Sports and CTV advertising

5 min read·Dec 20, 2022

Summer is the best. Because of beaches and ice cream and sitcom reruns? No, because it’s the season for America’s national pastime! Baseball has been the “godfather of sports” for over a century now, but you might be surprised where people are catching their games lately. Sports content streaming is one of the fastest growing content categories for CTV and OTT. Want to give it a try? We’ll pitch you a soft ball.

It’s time to dream of the big leagues again

Primetime TV advertising is no longer the exclusive province of Fortune 500 companies for two main reasons: supply and availability are at an all-time high which means that prices have gone way down. You might wonder which came first, but the result remains the same: advertisers in search of better, more trackable performance have abandoned upfront commitments in droves, and major networks have made way more in-game inventory available on streaming channels to recoup the revenue loss.

Early last year, the Super Bowl saw its traditional TV ratings take a dramatic plunge; however, according to CBS, the Big Game pulled in an average of 5.7 million streamers per minute, a surge of 68 percent when compared to 2020.

In fact, according to a recent Trade Desk study, 74 percent of marketers report that buying CTV ads in conjunction with live sporting events can be more cost effective and impactful than classic sports sponsorships.

This momentous shift would be reason enough to increase budget for CTV sports advertising on its own, but add the vagaries of a hotly contested midterm election cycle, and linear TV prices (and time slots) will be too tight for all but the most extravagant ad budgets. Election years mean much higher rates of competition for ad spots due to political campaign spending, pushing mid-level marketers out of the picture.

But thanks to hyper-targeting, CTV levels the playing field and prevents political ads from hijacking the spotlight. Viewers can watch the same game on streaming as they would on traditional broadcast, being served political campaign after political campaign.

An enviable guest list

This MLB season, the CTV party is the place to be, with an audience that’s ticking all the right boxes. It’s faithful, it’s engaged, it’s curious, it’s affluent. Over the last couple of years, with the surge of cord-cutting, mainstream sports audiences are switching platforms but maintaining their viewing habits: watching programs in one hour or longer stretches, with a second device in hand. That means they are more likely to see your ad and to act on it in a trackable way. We would call that a home run.  

Need some stats before you make the big trade? Let’s check’em out:

  • According to the Future of TV report,  44% of sports watchers are consuming their favorite sports outside of linear TV, and that figure rises to 65% among adults ages 18-34.
  • According to multi-market Scarborough research from 2020-2021, the median household income of sports streamers was $92,100, and the linear sports viewers was $78,900. The higher income audience is attractive to many advertisers.
  • According to the Nielsen Sports Fan Insights Study in 2022, sports streamers are nearly 70% more likely to take action after seeing a brand during a live game.

Other findings from the report show that Live sports streamers run across all age segments, and are more likely to discover new products, remember ads, and make a purchase than traditional TV viewers.

Let’s look under the hood

Ok, so the price is right, the audience is primed, but what about formatting? Is it just a cheaper version of unattributable linear TV advertising? What kind of horsepower are we working with here? We’re glad you asked.

Working with an agile CTV platform with premium channel partnerships now allows advertisers to take advantage of unexpected spikes in viewership for nail biters, overtime, or unpredictable game drama to create opportunities to reach highly engaged fans.

The flexible CTV format also affords marketers the opportunity to advertise in-game, outside of a traditional ad pod. Seeing the ad come up during the action is a very powerful opportunity for visibility.

How to hit it out of the park

Ready to get in the game? Here is a list of strategic plays:

  • Scale isn’t always guaranteed with live sports, so make sure to keep your other targeting verticals to a minimum so your campaign hits its reach goals.
  • Again, in the interest of hitting reach goals, segment your campaign delivery channels by sport type or channel, rather than by specific sporting event so you can serve out those impressions over a longer stretch of time.
  • Be device agnostic with your campaigns. According to a recent study by Burst Media, a rapidly increasing amount of live sports fans are watching games on phones and tablets, sometimes even with a different game on their Connected TV at the same time. Cutting out sports fans on desktop or mobile can be a significant missed opportunity.
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