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Sports and the Second Screen: Implications for Advertisers

For the sports fan, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to passively sit on the couch and just watch the game. The ubiquity of internet-connected devices along with the multitude of media channels available at fans’ fingertips has led to a multi-screen, interactive experience.

Fans are now enhancing their TV-watching with a second screen (and sometimes more) to get the highlights, interact with other fans, watch replays and actively participate during a broadcast. And, with the added distraction of multiple screens, advertisers are more challenged than ever to create a memorable experience across channels.

Smartphones are the first choice for a second screen

It’s no surprise that smartphones are the top choice for second screen multitaskers. In 2016, 68 percent of U.S.-internet users browsed the web or used apps on their phone while watching TV. That percentage is estimated to be 79 percent by this year. And if you count desktops, laptops and tablets as well, over 91 percent of internet users are expected to use a second screen while watching TV this year.

For sports programming, second screens complement

Advertisers naturally worry about the effects this distracted multitasking has on their campaigns, since there are more and more opportunities for competitors to steal consumers’ attention. What’s interesting to note about sports viewers in particular, though, is that the second screen actually enhances engagement for sports programming.

Academic research from the University of Texas confirms that a second screen actually complements the first (TV) and the two can coexist, rather than compete for attention during the viewing experience. “The rise of second screens does not pose a threat to first screen media – in fact, it’s an opportunity to pioneer complementary content and campaigns.” And regardless of the sport, the focus for advertisers should be on user experience – including proper syncing with the live event and making devices and apps simple to use.

Twitter as an example

Twitter is a great example of a second screen complementing the TV sports viewing experience, mainly due to its real-time relevancy. During live entertainment and sporting events across the globe, Twitter averages a 4.1 percent increase in unique visitors, while other social media platforms don’t fluctuate.

A 2017 study also revealed higher engagement and memorability for TV sports when Twitter is used as a complement to the TV broadcast. Because of this, Twitter ads have a greater impact on users paying attention to both screens compared to those only watching on TV. Additionally, the study found that TV ads are more effective with the TV + Twitter audience, allowing advertisers a broader reach and added value to their TV-only campaigns.

Another way Twitter is enhancing sports fans’ experience is through custom content. ESPN has announced new shows and programming initiatives exclusive to Twitter, and content deals with the NFL, NBA, Formula 1, MLB and MLS have also been reported.

Second screens are primarily social

When asked what they do on their second screen while watching TV, the majority (63 percent) of sports fans report using social networks, which presents a huge opportunity for brands to reach fans. Rather than just placing the same ads across all channels, though, it’s important for advertisers to adapt their message and become part of the conversation with meaningful content that adds value for the user and provides a unique experience.

As a MediaPost article puts it, “unlike TV ads, where awareness is the name of the game, second-screen promotions represent a prime opportunity to drive engagement and action. Your brand needs to be prepared to be a part of the moment, not detract from it.”

Endless opportunity for advertisers

Becoming part of the social conversation with sports fans can be easier said than done, but there’s no doubt that marketers will continue to innovate and create new activations between TV and social. Whether it’s creating a custom channel offering exclusive footage within a platform, posting topical news/jokes/memes/etc. or executing fan sweepstakes, the opportunities are endless. One thing’s certain though; this innovation will continue to deepen fans’ relationship with sports, as well as challenge advertisers to find new ways to be included in that bond.


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