While marketers are reallocating their TV ad dollars to digital, their demand for commercials during live sports events shows no sign of declining. In fact, according to Kantar Media and MoffettNathanson Research, 37 percent of network TV’s ad revenue was generated from sports programming in 2015, which is an 8 percent jump from 2012. In comparison, ad sales from non-sports units have slumped during the same period.
The popularity of live sports advertising is best manifested in the spiraling cost of a 30-second spot during Super Bowl: the price has grown 75 percent in the last decade, reaching a whopping $5 million price tag this year.
Sports watching is a real-time, in-the-moment viewing experience, and that’s why live sports is so lucrative. People almost never record sports shows and watch them later, therefore ads served during commercial breaks are much more likely to be seen.
This is a deal-breaker for advertisers whose concern over ad viewability continues to rise. More importantly, live sports watching is inherently interactive, contrary to the typical “laid-back” TV viewing model. This means that advertisers will be able to target not only a large audience tuned in at the same time, but also a highly engaged one ready to consume content.
However, reaching the TV sports audience is knowingly expensive. Are there any alternative “skip-proof” advertisements that brands can leverage to have the same level of impact? Digital media entities have been pushing above and beyond to create ad units that address the viewability issue, from interactive display ads that demand user actions to auto-play pre-roll video ads.
In spite of these efforts, less than half of total ad impressions in 2014 were viewable according to Comscore’s data. To make matters worse, ad blocking software is shown to be used by 40 percent of the U.S. population and Apple recently rolled out an optional ad-blocker app that wipes out mobile ads.
What about ads on social media sites? Display ads, video pre-rolls, and promoted posts on social platforms have been gaining traction in recent years as people spend more and more of their time social networking. Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube have all pledged to charging advertisers only on viewable ads. However, each platform has a very different definition of what counts as a “view.”
For instance, Facebook considers a display ad as viewable the second it loads on a user’s screen, no matter how long it’s been displayed or whether it’s displayed in its entirety; while Twitter ads are counted as viewable only when a user interaction occurs. In addition, as social platforms get increasingly aggressive about their advertising models, so does the concern over ad quality and user experience. According to eMarketer’s 2014 survey, 50 percent of female social media users ignore ads they come across. Earlier this year, Digiday has also reported that 75 percent of Snapchat users drop off after three seconds of seeing ads.
Influencer advertisements, on the other hand, solve both the problem of viewability and ad disruption. When ad is the content and content is the ad, brands will not only avoid wasting their money on skipped ads, but also maximize their return on ad dollars by gaining the same, if not higher level of audience engagement as the organic content would.
More importantly, social media users crave content produced by their beloved influencers just like sports fans anxiously wait for their favorite teams’ next games. In this sense, influencer marketing is like the new TV ad during live sports, albeit it integrates seamlessly with the content it sells off of. With live-streaming social apps like Periscope and Meerkat popping up and existing social platforms building out live-streaming features, there will be more ways for brands to collaborate with influencers in creating “DVR-proof,” “skip-proof,” and exclusive content that captures a large yet engaged audience.
Gregory Abraham is the executive vice president of sales and operations at Instabrand.