Thought Leadership

2018 Buyer’s Guide to Winter Sports

December 18, 2017
By Jacqueline Quantrell

With Super Bowl LII coming up in Minneapolis and the XXIII Olympic Winter Games scheduled for PyeongChang, Winter sports provide a fantastic marketing opportunity in Q1 2018 for buyers across the spectrum of industries. Sports bring audiences, provide built-in narrative arcs, and are driven by athletes who consumers can root for and buy into.

From streaming games to keeping up with daily sports news on their favorite blogs, fans everywhere have made sports an integral part of their lives. Leveraging sporting tentpoles is an excellent way to connect with consumers, giving you diverse entry points for brands to build a two-way, interactive experience. Utilizing the power of programmatic, brands can assemble their own custom channels for sports advertising, giving them precise control over audience targeting, deal-making, and on-the-fly execution.

If you’re thinking about using the tools of programmatic for your Winter sports media buys, here are a few tips to tap into a digitally conscious, die-hard fan base:

Choose an event that’s ripe for storytelling

The Super Bowl, Olympic Games and NCAA playoffs are huge opportunities to plug into sporting events that generate memorable moments on screen. With programmatic, digital advertisers can be adjacent to sports content, at scale, without having to pre-reserve sizable multi-year contracts. Keep in mind that these major cultural tentpoles are going to be covered by a wide range of media properties that offer premium programmatic inventory. Remember to look out for, and take advantage of, the mobile and video options being offered by publishers in each of these categories.

TIP: ESPN, Comcast, Turner and more digital publishers are offering custom sports packages now available on Rubicon Project’s platform that let digital advertisers participate in sporting events like the Super Bowl, Olympics, March Madness, and more.

The right placements, the right audiences, at the right time

The power of programmatic gives advertisers a lot more control over their spending by allowing them to throttle it based on marketing priorities. Programmatic lets advertisers bring data to bear on their buys in ways that will maximize campaign results. Picking the right publisher opportunities is a great way to ensure the right contextual alignment for a given brand. Since sports buying is all about context and adjacency, the level of control over each placement goes straight to the raison d’etre of sports-related buying.

TIP: Take advantage of high-impact formats like our new outstream unit that provides immersive branding opportunities by natively placing video advertising campaigns in the heart of editorial content on desktop and mobile.

Tap local markets, at national scale

Local publications are a great way to tap big sporting events, at the local level. Local news outlets will essentially duplicate and customize related content from national events like the Super Bowl for their local audience. They’ll publish interviews and profiles of hometown Olympians or neighborhood kids who made it to the NBA. Programmatic allows brands an opportunity to tap into several smaller publications, achieving the scale and reach that brands are looking for, without the heavy price tag.

TIP: Brands and their agencies should eye publishing syndicates like Turner, and look to local media consortium Nucleus. These networks offer access to local fans and make buying these audiences simple and straightforward.

Niche sports have big audiences, too!

One of the best parts of the Winter Olympics is that it puts a huge spotlight on many sports that don’t otherwise receive much media attention, like ski jumping and figure skating. Niche sports publications will be providing plenty of coverage of Winter sporting events from NHL Hockey to NASCAR. For brands that want to reach sports audiences but have a tough time reserving inventory in the most popular sports, this can be a valuable opportunity to tap into niche programmatic marketplaces.

TIP: You know who your audience is, we know how to find them. In addition to your own first-party data, Rubicon Project leverages publisher first-party data and prioritization to create effective sporting segments at the publisher level.

Think outside the field

Don’t underestimate the size of the crowd or the variety of publishers offering sports-related coverage. Beyond sports publications and news outlets, lifestyle and entertainment properties offer a wide and diverse opportunity to reach the same audiences that are tuning in for the big game. Count on these publications to run profiles of star athletes, spotlight Olympic fashion, or cover the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

TIP: You don’t have to be an official sponsor to buy programmatic ads; programmatic offers options for any advertising budget. But don’t delay — you need to plan ahead before this valuable inventory dries up.

Are you running a Winter Sports ad campaign? Check out all of the Winter Sports inventory packages now available on Rubicon Project

Ready to get started?

While the holidays are upon us, we know brand marketers are already planning ahead for Q1. If you’re thinking about running a campaign for sports fans, we’ve compiled a list of the biggest Winter sporting events with a few tips to help you make the most of your media buys.

  • Super Bowl LII (Sunday, February 4, 2018)

    The 48th annual National Football League championship game will bring 70 thousand excited fans to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN — and 100 million living rooms across the USA. Use the tremendous momentum, both leading up to, and after the event, when impressions are less expensive.

  • Winter Olympics (February 9 – 25 2018)

    Audiences everywhere will be focused on Pyeongchang, South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Four new disciplines will be introduced this year including big air snowboarding, mixed doubles curling, mass start speed skating, and mixed team alpine skiing, bringing new niche opportunities to sports media buys.

  • NHL Hockey season (October 4, 2017 – June 2018)

    The 101st NHL season heats up in Q1 leading to the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin in April. Did you know hockey is the fourth most popular sport in the USA, and the top 10 NHL teams on social media have over 30 million fans?

  • NBA All-Star Game (Sunday, February 18 2018)

    Basketball fans start gearing up for March Madness in February, at the annual NBA All-Star Game scheduled for Los Angeles. This year’s revamped format will feature two All-Star starters who pick teams, instead of the traditional matchup of East vs. West, and is expected to draw more viewers than ever.

  • The Daytona 500 (Sunday, February 18, 2018)

    The 60th annual Daytona 500 is the most-viewed automobile race in the U.S., where nearly 20 million people tune in each year to watch their favorite drivers take on a 500 mile long superspeedway. Did you know the Daytona 500 will easily attract 2 to 3 times more race fans to Daytona Beach than the Super Bowl will?

  • NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament (March 13 – April 2 2018)

    Known to thousands of basketball fans as “March Madness,” the 2017 NCAA Tournament was the Most-Watched in 24 Years. In 2018, the final four will face off in San Antonio, TX on March 31-April 2. But there will be plenty of opportunities to advertise as the series gains momentum and March Madness fans everywhere start building their brackets.

Top 20+ publishers making their inventory available on Rubicon Project for the 2018 Winter sports season


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