The Impact of the Changing Dynamics of Fandom on Advertisers

Blog / 06.01.2022

With the rise of online content and streaming services, sports fandom is changing. Choice is now abundant and fans can watch their favorite teams from anywhere. Whereas local markets used to dictate what games were available, new technology makes a person's favorite team as accessible as any program they might choose to watch. There are San Antonio Spurs fans in Spokane just as there are New Jersey Devils fans in Birmingham. The localization of sports fandom is a thing of the past.

This shift also impacts how advertisers should view their marketing opportunities. Brands can reach passionate fans in their desired market, not just through placements on a local broadcast but also via streaming and OTT services that provide access to every fan watching live sports in that market. By embracing these digital avenues, brands can connect with fans regardless of who they cheer for.

It is critical for brands to understand the changing dynamics of sports fandom because of the rise of digital technology. Adapting to this shift and anticipating what is coming next is key to maximizing return on ad spend.

The status quo of sports advertising

Sports advertising before the rise of digital was localized, predictable, and hard to track. Local markets dictated what games were available, so fans had little choice in what they watched. This lack of choice made it easy for advertisers to predict when and where their target audience would be watching.

Because viewers were captive to whatever game was being broadcast in their area, advertisers could rely on repeat viewership and long-term campaigns. Even if viewership dwindled as weeks and months passed by, passionate fans would still tune in. Relationships with these potential customers could be built over time as a season wore on. It was easy to imagine that a viewer of the first game of the season would likely watch the same team throughout the year on the same cable channel. After all, there was not a lot of choice to be had.

Digital is changing the game for advertisers

The rise of online content and streaming services has changed the landscape of sports fandom. Fans can now watch their favorite teams from anywhere, and they have a variety of choices when it comes to what games they watch. The first change came when cable providers began offering packages like the NFL Sunday Ticket, NBA League Pass, or MLB Extra Innings. These offerings gave viewers the chance to watch any team any time there was a game.

Soon after, OTT streaming services gave fans even more platforms from which to watch their favorite teams. The teams and leagues themselves have even gotten in on the act, offering certain games directly to fans. Leagues provide their own applications so that every game outside of the market is accessible to fans regardless of the fan’s location. In recent years, well-known brands like Yahoo, Amazon, and YouTube have bid on the right to broadcast certain games. Streaming services now include sports packages as well. For example, NBC's Peacock app broadcasts a near-full slate of English Premier League matches and Australian Rugby matches.

This shift has made it more difficult for advertisers to reach their target audience. Fans are no longer always local, and out-of-market fans are on the rise. The variety of choices creates uncertainty about when and where viewers will be watching. It is critical that brands and sponsors find fans wherever they may be if they are to maximize ROI on advertising investments.

What Smart Brands are Doing to Embrace this Change

Smart brands are approaching advertising differently in the age of digital sports fandom. They are looking for untapped areas of opportunity and using data to measure effectiveness. By embracing these changes, they are able to connect with fans wherever they are.

All markets have significant quantities of fans that cheer for an out-of-market team. Because of streaming and OTT services, these fans can watch their favorite teams even if that team’s actual market is thousands of miles away. Smart advertisers are finding a way to reach these fans.

Advertisers now have the ability to reach those fans through digital channels even if they are watching an out-of-market team. For example, with Cast Iron Media, a Yankees fan in Los Angeles can see advertisements for Ralph’s instead of Wegmans.

Think differently

Audiences watching their favorite teams on streaming or OTT services are more likely to be highly engaged compared to someone watching on a standard broadcast. It stands to reason that more passionate fans are the ones taking on the additional effort - and additional cost - that comes with subscribing to a different service to see out-of-market games and events.

Savvy advertisers can use this engagement to design and tailor campaigns that tap into that fanaticism. Discounts and special offers oriented around a passion for the game can be more effective than the less specific or less targeted advertising found so often on bradcast networks. Connecting with fans through streaming services provides brands the opportunity to break out of providing “one size fits all” campaigns in favor of campaigns that recognize the passion for the game of the audience.

Follow the data

In the past, it was difficult to measure the effectiveness of an ad campaign. But with digital streaming, there is now a wealth of data available that can be used to track and measure success. This data can be used not only to assess whether an ad reached its target audience but also how effective it was.

Tracking campaigns on a regular basis gives advertisers the chance to make changes and course-correct during the season. From changing creative to increasing (or decreasing) placements, advertisers can actively maximize ROAS instead of leaving campaign success to chance.

What's Next for Sports Advertising?

The future of sports advertising is likely to be even more digital. With the rise of cord-cutting and streaming services, more and more people are watching their favorite teams on Connected TVs. This trend is only projected to continue, and smart brands will need to adapt.

To stay ahead of the curve, brands should keep an eye on new platforms and services. They should experiment with different ways of reaching their target audience. And they should use data to measure effectiveness and optimize their campaigns. By doing so, they can ensure that they are connecting with fans wherever they are.

To stay ahead of the curve, brands should consider all available options when it comes to advertising. This means looking beyond traditional in-market broadcasts that only connected with a fraction of the sports viewership and embracing league platforms that provide access to the entire market. By doing so, they can reach sports fans regardless of who they cheer for

Getting the Most Out of Your Sports Ad Spend

The rise of digital sports fandom has changed the landscape of sports advertising. Local markets no longer dictate what games are available, and fans have a variety of choices when it comes to what they watch. This shift has made it more difficult for advertisers to reach their target audience. However, smart brands are embracing this change and looking for untapped areas of opportunity. By doing so, they are able to connect with fans wherever they are.

Cast Iron Media helps advertisers maximize their sports advertising investments. Leading brands like Nissan and Mcdonald's trust Cast Iron to tailor custom solutions that reach fans where they are and enhance the fan experience. To better understand how Cast Iron Media can help your organization be effective in this new advertising paradigm, contact us here.

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