There Are More Ways to Reach Football Fans Than Linear TV

Programmatic helps fill gaps and increase effectiveness

The popularity of the National Football League (NFL) has grown in recent years, expanding across platforms, apps, discussion boards and online games, creating new and deeper forms of engagement among fans. At the same time, viewing habits have changed, as they have for many major sports.

How, then, can advertisers find those audiences beyond TV broadcasts and capture some of the magic for their brands?

There’s a wealth of opportunities that give marketers more ability than ever before to reach sports audiences across an increasingly fragmented media landscape. Marketers must smartly evaluate and understand the new channels, bringing together opportunities that can form a powerful and effective mix, and layering in data that informs and improves campaigns.

Football today extends beyond two screens. It’s a world of live updates, expert analysis, advanced metrics, betting, fantasy football and tracking multiple games at the same time. The days leading up to and after games offer more opportunities—nationally and locally—for recaps and commentary, fan forums and much more.

Live does not necessarily mean broadcast

Live games are still the lynchpins that anchor the fandom, of course. In addition to watching broadcasts, audiences now stream games all over the home and beyond across various media. They go to websites and streaming apps on phones and tablets, and watch on small and large screens from Amazon, Roku, Sling and fuboTV via OTT and CTV.

All these nontraditional digital channels are seeing continued upticks in sports viewership. Amazon alone is poised to lock in exclusive Sunday Night Football rights just months after gaining exclusive rights for Thursdays.

On some of the platforms, as on most major networks’ digital opportunities, ad buyers must make upfront, direct commitments. Some providers also offer programmatic guarantees, in which advertisers make an upfront commitment and can run a campaign through demand-side platforms (DSPs). Those DSPs add audience data and real-time transparency to where and when ads are being placed, and may even allow some pricing flexibility.

Ad buyers can also turn to OTT services that get ad inventory as part of their deals to stream broadcast and cable channels’ programming. Sometimes, local TV stations run their allocated digital inventory through DSPs, as do national platforms like Yahoo and Hulu.

Programmatic in the mix

There’s a lot more programmatically available inventory that reaches NFL enthusiasts without the strictures or premium pricing of live TV ads. During broadcasts, fans will check stats, scores and plays, chat with friends, and tap into expert discussion, often during commercial breaks, halftime and other interstitial moments. Before and after, they will argue, advocate, post photos, check podcasts, blogs and social media. Of course, they will also play fantasy football on any number of popular apps and platforms, as well as place bets.

Advertisers can tap into football culture, too. There are Pinterest accounts with tailgating tips, football-inspired recipe blogs, football fashion Instagrams, Twitter aggregations of player and fan posts, TikTok photos and videos. In addition, there are lots of joking, quizzes, memes and up-to-the moment injury updates (which are followed closely by fantasy football gamers). Through programmatic, advertisers can even capture football-interested audiences on non-endemic channels, such as general interest news websites and apps.

It’s all a great way to augment TV buys or—for brands without TV-sized budgets—to have an impact in the space through the reams of content surrounding games. For advertisers with the right mindset and the ability to leverage nontraditional opportunities, it’s a better time than ever to reach football fans and other sports audiences. There are more touch points, more ways to gather useful insights, and great means to improve efficiency and outcomes for nearly any relevant brand.