Capture Hearts and Attention With Data-Driven Sports Marketing

Connect and engage with fans during the most exciting moments

The silence before a ball flies into the top corner. The wait to see if “World Record” flashes up on the stadium screen. The time-out with the score tied and only seconds remaining.

In those moments, fans unite regardless of race, age, gender or nationality. It’s no wonder that sports are the most effective way to reach and engage audiences at mass scale. Sports unite people and build a passionate rapport like nothing else can.

Tapping into this powerful, global energy provides brands with a valuable opportunity to discover, engage and convert people from all over the world in a meaningful way. They can cut through the noise and connect on a deeper level, building brand affinity and ultimately leading to more sales. Isn’t that the name of the game?

However, capturing the attention of today’s sports fan is much more complicated than it used to be, largely driven by the shift to digital. A logo placement at a stadium or a commercial on a live sports broadcast is no longer a guarantee of reaching the right audience.

Audiences today are much more fragmented due to the many ways people can watch and engage with sports, sometimes on multiple devices and channels at the same time. There were millions of tweets during this year’s Super Bowl LVI, a great example of how fans are second screening on mobile and commenting on the action on social media, while watching the game on TV (or any other connected device of their choosing).

Making the hard yards

Social media is now one of the essential ways fans stay up to date with sports. Fans expect real-time content tailored to their preferences, teams and favorite players. This provides brands with a huge opportunity to deliver exciting and in-the-moment content, before, during and after the game and season—creating a year-round engagement strategy that will build trust with an audience.

Facebook Reels and In-Stream ads are good examples of immersive video formats that make it easy for brands to convey the emotion and passion of sport. Fans don’t want ads; they want useful and authentic content that adds value. This is the kind of content that delivers ROI back to the business.

Heineken is a role-model brand that brought video content to life on social media using real-time data-driven content throughout the Euro 2020 tournament—and achieved a 1.8X ROAS to boot. Using Spirable technology, Heineken automated the creation and distribution of hundreds of dynamic video ads across Facebook and Instagram. Ads were initially tailored by location to drive people to their local bars and pubs to watch the games and build pre-event hype. Then during the games, the ads reflected in-match action, such as goals scored, to create highly relevant content that helped elevate moments of peak excitement.

Building out creative performance

One of the most captivating and exciting elements of sports is their unpredictability. If we knew what would happen, we wouldn’t watch. To activate around this, brands need to use data in smart (and privacy-compliant) ways, updating ads automatically as the sporting action unfolds.

What’s the secret? Contextual and live data triggers. These privacy-friendly data sources ensure your ads reflect the most relevant and compelling action. Coupled with creative automation, brands can be as reactive and agile as the sport demands—without the price tag of having to create and update the ads manually.

Zero-party data is also becoming the MVP of marketing strategies, especially with the imminent demise of the cookie. It’s never been more important for brands to own a more direct and trusted relationship with the consumer, and sports offer brands a direct way to do this through gamification.

Tools such as trivia and quizzes allow brands to capture first-party data and sign-ups through a clear value exchange. The data collected can also be used for 1:1 personalized marketing across channels such as email and Messenger. Jersey Mike’s trivia activation for the NCAA is a great example of how gamification tools can be used to better understand, engage and convert fans—building more trusted relationships. 

The average person scrolls the length of an (American) football field a day, but live, contextual and first-party sports data can give your marketing the edge it needs to stand out from the crowd and capture attention. Now, you’re in the moments that matter.

Lauren Evans is the CMO at Spirable (now part of Genius Sports), a creative performance platform that helps marketers automate and scale data-driven creative across channels. Lauren has over 15 years industry experience, helping some of the world’s leading brands and agencies better engage with their audiences and grow their business using AI, data and automation technology.