Keeping it Clean: How Sports Expertise is Helping Media Buying Agencies Discover Brand-Safe Digital Content

August 10, 2015

Online video media buyers are facing a problem: in the world of online video, there’s quantity, but not much quality. Much of the video content one will find on YouTube is poorly produced, meaningless, tasteless and sometimes even offensive. With all the not-safe-for-work video content floating around, premium brand advertisers need to be careful not to associate their brands with content that doesn’t jive with their standards and values.


In this context, sports represent a strong marketing opportunity and a bastion of “brand safe” content for advertisers. Online sports video has long been a uniquely powerful tool for marketers. The viewership numbers are fantastic. The social media engagement is great. And the core demographic reached is key: males age 25-49, who consume everything from beer to fast food to automobiles to electronics.


Media buying agencies are now understanding that online sports are a vertical they can’t ignore. They also now understand that you don’t want a non-sports expert doing your sports media buy. Nielsen’s 2014 Year in Sports Review reported that in October 2014 alone, 72.3 million Americans watched 7.1 billion minutes of sports content on their smartphones. Consider the size and significance of these numbers. Now imagine that there were media buying agencies that were trusting their sports ad buys to people who may or may not even care about sports!


Sports expertise is a must in the media buying process. The smart media buyer needs to understand a whole plethora of factors if he or she is to capitalize on broadcasting and narrowcasting opportunities: how does the NHL audience differ from the NBA audience?; what are the hometowns of star athletes?; which demographic is watching their sports on TV and who is watching online?; what are historic team rivalries?; what age group watches sports highlights on computers and what age group watches on smartphones?; which products do different sports audiences typically consume? The media buyer who isn’t well versed in the sports world runs the risk of spending millions on poor, or outright wrong, content.


It’s no wonder that we’re witnessing a trend of marketing agencies creating sports specialty departments. Global media agency OMD has its Optimum Sports while media investment group GroupM recently launched ESP Properties.


Media buyers are getting clever about advertising against premium digital video content, as opposed to questionable user-generated content. The smart money is now backing professionally-produced, exclusive, rights-protected sports highlights, news and athlete interviews. By advertising here, marketers are reaching their target demographics, presenting wholesome, brand-safe content and checking controversy at the door.

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