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Shoot, Score... Surf!

  |  October 22, 2002   |  Comments

Football kicks off tailgate parties on sport sites. Advertisers, get ready to score!

'Tis the season for sports online, from content to leader boards to fantasy leagues. Football in the U.S. geared up in late summer. Web traffic surged. Even better news: Paid ad impressions rose.

According to the most recent numbers from Nielsen//NetRatings:

  • Unique audience (UA) traffic to sports sites was up 2 million, a 5.3 percent increase in August over July (the only major pro sport in season was baseball).

  • Paid ad impressions rose in 10 of the top 13 ad sectors during this period.

  • On sports sites, page views rose 29 percent in August (most likely due to the kick-off of the U.S. pro-football season).

  • The NFL alone saw a 108 percent jump in impressions from July to August.

  • More advertisers were active during this time, following five flat months.
Private Usage of Top Sports Properties
(U.S. Combined At-Home and At-Work Users)


July 2002 UA August 2002 UA Change (%)
1 ESPN.com 12,178 13,173 8
2 NFL Internet Network 3,781 7,867 108
3 Yahoo Sports 6,000 6,838 14
4 CBS SportsLine.com 6,677 6,316 -5
5 cnnsi.com 6,113 5,937 -3
6 MLB.com 5,455 4,837 -11

Official College Sports Network


8 eBay Sports 3,313 3,248 -2
9 NASCAR.com 3,065 3,232 5
10 SportingNews.com 1,721 2,032 18
All sports sites 36,408 38,348 5
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings, August 2002 Unique Audience

One implication for those of us who represent companies that advertise online is when traffic is up, advertising is up. I took a look at Nielsen's past five months' worth of online traffic data on these sites. Traffic was up while paid impressions on sports sites increased an average of 23 percent per month. This was the uptick we were looking for after an up-and-down summer. In August, the total number of advertisers rose. A seasonal overlap of baseball, golf, and football seemed to have appeal.

According to the Lycos 50 Searches, "NFL" was the fifth most-searched term over the past five weeks.

Other sports-related Top 50 search terms include:

Sports-Related Lycos Top 50
Search Terms


Search Term
Weeks on List
20 NASCAR 39
24 Baseball 135
27 Anna Kournikova 53
37 Golf 32
44 NHL 1

We know there's an increase in UAs to sports sites. And we know quality time is spent on such sites. We also know that, according to the Nielsen report, fans are "driven to distraction."

Does all of this add up to a relevant encounter for potential advertisers? Consider not only the demographics of your target audience but their lifestyle as well. If it's football they're engrossed in, they may not want to click on an ad and leave their favorite sports site. The environment could accommodate a perceptive mindset if ads are nonintrusive, relevant to their encounter, and relevant to the content on the site. Dont miss an opportunity to score by slapping any old ad up.

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Seana Mulcahy

Seana Mulcahy is vice president, director of interactive media at Mullen (an IPG company). She's been creating online brands since before the first banner was sold. Her expertise includes online and traditional media planning and buying, e-mail marketing, viral marketing, click-stream analysis, customer tracking, promotions, search engine optimization and launching brands online. Prior to Mullen, Seana was vice president of media services at Carat Interactive. She's built online media services divisions for three companies and has worked with clients spanning financial, telecom, high-tech, healthcare and retail. Not surprisingly, she has taught, lectured and written about the industry for numerous trade associations and publications.

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