Marketers spend $100M on ads as live sports return to TV

Dive Brief:

  • Marketers have spent almost $100 million to advertise during national broadcasts of live games as professional sports return to television after temporarily suspending seasons due to the pandemic. More than 500 advertisers spent that amount during NBA, MLB and NHL games, per research that MediaRadar shared with Marketing Dive.
  • Among the top 100 advertisers whose commercials appeared during NBA, MLB and NHL games before the pandemic, 83 had returned during the study period of July 23 to Aug. 15. Among the remaining 17 advertisers, only five had been in the top 50 before the pandemic.
  • Microsoft, LVMH, Expedia and Sprint are among the brands that didn’t return to advertising during live sports. Quibi, Slack and Joe Biden’s presidential campaign were among the advertisers that appeared during the return of live games, but hadn’t advertised before the pandemic, according to MediaRadar.

Dive Insight:

The return of live sports has been highly anticipated by advertisers seeking to reach mass audiences on linear TV, and MediaRadar’s data indicates most of the top brands that had advertised in NBA, MLB and NHL games were ready to resume their marketing activities once live play returned. A key test will be the planned start of the NFL’s regular season on Sept. 10, considering that its games made up 47 of the top 50 telecasts last year, per Nielsen data cited by CNBC. The NFL will fill a potentially large void as many colleges cancel or postpone their football seasons this fall.

Several industries have expanded their share of total spending during NBA, MLB and NHL games to connect with sports-hungry fans. Financial services firms expanded their share to 19% from 16% in the pre-pandemic period, while alcohol brands grew to 6.6% from 4.9% and services businesses increased to 4.7% from 3.5%. The automotive and retailer categories held steady at about 13% each, MediaRadar found.

Technology, media, food and apparel all trimmed their share of media spending, indicating varying cross-currents among those industries. Travel companies cut their spending to 0.2% of the total from 2.1% before the pandemic, as companies like Expedia and Marriott didn’t return. While the travel industry didn’t have a significant presence during live sports before pandemic, the pullback to almost no advertising is understandable amid lackluster demand for hospitality and airline bookings during the health crisis.

Major brands have had to adjust their sports marketing budgets to better reflect how consumer behaviors have changed during the pandemic, shifting from in-stadium to in-home experiences. For example, Pepsi’s new NFL marketing platform, “Made for Football Watching,” includes TV ads, on-air and retail integrations, social media filters and a dedicated microsite.

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