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Get a Jump on Online Sports Marketing

  |  November 5, 2009   |  Comments

Here are some of the best digital sports campaigns on the Internet now, and what you can learn from them.

To say that sports enthusiasts represent a desirable demographic online is like saying that Michael Jordan can jump. Forrester Research reports that sports fans, which represent 19 percent of the total online audience, spend more time and money online than the average Internet user. They view streaming video on a monthly basis, place a high importance on local media, and are heavily involved in fantasy sports.

All of these characteristics can help media planners and buyers determine how best to connect with these valuable consumers in a digital environment. Not only are they allowing marketers to get increasingly creative with their sport-site campaigns, but the sites themselves are using this knowledge to offer more progressive placements as well.

Highlights of Digital Sports Campaigns

Arguably the most high-profile sports site online, ESPN.com, was in the news this week for doing just that. The TV network behind the site is working closely with Toshiba to create a new ad campaign that it hopes will resonate with its viewers. The alliance includes four different video ads, and an interesting branded feature designed to highlight Toshiba's innovative line of TVs and laptops. In it, ESPN TV viewers will be asked during the network's SportsCenter program to vote online for an "innovative" play of the week at SportsCenter.com and ESPN.com. The sites will, of course, be sponsored by Toshiba.

In March of this year, ESPN further demonstrated its progressive approach to digital advertising by debuting mid-roll video ads that can be dynamically inserted into live video content on its live streaming video site, ESPN360. The clickable ads are delivered in conjunction with a traditional banner and will eventually be available for ESPN360.com's entire lineup of live programming.

The Word on Sports Banners

If it's fantasy football fanatics advertisers are after, they should take a cue from Mars' Snickers brand, the official chocolate bar of the NFL since 2001. Ads for the product spotted throughout the CBSSports.com fantasy football GameCenter in recent weeks have demonstrated the skillful application of sports-themed creative.

In keeping with the brand's clever vocabulary-themed ad campaign (which incorporates an imaginary language dubbed "Snacklish"), everyday words are reworked to better relate to the snack food treat. Banners in the GameCenter were emblazoned with such terms as "SNACKZONE," "FOODBALL," and "VICTOREAT." The theme is also carried out on the Snickers brand site, where visitors are invited to enter a Super Bowl sweepstakes for their chance to "be a Super Bowl CHOMPION."

Sites similar to CBSSports' GameCenter, such as Yahoo Fantasy Sports, and Fox Sports Fantasy, boast some pretty appealing stats where targeting sports fans is concerned. In addition to providing a captive audience of dedicated sports fans, such sites can guarantee repeat visits as participants return multiple times each week to revise their team based on the current state of the players, review their live scoring, check the status of player performance, and so on. Fantasy sites exist for almost every major sports league.

According to Fantasy Sports Ventures -- a marketing and media company specializing in fantasy sports online -- 15 million Americans play fantasy sports each year, contributing to an over $2 billion market. Fantasy Sports Ventures makes it easy to target these players with its Fantasy Players Network, an ad network of over 400 fantasy sports sites, from football and basketball, to NASCAR and golf.

Financial company ING Direct is also using sports-themed terminology to promote its services on major sports destinations. A recent sponsorship of the home page of MLB.com, the official site of major league baseball, included banners that read, "Knock your savings right out of the park."

With campaigns like these in play, marketers have a sporting chance at capturing the attention of sports devotees.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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