There are two particular characteristics of the way that fans of the upcoming European Football Championships intend to 'consume' the tournament that highlight how the internet adds to the experience of sports - both for those of us watching it and companies who want to associate with it.
The first is the huge amount of second-screening that will go on during TV broadcasts. Two-thirds of UK fans who'll watch Euro 2016 live on TV will use an internet-connected device at the same time.
The most popular second-screening activity is reading online comments or using online chat/IM about the match being watched (both 28%). Around one quarter will chat on the phone or post up social media comments about what's on. Around one in five second-screeners will search online for information relating to the match or search for related videos.
So, whilst the internet provides those of us watching with an extra dimension to our experience, it's also good for advertisers - if they can connect how we second-screen to key moments in the action, be it goals, scores or dodgy refereeing decisions. Ads, for example, can be synced with these moments and delivered to multiple connected devices with a similar profile to the TV audience. For advertisers, it's about using technology to take a TV moment and extend the audience reach of the ad in real-time for better engagement and ROI. In marketing-speak, this is seen as a sustained series of 'moment marketing' opportunities.
In addition to key TV moments, brands sponsoring players or teams can make sure online ads are served when their game is broadcast - either live or during highlights shows - to reinforce the message. So, Nike could time their Wayne Rooney ads to coincide with England games as could Subway who sponsor fellow striker Daniel Sturridge.
In addition to second-screening, the amount of football-related content people share online will increase dramatically throughout the tournament. Six-in-ten fans will share Euro 2016-related content online, of which two-thirds say they'll share more football-related content as a result of it. Four-in-ten sharers say they'll do so at least 3-4 times every day during the tournament.
The most popular Euro 2016 content shared online will be match scores (by 53% of sharers), followed by goals (47%), pictures and news stories (both 42%). Questionable refereeing decisions will be shared by 41%.
This explosion in sharing is another potential goldmine for marketers as it indicates a strong degree of real-time intent among consumers that can be used to enhance real-time online ad campaigns, particularly using programmatic technology. For example, questionable refereeing decisions will be heavily shared and tailor-made for a brand associated with eyesight, such as Specsavers, or decision-making, such as online take-away platforms like Just Eat and Hungry House, who could identify people interacting with this type of content and send them related messaging.
Imagine how much more relevant you'd consider a Specsavers ad if you'd just seen a referee clearly miss something he should've seen!
Lighting up the 'dark'
What's particularly interesting for the marketing industry is that around 90% of people sharing this content will do so in what's called 'dark social'. Furthermore, nearly four-in-ten will only share Euro 2016 content this way.
'Dark social' happens outside of social networks on formats like email, instant messenger and forums. It's called 'dark' because it can't be measured by web analytics tools that measure usual surfing behaviour.
Brands and website publishers are able to harness 'dark social' via those sharing widgets we use around online articles. They can be anything from URL link shorteners to a simple button linking to a Facebook or Twitter page or something enabling site visitors to comment, tweet, like, share and bookmark content across a wide variety of platforms.
What most marketers miss is that these 'buttons' capture online behaviour that generates hugely valuable audience insight about what we share and engage with, who with, on what devices, and how often. What's particularly valuable here is the important "hand raisers" - people who share content which leads to a valuable additional layer of audience. People who share and receive content via these means can, subsequently, be targeted with relevant messages across the web - whatever sites they may be visiting.
For example, the Jockey Club, who own many leading UK race courses, were able to identify 3.5m people who'd interacted with their site content at least five times across the web over a 90-day period - just through a URL link-shortener. It subsequently targeted this audience as being potentially 'interested in The Cheltenham Festival' and saw a remarkable 12-1 ROI on ticket sales.
So, this shows how Internet can add an extra dimension to the experience of sporting events such as Euro 2016 for both those of us watching it and the companies who look to engage with us around it. I'd call that a winning draw!
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