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Ad Integration in Sports: 2017 World Series

Ad Integration in Sports: 2017 World Series

This is the first in a forthcoming series of posts in which we’ll discuss ad integration across many different sports, including the NBA, NHL, and more. 

The Rise of OTT

Rising competition from OTT advertisers is leaving a lot to consider for networks telecasting live professional sporting events.

The rise in OTT programming is due to the way people now consume television.

The fact is not that people are no longer watching network programming, it’s that they are watching in more places than ever before.

For advertisers and ad sales reps, that means it’s becoming more and more difficult to know how to effectively reach viewers during sporting event broadcasts.

Multi-Screen Audiences

The average media consumer now owns about 3.64 devices.

With most, if not all, of those devices being portable, consumers now have much shorter attention spans with regards to a single device.

When watching television, viewers constantly move their attention to and from the TV, to their phone, tablet, and so on.

Perhaps the biggest reason why? Commercial breaks.

Commercial breaks typically only last 2 or 3 minutes, which, in the past, would not have been enough time for a viewer to do anything of much use.

Now, however, for the average sports fan, 2 minutes is enough time to check your fantasy football score, send a Snapchat, check Twitter – or all of the above.

With the ability of viewers to fill such little chunks of time with other forms of media, sports telecasters are looking for ways to better keep the focus on the ads within their content.


Live Viewers

Compared to the majority of network television, sporting event telecasts have the benefit of presenting live content to viewers.

Live event broadcasts avoid the competition posed by streaming services that enable viewers to watch and re-watch programs at a later date.

Their content, and the ads within the content, are presented to live-viewers, all at one time.

Despite the benefits, though, there’s still much to consider for sports broadcasters – notably, ad integration.

This raises questions surrounding the likes of native advertising and where it stands in the future of television.

Fortunately, for brands, there have been noticeable strides by professional sports leagues and the networks broadcasting their games, to better integrate ads within the content they’re presenting.

Our first example comes from the MLB – more specifically, the World Series.

For this year’s World Series, the MLBFox SportsT-Mobile, and YouTube came together for a terrific display of advertising innovation.

Let’s look at some specific examples:


6-Second Ads

As any viewer knows, there can be a lot of downtime within baseball games.

This year, Fox Sports began running quick-play, 6-second ads in these “down” moments.

Take this Duracell ad for example…


As the batter walks to the plate, Fox cuts to a quick Duracell ad. Short, but sweet. It’s simple, but for companies like T-Mobile, has shown early success.

For Fox, this is a great opportunity to capitalize on natural downtime to earn extra revenue.

They’ve also used this format during NFL games and other non-sports event broadcasts.

This innovative idea could be the first step in minimizing, or even eliminating commercial breaks during sports telecasts, creating a more stream-like experience for viewers.


Commercial-Free Breaks

Fox Sports seems to have taken on a leader’s role in sports telecast innovation.

During this year’s World Series, Fox introduced the idea of “commercial-free breaks.”

It is quite literally a break from the action, but without commercials.

They’re hoping that keeping the viewer within the ballpark will be enough to keep their attention.

In this example, instead of breaking to commercials, Fox cut to their own analysts, providing feedback on the game up to that point.

That analysis-break, however, was presented by T-Mobile:


Just as companies sponsor digital content, T-Mobile was the sponsor for Fox Sports’ content.

This is one of the first true examples of native advertising in sports telecasts. And much like 6-second ads, could be the beginning of the end for traditional commercial breaks.


Live Ad Content

This year’s World Series was presented, for the first time ever, by a partnering brand – YouTube TV.
WorldSeriesYouTube.jpgAs the game was about to start, however, a YouTube ad ran with one of the most creative ad ideas we’ve seen in some time.

YouTube’s ad included live Fox Sports content. This is integration at its finest.

(Source: Ad Age)

This is an interesting extension of native advertising. Instead of making the ad native to Fox Sports’ content, the content was presented as native to YouTube’s ad. It’s a bit of a mind trick, with an ad and it’s adjacent content being mutually native.

Similar to quick-play, this ad makes you feel as if you haven’t left the actual telecast, while also putting you in the world of someone using YouTube TV.

While this may not be a blueprint for future ads, it’s certainly a lesson in flawless integration. Impressive creativity that kicked off a night of impressive ad innovation.


Be sure to stay tuned for even more ad integration insights on the NFL, NBA, NHL, and more.

In the meantime, read some of our thoughts on ad integration and native advertising.