Tapping into the Power of Live Sports: How to Reach an Engaged March Madness Audience

02.21.2020 Cox Media

March Madness® is one of the biggest sports events of them all, drawing in millions of unique viewers over three weeks of televised college basketball games. It’s one of the few sporting events where die-hard fans are joined alongside by casual spectators seeking the thrill of game-winning shots and Cinderella stories.

But while most fans are tuning in live to watch these games, the total experience of March Madness® goes beyond the traditional TV viewing audience to include second-screen experiences, supplemental video content, and a variety of viewing experiences spanning in-home watch parties to game broadcasts at restaurants and other venues.

For businesses, the diverse audience and content channels offered by March Madness® presents a golden advertising opportunity. Here are some key stats and advertising insights to help you harness the power of live sports to expand your business’ reach.

March Madness® Viewers Prefer to Watch From Home

When people think of March Madness®, they often think of fans filling a stadium or crowded into a watch party. But in reality, most viewers prefer to watch live sports from home. A recent survey of sports fans found that 92 percent of respondents prefer viewing from home because it provides a front seat to the game.

This can benefit TV advertisers who want commercials and other ad content to earn high engagement among an audience. But it also improves your ability to target ads via digital channels with greater accuracy. With consumers watching at home, you can reliably set up audience targeting filters that delivers content to an audience based on their demographic data. That offers more efficiency than if fans are watching in large groups, and it can help you drive better results from your sports advertising.

Screen (and Second Screen) Engagement is at its Peak

According to the survey, 73 percent of sports fans have purchased a bigger TV screen just to have an improved sports experience. That encourages better engagement with advertisements delivered over the TV, and it underscores the opportunity that live sports offers over other types of advertising content.

And the TV screen isn’t the only screen worth targeting. Today’s live sports experience is complemented with supplemental content that is available on other screens. Whether it’s sports apps offering live updates, online video clips, highlights from the game and/or social content from other fans, second-screen experiences are helping fans enjoy “off-the-field” coverage even as they watch the game.

In fact, 68 percent of sports fans say they consume this alternative coverage. This is great new for small businesses looking to advertise during March Madness®: it gives greater flexibility over how, where and when you target a live sports audience, allowing you to create a cost-effective, optimized ad strategy.

Live Sports Trigger Emotions and FOMO

With so much video content available on-demand through streaming services, DVR and other digital video solutions, live television experiences aren’t as much of a draw—except when it comes to viewing live sports.

Unlike other types of TV content, live sports is an event-based TV experience that doesn’t translate well on-demand viewing. Once the event is over, the results are plastered everywhere: on the news, in social media feeds. And the excitement of a live sports experience can’t be replicated through any other type of viewing experience. That’s a big benefit to advertisers who might want to time ad campaigns around a sports event—while other TV viewing audiences watch their shows at different times, live sports achieves a critical mass at the scheduled broadcast time.

Meanwhile, the emotional component of sports is an asset to advertisements seeking to tug emotional heartstrings or appeal to emotions of an audience. While 51 percent of men report a personal connection to their favorite teams, women are even more emotionally invested in their teams (59 percent), which can be helpful when choosing messaging and channels to target specific audience segments.

Sports Advertising Offers Strong ROI Potential

Live sports may be the big draw, but that big draw also inspires ad engagement that delivers results for brands. Research shows that dedicated sports fans are 40 percent more likely to have purchased products advertised during a sports broadcast than they are when viewing ads in a stadium or arena.

The power of engaging a live sports audience via digital channels can’t be denied: If you send the right message to an audience of sports fans, your message won’t get lost in the frenzy of the game itself. If the research is any indication, the opposite is true: By advertising during the big game, you can drive better results than when running ads elsewhere.

As the TV landscape has changed over the years, the appeal of live sports hasn’t gone anywhere. For small businesses, March Madness® presents an opportunity that’s too valuable to pass up. And with additional ad channels at your disposal, you can create a multi-channel strategy that delivers big results in a short span of time.

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