Game Changers: How Brands Can Use the Open Web to Win the Heart of Sports Fans

The world of sports is more than just what happens on the grass or court-side. It’s a vibrant arena where passions ignite, friendships form, and fans share their love for the game. From heart-pounding moments on the field to showdowns on the racetrack, fan fervor creates connections that last a lifetime and has the power to inspire. 

For brands, it’s more than seizing a moment. Sports fans share an identity, one that requires delving into the intricacies of the sports landscape and understanding their diverse audience personas in order to craft marketing strategies that truly resonate. Marketers can harness the pun-intended “league of its own” loyalty that sports fans feel towards their favorite team or player… but how exactly?

Winning hearts in the digital arena

Shifts in tech and consumer behavior have transformed how people enjoy sports, with fans immersing themselves in a variety of digital experiences. In fact, fans not only engage with the games online, but also 53% access online sports content while watching, according to Marketing Dive. The channel for that second screen? A 2023 Open Internet report by the trade desk shares that consumers spend 59% of their online time on the open instead, more than inside the walled gardens.

This digital engagement extends beyond related gameplay. Fans want to create a complete experience at home, whether it’s watching alone or with loved ones. As a result, brands across industry segments can participate in the fan experience. For instance, CPG brands can tap into the 50% of fans who enjoy alcoholic beverages by leveraging game-day rituals. Cause marketing appeals to the 25% valuing social responsibility, fostering loyalty beyond the game. Acknowledging that one in three fans are likely to order food, the food and beverage industry can establish strategic partnerships for home delivery or special game-day menus. Retail brands have a place as well, from footwear to outdoor apparel and leisurewear. 

When choosing online sources, sports fans prioritize credible sites on the open web. Sports content consumption regularly sees a surge on our platform during major sporting events, such as the Olympics, which observed a 31% increase in pageviews compared to the daily average prior to the games. That said, your campaign’s environment is not all that matters. Crafting creative moments is essential for standing out, capturing hearts, and deepening the bond between brand and consumer. 

Fans take it personally… and so should marketers

This is where a savvy open web advertising strategy becomes a marketer’s best ally. Recognizing that being a sports fan is a shared yet personal journey, marketers need to establish a meaningful connection with their audiences. The open web offers a unique chance for advertisers to tailor their messaging, catering to diverse audience personas in this environment. Understanding such varied engagement patterns isn’t just about comprehension; it’s a strategic advantage, with sports fans having distinct preferences and engagement styles.

Meet the fans:

  • The Avid Sports Fan: Devoted to every match, win or lose.
  • The Casual Sports Fan: Engages mainly on game days.
  • The Family and Friends Fan: Celebrates games with loved ones.
  • The Festive Fan: Finds joy in the blend of sports and festivities.

Each type expresses their sports interest uniquely and approaches the experience in their own distinctive way. Leveraging first-hand insights from the open web’s premium publishers allows advertisers to comprehend these personas deeply, paving the way for crafting targeted marketing campaigns that profoundly resonate with each audience segment. 

Getting creative for the golden moment

With personalization therefore the cornerstone of a good marketing campaign, brands and agencies have to be creative in pushing the boundaries of their digital canvas. This is where in-house studios like Outbrain Brand Studio can be a valuable asset when it comes to crafting dynamic creatives that drive interaction and engagement to higher standards. For brands like Doritos, it’s a matter of thinking outside the box to grab attention quickly and sustain it. Using Brand Studio’s custom experiences, Doritos’ audiences were able to swipe or be drawn in by the power of video to learn more about its new-look, blue tortilla chip. Each custom-made and animated format helped drive attention while also amplifying the brand’s messaging that the new snack was the go-to choice for the hosting company. Results from the campaign showed how the brand’s audience enjoyed Brand Studio’s tactile experiences, with an engagement rate that was 5.5 times higher compared to the CPG category benchmark.

By blending the passion of sports with powerful open web experiences, marketers can seamlessly integrate their brand into every fan’s journey. Each cheer, every goal, and every fan’s heartbeat becomes a golden opportunity to connect, engage, and inspire – forging a meaningful bond between brands and audiences. Learn more about how Outbrain can boost your brand’s performance in the moments that matter most.

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