Nielsen’s New Service Helps the Sports Industry Understand the Value of Whitespace in Stadiums

Nascar's potential success serves as an example of the ad alternative's lucrativeness

ads in a baseball stadium above a packed crowd
Even without fans waving foam fingers and scarves in the stands, sports properties could potentially make millions with in-stadium assets. Getty Images
Headshot of Mónica Marie Zorrilla

As the novel coronavirus pandemic shut down sports across the world, broadcasters scrambled to produce appealing programming alternatives to try to rake in ad revenue. According to eMarketer, U.S. TV ad spending will decline by between $10 billion and $12 billion in revenue in the first half of 2020 compared to previous forecasts.

Now that lockdowns are lifting, sports are slowly making a comeback on TV (but without a live audience). To help sports franchises recoup some of that lost revenue from ticket sales, Nielsen Whitespace Valuation service will be systematically assessing the media value of new branding opportunities within sports venues worldwide.

The expanded Nielsen service will enable the sports industry to modernize new in-stadium assets and will enable the valuation of social media content that sports properties leverage, driving new branding, engagement and sponsorship opportunities. Moreover, the service will provide sports teams and rights holders with key insights to help them realize the potential of new revenue opportunities at games without live audiences present.

“During this interim period when games are played without live audiences, Nielsen is uniquely positioned to help teams and rights holders get creative in meeting their business objectives and realizing the value of new assets,” said Jon Stainer, managing director at Nielsen Sports, in a statement.

Sports events being televised from empty stadiums necessitates alternative advertising solutions, like using up the space that sits in prominent view of TV cameras, which, under normal circumstances, would be occupied by cheering fans. These include tarps covering large blocks of field-side seats, outfield wall pads, TV camera wells, branded masks and other types of whitespace.

“By helping to drive near-term monetization, we are ensuring our clients’ long-term success once sports fans are able to fill stadiums again and regular revenue streams start flowing again,” Stainer added.

With Nielsen’s Whitespace Valuation service, asset owners can have a clearer understanding of the price and selling of these new advertising and sponsorship methods, which has the possibility of being incredibly lucrative and can temporarily offset lost revenue from the absence of ticket sales.

Nascar, the first major U.S. sport to rev back up after hitting the brakes to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, can serve as a case study for advertisers that are dipping their toes in whitespace advertising vehicles. According to a report from GumGum Sports, the new giant ads placed in formerly occupied bleachers in Nascar’s first race back on May 17 were worth about $3.4 million. The potential sponsorship exposure of the added whitespace from the stands is $132 million when extended over the whole racing season.

Though viewership for the May 17 race was higher than average—38% compared to the final race before shutdown—expecting those numbers until November is unlikely. Nielsen’s expanded service can also help determine the media exposure value of in-stadium whitespaces over an entire season of gameplay by calculating proprietary quality scores for each brand displayed during a TV broadcast, based on factors like sponsor logo size, location and duration of logo exposure.

@monicroqueta Mónica is a breaking news reporter at Adweek.