“Australians have a remarkable affection for their sport, an affection which has endured for well over 150 years. They love the sports they play but, even more so, they love the sports they watch – both in large numbers at the grounds or via broadcast. This enduring love extends to all codes, particularly Australian rules and rugby league.”
Gary Wickham, Professor of Sociology at Murdoch University, writing in The Conversation.
As I watched the West Coast Eagles steal victory from the Pies, and the Roosters triumph over the Storm last weekend, I was as gripped by the fans’ emotion-fueled faces on my TV screen as I was by the on-field action - and it got me thinking.
If you want to fully understand the importance of professional sport to Australians, watch the nail-biting conclusions of each footy final again on broadcaster video on demand (BVOD) and, when the cameras cut away to those face-painted fans, hit pause.
Now imagine their laughter, whoops, tears, boos, cheers and curses echoed by millions more across Australia through living rooms and RSLs, across shopping centres and train platforms – and then stop imagining, because that’s exactly what happened last weekend as viewers’ eyes fixed on the nearest TV set or device, captivated.
Our obsession with live sport on TV is alive and kicking goals for brands that sponsor, advertise and associate themselves with it. And I reckon there are at least five reasons why...
1. Sport on TV aggregates huge audiences in one place and at one time.
The NRL Grand Final and associated coverage on Sunday reached 6.14 million viewers nationally and the AFL Grand Final and associated coverage on Saturday reached seven million. And that was just each seasons’ climax.
Some 87% of us, that’s 14.8 million people, watch Winter sport and 84%, or 14.2 million, watch Summer sport - and that’s only counting city markets.
Sure, reach velocity peaks at times like Grand Final weekend, or on the first Tuesday of next month at 3pm, when the entire country will stop in ritual and throng around the nearest screen for a horse-race but this love affair endures throughout the year.
2. Sports fans are loyal and identify with everything about their team.
A sports fan’s devotion runs long and deep. As Professor Wickham wrote in his essay Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, why do we love sport so much: “When Australians identify with a football club, they enjoy a strong feeling of belonging outside of their families and their places of work”, they “identify with other fans, and with the media outlets that feed them their daily fix of information or gossip” and “most of all they identify with the players”.
Supporters love everything associated with their team, from the jerseys, haircuts and the brand of footy boots, and that goodwill extends to brands shown alongside the match of the day.
It's small wonder then that brands deliver recall rates well above average when associated with big sporting events, according to Nielsen research.
3. Sport = emotional connection = attention = sales
Every live sport broadcast is filled with highs and lows for fans, multiple unknown plot twists, that make it the compelling viewing, it’s the ultimate reality TV, delivering highly-prized engagement.
And every viewer that is highly engaged by content is more likely to buy the product associated with that content in the same way that ads which generate a strong emotional reaction – be it positive or negative – have more impact.
The Benchmark Series research carried by Professor Karen Nelson-Field for ThinkTV has shown that such ads attract 16% more attention than ads which elicit weak reactions and, as a result, deliver a 30% greater sales impact.
4. Aussies watch sport on any device and at any time
As well as being glued to their TV Sets, many Aussies grabbed their mobiles to stream sports video and chat about the action on social media last weekend, with Telstra's network data usage reportedly surging 25% in some states thanks to the Grand Finals.
So it’s no surprise that sport on BVOD is a growing opportunity for brands. Live sport can generate an almost five-fold increase on the number of 2.5 million devices used to watch BVOD (either on demand or live-streaming) in an average month.
And BVOD brings additional targeting opportunities, with the different BVOD services provide a suite of advanced advertising solutions spanning interactivity, personalisation, audience, genre and interest group targeting, as well as programmatic opportunities.
5. Sponsoring sport on TV creates a halo effect for brands
There are multiple opportunities to integrate brand messages into appropriate TV content, and sponsor shows, which AdLand has long known provides a brand with long-term sustained equity impacts. (The Benchmark Series found that brands enjoyed a sales uplift when integrated into TV’s fabulous content).
If you watched last weekend, or catch up on BVOD or Playback, you’ll see sports content partnerships in all shapes and sizes, custom-built to serve the business goals of advertisers.
Be it sponsorship, advertiser-funded programming, advertorials, interactive content, competition and promotions, product placement, sporting star associations or licensing, there are many bright colours on that creative palette.
TV connects advertisers to Australians who have sporting loyalties in a way that no other medium can. It's why sport on multi-platform TV remains a winning formula for brands well beyond the festival of the boot that gripped us all last weekend.