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For brands to dominate live TV sporting events, an in-the-moment marketing approach is a must.

The In-The-Moment Marketing Potential of Live Sports—and How Brands Can Take Advantage

August 21st, 2019   ||    by David Bloom

In-the-moment marketing has blossomed in recent years as brands and agencies have gotten more nimble, leveraging traditional advertising’s impact and amplifying it with social media.

Live sports are particularly well-suited for such seemingly ad hoc opportunities for brand building. They attract large, focused audiences that are simultaneously commenting and sharing on social media about what they see on their main screen. And among live sports—other than that ultimate outlier, the Super Bowl—slow-build personality-driven games such as golf and tennis are particularly ripe for such brand attention.

When Serena Williams returned to competitive tennis at last year’s U.S. Open after surviving life-threatening pregnancy complications, Chase Bank marked the occasion with a powerful ad titled “Don’t Call It a Comeback.”

Though Williams would lose to Naomi Osaka in a controversial final match, ESPN notes, it indeed did mark a comeback for one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Both the comeback and the controversy gave brands plenty of opportunities to get involved.

TV Advertisers Tee Off on Tiger’s Win

Nike is another sponsor of Williams that’s proven particularly adept at in-the-moment marketing, in both her U.S. Open return and Tiger Woods’ Masters Tournament win earlier this year. As Woods marched toward a redemptive victory on the final day of the event, CBS ratings soared, according to Reuters. And within minutes of Woods’ win, Nike posted an emotional video that has since garnered more than 26 million views on the brand’s Twitter feed alone, reports Creagent Marketing.

Back in 2013, when a temporary blackout dimmed the Super Bowl, Oreo was ready to seize the moment. As a power outage left stadium lights at near darkness for more than half an hour, WIRED recalls the company’s social media team quickly posting an ad that read, “Power Out? No problem.” The ad still lives on the brand’s Twitter feed, which also features the phrase, “You can still dunk in the dark,” superimposed on a starkly-lit image of a solitary Oreo.

Even in those nascent days of social media, Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” campaign went viral. After all, as Sarah Hofstetter, president of the digital marketing agency that posted the video, told Wired, “Once the blackout happened, no one was distracted—there was nothing going on. The combination of speed and cultural relevance propelled it to the forefront.”

In-The-Moment Marketing Slam Dunks

That big win was possible because Oreo put itself in position for success: “Not only did they have a regular commercial run during the first quarter, they also had copywriters, a strategist, and artists ready to react to any situation in 10 minutes or less,” Wired recounts.

That at-the-ready marketing approach is what it takes for brands to win during a big event, beginning with a fully capable team focused on responding when opportunities present themselves. Ultimately, this success is contingent on quick thinking, lots of pre-made assets, and an aggressive willingness to take advantage when circumstances present. That latter point is no small feat, given corporate caution in the rough-and-tumble that social media has become.

It becomes even more complicated when the response is on television, rather than a quick social media post. Nike had time to build most of its ad in the days leading up to Woods’ win, helped by the four days of tournament play and his increasingly likely victory. But had things gone differently, the brand would have spent a lot of resources on a campaign it couldn’t actually use. So while marketing around live TV has huge potential, keep in mind that the risks are nothing to sniff at.

Sports That Serve Up Golden TV Marketing Opportunities

Big tennis tournaments such as Wimbledon, which famously unfolded over a fortnight across early July, and the U.S. Open, which runs from Aug. 26 to Sept. 8, are also a gold mine for in-the-moment marketing opportunities. Because they take place every single year, it gives brands plenty of time to create and stage key assets, like a nearly completed ad awaiting a few seconds of the money shot. But it still requires quick thinking and that do-or-die willingness to pull the trigger.

Tennis has already been embraced in Europe for a particular kind of in-the-moment marketing: on gambling. On the continent, only soccer is wagered on more frequently than tennis, Forbes details, and the majority of that happens during the actual match. It’s partly due to the highly structured nature of the game-set-match format, and the natural breaks it provides for so-called “prop bets” to be created, shared, and wagered on.

But whether it’s gambling, lights-out Oreos, or a star athlete’s comeback moment, advertisers need to remember that old Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. When the moment comes for in-the-moment marketing, brands need to be ready to take full advantage.

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