How to Reach the Sports Viewer, Even When Live Events are Postponed or Cancelled

03.25.2020 Cox Media

Overall, cancelled sporting events are rare. But when they happen, as we’ve seen recently, they seem to grind the sports world to a halt. Live sports are the center of the sports-viewing experience, and the lack of live events means there are fewer large audiences watching sports, which can mean fewer advertising opportunities for businesses.

There’s no question that the absence of live sports has a significant impact on businesses who use sports to reach their own target audience. But even though the cancellation of sports events brings dramatic changes to the overall sports landscape, it doesn’t mean businesses have no way to reach an engaged sports audience.

Sports viewership and media consumption still goes on even when events have been postponed or cancelled, which means your audience is still out there. It’s just a matter of reaching them through the right channels. With that in mind, here are some guidelines to help you reconnect with sports fans outside of the live sports experience.


Sports has always been saturated with media coverage, including commentary and other types of content that draw the same audience as live sports, even if on a smaller scale. That content can be targeted by businesses that want to use sports as a channel for reaching their own target audience.

This content extends beyond cable TV sports channels and includes online publications creating content about sports, as well as social media and audio broadcasts and podcasts related to sports. These channels receive high engagement from dedicated sports viewers: Sixty-six percent of sports viewers spend more than five hours online every week, and 78 percent use social media.

Forty-four percent of cable sports audiences stream audio, which underscores the value of using podcasts and other audio content to deliver your messaging to your audience. If you depend on sports as a means of filtering and targeting your audience, you still have plenty of options for building a multi-channel advertising strategy that reaches these goals.


Live sports may be on hold, but the sports world hasn’t shut down entirely. Sports stories are still being created on a daily basis, spanning all kinds of topics of interest to sports fans, who are actively scrolling social media awaiting the latest in sports news. Look no further than NFL free agency, which has proceeded mostly as normal in spite of the absence of live sporting events. Free agency alone has received daily coverage on major sports news outlets since it began in mid-March, and it has drawn large audiences among sports fans with limited options for entertainment.

Meanwhile, cable sports programs and other sports media channels are filling the void created by live sports by broadcasting documentaries, creating retrospectives, and using sports debate show formats to continue producing original content. All of these offer relevance and intrigue to sports fans, and that preserves advertising opportunities for small businesses.


Most sports viewers have a broad range of interests. While they enjoy watching live sports, they likely also have alternative TV shows they watch, websites they visit, and media they consume—much of which has nothing to do with sports. In fact, even with the lack of live sports, media consumption continues to rise.

Related: “Staying in” with Your Consumers: Media Consumption is on the Rise as More Consumers Stay Home

You can still reach these consumers by using demographic and behavioral data to target these audiences across different types of content. Digital video like TV Everywhere is a great example: Thanks to targeting data that uses each household’s TV viewing data to build profiles about their interests, you can advertise to sports fans through on-demand and streaming content that has nothing to do with sports.

If there’s overlap between sports audiences and the audience of a TV show like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, for example, advanced targeting tools can help you deliver personalized ad content to sports fans who are watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine on demand. This helps you maintain a relationship with those sports viewers even when live sports has taken a break.

Live sports may have gone away, but live sports viewers haven’t disappeared. They’re still watching TV and consuming other media, and still finding ways to fill the absence created by live sports events. Use modern advertising and audience targeting to achieve the same transition for your ad campaigns, adjusting your strategy to keep up with sports viewers no matter where they go.

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