The NFL season is here. Fans across the country are stacking their Fantasy Football teams and pulling out their favorite chip-and-dip combos to watch the games with much anticipation and enthusiasm.
Advertising strategies from past sporting events are precedent for many digital events to come, both the mistakes made (looking at you, NBC Olympics) and tactics that worked. Today's consumers are looking for engagement beyond traditional advertising. So choosing not to leverage digital channels during a time of high media influence would be as useful to your brand as not advertising during the event at all. In fact, it could be detrimental to your brand if you choose to advertise during media events without leveraging digital channels.
The Super Bowl may be the culmination of the football season, and traditionally the most popular time for advertising, but that doesn't mean brands shouldn't be working throughout the season to target fans across the country. Below are six tips to help you do just that:
- Target users in relative time, not necessarily real-time, to avoid spoiler alerts. Advertisers are increasingly turning to real-time targeting. While this certainly is a useful tactic, marketers also need to consider relative-time targeting. You can leverage geographic location to target people based on time zone, but what about people who are watching delayed broadcasts? Be sure that your online and social campaigns are timed to accommodate when viewers are watching the game.
- Be flexible and fast. Reacting quickly to plays in the games can have a significant positive impact on an advertisement. Targeting a user on a hyper-timely topic before competing brands have a chance to reach them is critical. In this example from the Olympics, consumers were impressed with the commercial's quick reaction to an event that happened only seconds prior. What's more, the moment when Rebecca Soni won gold in the 200-meter breaststroke is now associated with the Samsung Galaxy. That's powerful brand association. This NFL season, campaigns need to be flexible to have more impact, and to do that, technology needs to be in place that allows for these rapid changes and deployments.
- Be prepared for traffic spikes to avoid buffering and frustrating consumers. Engaging with consumers during major sporting events can have a positive impact on brands. It can also put strains on websites by quickly generating traffic spikes. Brands must have the resources in place to support digital-minded consumers and avoid latency problems and downtime. Partnering with a third-party vendor can help to offload some of the strain and ensure quality content is delivered and uninterrupted.
- Connect with consumers where they are relative to location and device. Mobile device users are accessing live content on their devices more and more, especially to stay current with their favorite sports teams when a TV might not be available. At a minimum, marketers need to serve ads relevant to consumers' geographies with location-based offers, making sure a Giants fan doesn't see an ad for Tom Brady promoting Uggs. With the advancements in technology and capabilities, it's easier to drive more traffic to websites through mobile devices or the desktop. Brands can now more effectively target users and serve up content to any device.
- Tell a relevant story, make it real and uplifting. If you're targeting consumers watching the NFL, you already know at least one thing they are interested in—football. Live sporting events offer unique opportunities for brands to make their ads more relevant by capitalizing on the content consumers are watching. Wouldn't it make sense to air an ad with Tom Brady during a New England Patriots game, because you already know that it will pique the interest of most people watching? Sports media also offer a unique opportunity for brands to use the excitement of a live event to connect with viewers' everyday lives. Ads resonate well with consumers and can inspire them if the themes echo the programming that they are watching.
- Don't forget to socialize. Brands should integrate and publicize their social presence during major media events. Call it the "socialization of the NFL," or the media event du jour. Brands can also leverage traditional advertising to drive users to their mobile apps and social networks. We saw companies like Bud Light do this last year and we're sure to see more of it during the upcoming 2012 season. Oh, and don't forget to target those Fantasy Football fans by optimizing your content for online delivery to any device.
Social media, mobile technology and the accessibility of online video have all contributed to the changing advertising landscape. As content is increasingly consumed anytime and anywhere, and as real-time ads become a marketing priority, we will see many traditional brands and newcomers begin to leverage more digital channels through online streaming or mobile device strategies.
Martin Hayward is the director of marketing at Tewksbury, Mass.-based Mirror Image Internet, a provider of real-time solutions-as-a-service capabilities for online companies. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.