Whether it’s MetLife Stadium in the New York subway or Lumen Field in Seattle, American sports arenas have been filling up for several months. And with that, every marketer has the ability to follow the fans through the turnstiles.
Thanks to technology and sweeping changes in the way outdoor advertising is sold and served, marketing at major sporting events has never been more accessible to brands or more engaging.
We all know from personal experiences (let’s go Bills!) that fans are loyal, deeply emotionally invested in their teams, and deeply caring when attending in-person events. And the big spenders among them tend to be well off. Nothing new there.
What’s new is that fans now have higher expectations for the in-person experience. If we’re willing to pay $10 for a hot dog, the overall experience should also give fans more fun, engaging, and memorable reasons to get off the couch and into the stadium. Savvy marketers can now join them there.
Here’s how sports and entertainment site marketing is changing and how brands can harness the power of live sports in person.
The playing field is level
For decades, stadium advertising was the domain of a few dozen mega-brands that could afford to buy the naming rights or become the official beer or snack maker of a favorite team. Even today, most static OOH traffic signs are reserved.
But thanks to advances in digital delivery, the mid-stage can create new inventory as needed with short lead times. Mobile fan experience apps also offer new promotional opportunities. And the OG brand cries of beloved stadium announcers still ring true for fans.
The web is rich
Because traditional sponsors mostly locked up static inventory, in some stadiums fans found themselves staring at the same logos for years. Creativity was often generic: drink that beer, remember that bank, visit that dealership.
Now that so many stadium advertising spaces are vibrant, brands can deliver timely messages using much more memorable and relevant creatives. We see movie studios using digital ribbons to promote a feature that drops that day in this city while showing the trailer on the giant screen and incorporating custom activations that unite the film with fans of this team throughout the game.
The interactive experience has a tail
For much of its history, stadium marketing was simply a vehicle for raising awareness. But today, with the ubiquity of mobile devices, as well as the increased use of digital ticketing and stadium apps, brands can sponsor interactive quizzes or games, incorporate call-in messages to action and monitor the real impact.
Marketers can use QR codes to gauge post-event purchases or use geofencing technology (which records the presence of a tracking device within a certain radius) to track visitors after they leave the event. So when that movie trailer is shared via digital signage during a game, a follow-up promotion can be targeted to fans later when they browse a news site or social media. What was once a low ROI vehicle is now flexible, relevant and actionable.
There’s a quirk for marketers looking to tap into stadium advertising: unlike other digital advertising markets, there’s no single portal that facilitates media shopping in sprawling stadiums.
Teams and site operators still control ad inventory, pricing, and sales individually, a system that hasn’t evolved with ad offerings. Each stadium has its own unique combination of ad products, resulting in complex and time-consuming campaign management. In fact, a major league baseball stadium has more than 20 LED billboard advertising format specifications, in addition to outdoor video billboard, contest television network screens and other digital signage options throughout the stadium.
This creates quite a heavy load on a brand’s media planning and creative teams, especially when a campaign spans multiple teams at once. That said, for a growing number of brands and marketers, the effort is worth it.
If the past two years have proven anything, it’s that nothing can replace the excitement of in-person events. This is why sport is the multi-billion dollar business that it is. But there’s no reason the fans should be the only ones cheering. Any marketer who innovates and learns to take advantage of the revival of the fan experience will also find cause for applause.