Sports Are Back, But Why Isn't It Game On for Advertisers?

Spending is down, but three verticals are missing out on this engaged audience

Due to the pandemic, most U.S. sports had their 2020 seasons disrupted. So far, the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB have returned to play, but traditional ad spend hasn’t followed. Since those leagues came back, only $100 million has been spent on sports advertising as of August 2020. But by this time last year, advertisers had already spent $1 billion.

While advertisers are holding out, recent trends signal that sports fans have re-engaged. Traffic is bouncing back as they keep up with their favorite teams.

Traffic and user attention with sports-related news articles have increased week-over-week since August when all gameplay started up again.

Between May and August, average weekly traffic decreased from 230 million pageviews to 189 million pageviews. After most major sports resumed in August, fans returned to news sites en masse, with 260 million weekly pageviews in September and 240 million in October.

This bump in pageviews is a signal that fans are looking to the digital news cycle to catch up on games and it presents an opportunity for advertisers looking to reach those fans—especially advertisers in tech, auto and finance.

Why advertisers should be looking for sports fans

Sports fans don’t just read about sports. News trends from the Taboola network show that sports fans are two to four times more likely to interact with ads related to technology, auto and finance than other audiences. So, if you’re an advertiser in these three verticals, there are meaningful opportunities to reach and engage with sports audiences.

Technology: Sports fans are 2.6 times more likely to engage when it comes to big tech in relation to the U.S. election. Interestingly, sports audiences are four times more likely to engage with content or ads about Elon Musk, and 4.1 times more likely to engage with content or ads related to SpaceX Starlink internet service. 

Automobile: Sports audiences are 2.8 times more likely to read about cars, specifically luxury cars.

Financial: Sports fans are five times more likely to read about taxes and 3.2 times more likely to read about credit card options, as well as how to improve their credit scores.

In fact, one of the largest providers of car insurance in the U.S. has proved that financial advertisers can benefit from a recent surge in sports traffic online. The company already has seen its campaigns positively impacted by the increase in readership. Since September, the conversion rate for the car insurance brand’s latest campaign—running on one of the largest sports sites in the U.S.—went from 25% to 44%. In addition, this one site drives the highest amount of engagement for the insurer’s open web video campaigns.

While the sports world still figures out how to bring fans back to arenas on a regular season schedule, advertisers should be shaking up their media mix to reach fans on news sites as readership increases. Go sports—or go home.

Adam Singolda is the founder and CEO at Taboola, the world’s largest discovery platform, which serves over 450 billion personalized recommendations of articles, blogs, videos, products and apps to over 1.4 billion unique users every month.