Planning ahead to capitalize on upcoming live sports programming

While traditional advertising channels become more expensive and decline in efficacy, CTV is becoming a critical method of reaching sports fans at scale. Cost-effective, hyper-relevant and not reliant on cookies, it’s an invaluable way to connect with fans and drive brand awareness and conversions.

Between now and the close of 2023, there is plenty of live sports programming for brands to capitalize on. The NBA Finals, NFL and college football seasons are streamed across numerous platforms and provide great opportunities. But advertisers are catching on, and demand for CTV ad slots is fierce. With the dramatic acceleration of CTV, the opportunities are growing for advertisers to leverage the channel’s targeting capabilities and dynamic creative to reach tuned-in sports audiences.

Sponsored by Genius Sports


More from Digiday

The era of the in-depth brand and gaming creator partnership has arrived

To reach gamers outside of video games, brands have moved beyond one-off activations based on specific intellectual properties toward more fully integrated programs that span across all aspects of a creator’s community and fandom.

Companies seem determined to make everything a retail media network. How did we get here?

Brands are leveraging retail media to push the boundaries of where and how we can shop. How did we get here?

Sifting through ‘the noise’: AI tools for HR are evolving fast – here’s how to catch up

Like with all emerging tech, sorting the useful from the useless, is critical and time-consuming.