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How to deliver a programmatic CTV ad campaign around a sports event

Programmatic CTV is a win-win for fans and sports advertisers

Julie Selman, managing director UK & Nordics of Magnite, explains how the Olympics changed CTV consumption in sport and outlines some of the trend changes and best practices advertisers must remember.

With the Tokyo Olympic Games now at a close, it is clear that digital channels have played a key role in fan engagement. In the UK alone, 20% of millennials planned to livestream Olympic events online. Cord-cutters, cord-nevers or viewers who simply prefer to watch for free have been streaming the games OTT on The Olympic Channel.

This comes as no surprise. The livestreaming market is expected to reach $247.27bn by 2027, with die-hard sports fans favoring digital viewing for its accessibility and affordable (or free) cost.

With more sports events being broadcast digitally, programmatic CTV presents a unique opportunity for advertisers looking to score on growing CTV audiences, campaign flexibility and a lower barrier to entry in terms of budget.

Here’s why live sports budgets are beginning to shift to streaming.

Fans flock to streamers

Sports always presented a great opportunity for advertisers since games are watched in highly-engaged settings. Now consumers have more options to view live sports content, and fans are tuning into the Olympics live or on catch-up through streaming services.

OTT’s accessibility is playing a part in building out fan bases. For example, a recent study found that this year’s Tour de France had a spike in viewership intention, with 18% of UK respondents naming ‘ease of access to the broadcast/streaming channel’ as a factor driving their interest in watching.

The Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated the shift toward digital viewing, shifting the focus to screens instead of stands.

Sports teams have caught on to this trend. In fact, practically all major European football clubs have developed their own OTT services, such as Manchester United’s MUTV SVOD platform. Broadcasting rights are also opening up to streamers, with live sports streaming service Dazn becoming the first streamer to win exclusive rights to a top domestic league in its native territory.

With CTV’s ease, affordability and on-demand viewing, many fans prefer it to linear TV. In fact, 59% of UK fans say they would watch sport exclusively on streaming platforms if given the option.

Part of streamers’ appeal is their technology, which has made the viewing experience more interactive and up-to-date. With programmatic CTV, fans get more power over programming as well as perks such as VOD content playback, live stats, analysis and the option for behind-the-scenes footage. In fact, 69% of sports fans worldwide have said that their overall viewing experience was enhanced by emerging technologies.

Programmatic CTV scores in flexibility and scale

With programmatic, advertisers can access, enhance and transact on live sports inventory with ease. An ad can be up and running quickly – in time to play at a highly-anticipated match. Likewise, brands can adjust their budgets to take advantage of unexpected spikes in viewership. Additionally, network reporting provides near real-time feedback into where advertisers’ ads are running.

To fully optimize a live sporting campaign, sports advertisers will want to ensure they work with a provider that gives them the right tools to capitalize on spikes in engagement, while staying protected against overspending. Advertisers should also keep budget fluidity in mind. Matches that are close or go to overtime may see higher viewership, presenting a golden opportunity for greater ROI that brands may not want to miss.

Here, it’s recommended to have separate pacing goals for live events. If advertisers pace their budget evenly over the week, they’ll have trouble taking advantage of opportunities such as championship games. Also, instead of working with hard frequency caps, advertisers should also consider interval spacing, which allows brands to space out their message throughout the match or game.

Ultimately, the way people are watching live sports is changing. As more fans flock to streamers to follow their favorite teams, programmatic is taking live sports faster and further, amping up performance. With CTV, sports advertisers now have the opportunity to capture premium live sports inventory with programmatic efficiency – at scale and across devices. This is a win-win for audiences and brands alike.

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