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Media buying: Why sports events are a perfect opportunity to engage with your audience

January 17, 2022

The Australian Open recently kicked off what's going to be a huge year for sports fans, with the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics and a full schedule of events leading up to the FIFA World Cup in November. Marketers and advertisers looking to connect with a deeply engaged set of consumers will have plenty of opportunities to do so, with more than 40 major global sporting events slated to take place in February alone.

In this article, we look at how brands can capitalize on this year's sporting events by targeting relevant audiences through paid media.

Tapping into the global sports audience

The FIFA World Cup consistently lands on the list of the most-watched sporting events. In 2018, 3.6 billion viewers tuned in to watch at least part of the tournament. To put that in context, that’s more than half the global population over the age of four. With viewership like that, the potential of this audience becomes immediately clear. And, breaking the numbers down by region results in numbers that are just as impressive. For example, over 70% of adults in Spain watch soccer on TV at least once a month, and China is estimated to be home to over 200 million soccer enthusiasts.

In addition to traditional sporting events, esports continues to grow in popularity. Last year, 5.4 million people watched the Free Fire World Series, making it the most-watched esports event to date. It’s estimated that by 2024 almost 300 million people will be occasional esports viewers. And, this shouldn’t be too surprising, given a recent GWI report indicating 57% of sports fans say they are very or extremely interested in esports.

Growing and optimizing your community

Advertisers – such as official sponsors or sport affinity brands – that are looking to connect with casual sports fans or a dedicated fan base, should optimize their media buying strategies accordingly. Let’s take a look at the different trends and solutions that the digital advertising and media industry has to offer:

· Curation to activate media at scale:

In a very crowded and fragmented media landscape, media buyers are seeking to simplify their planning and buying while getting access to the most relevant audiences in an efficient way. In the past few months, curation platforms have developed a solution enabling curators - whether publishers, agencies, or intermediaries – to combine targeting data with premium supply, privacy-compliant identity solutions, performance targeting, and forecasting into private marketplaces. They can also easily activate their sport-related first party data within those systems.

Once created by the curator in these platforms, the auction packages – dedicated to sport segments in this specific case – can be easily activated by media buyers through a single deal ID in their usual DSP. An easy way for them to get direct access to engage sports fans and sport-related delivery context in a seamless way.

· Semantic contextual targeting to target users without using personal data:

In an environment where cookie-based targeting is about to disappear, semantic contextual targeting might be the most scalable option for advertisers that want to rely on premium, sport-related context for their communication campaigns. Thanks to artificial intelligence-driven algorithms that allow the categorization of web pages according to their content and real meaning, brands will be able to engage with potential customers based on the context in which the ads appear.

Imagine how effectively a sports manufacturer could advertise their products when consumers are being served relevant ads directly within the related content they have chosen to consume.

· Audience targeting to make it even more relevant:

In addition to the previous media buying tactics, third-party data segments through direct integration with industry-leading data providers allow buyers and publishers to enhance deals with audience data. Demographics, purchase intent, interests, and more can be used to leverage the advertiser’s strategy and take full advantage of sports events’ momentum.

The dedication and enthusiasm displayed by sports fans make them the ultimate loyal consumers. While crafting the best strategy for connecting and engaging with fans to reach campaign goals, advertisers will be able to extend consumers’ experience rather than interrupting it.


digital ad spend
sport marketing
audience targeting
audience engagement
digital advertiisng
media buying
contextual targeting