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My Fantasy Team Has Erectile Dysfunction: Mistakes of Sports Marketers

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 29/10/2015 Greg Portell
TEAM SPORTS © Hero Images via Getty Images TEAM SPORTS

The calendar has turned to that brief window where sports universes collide. Sports acronyms simultaneously compete for eyeballs as the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and NCAA offer full slates of games. More than ever, fans attending games will be interrupted by extended "TV timeouts" while those at home are blasted with ads for remedies to diseases they didn't know existed. Chris Rock's "Robitussin" is a thing of the past. New advertisers and new money have flooded sports television as audience consistency makes it irresistible for advertisers. Costs are staggering -- top 30-second slots are going for over $650,000. With risks escalating, the question remains why so many marketers get it wrong. Here are the most common mistakes and why marketers should care.
Mistake No. 1: Repetitive Creative. Sports is uniquely able to retain a longitudinal audience with the same consumers watching for define periods of time. Yet, advertisers treat each exposure as unique. The result exposes the same creative to the same people repeatedly. How many times do we need to see the same Chevy ad before it is or isn't effective? Or, how many times is too many for a non-differentiated fantasy sports spot? Beyond a lack of investment in creative, a culture of overbuying has emerged. Advertisers in growth sectors like fantasy sports and new pharmaceuticals are "investing" in brand building with less regard to clear effectiveness. At best, this is just a waste of money. At worst, it bores consumers and increases negatives perspectives.
Why it matters: Failure to deploy fresh creative skews reach and frequency metrics wasting media dollars. More troubling, as programmatic television advertising becomes reality, marketers will be expected to manage consumer messaging on a micro-level. If marketers can't fill a few slots on a Sunday night, how will they take advantage of more specific exposures? To be effective moving forward brands will need a stable of creative to both build interest and avoid ad wear out.
Mistake No. 2: Contextual Misalignment. Marketers are increasingly focused on delivering the right message to the right consumer at the right time. Sports marketers seem immune to this trend. Setting aside the "county fair" creative, Cialis ads linked to inspired passion fall flat when the real anticipation is whether kicker hits the field goal. To be fair, the pizza marketers have it figured out. They know the biggest decision of the game is which toppings to order not when to take off a top.
Why it matters: As costs for sports continues to increase, the cost-benefit equation will become distorted. Advertising needs to produce results. Sports marketers advertising in vacuums divorced from the purchase decision will flop. In the end, an audience of non-buyers isn't valuable. The sports bubble will burst if there isn't a way to activate preference.

Mistake No. 3: Falling for Stereotypes. Sports broadcasts appeal to marketers with their ability to reach male consumers. Advertisers trip over themselves to show manly images of trucks, macho fantasy sports and male enhancement. Yet, women remain a sizeable part of the sports audience, accounting for 40-45 percent of the audience and representing the greatest growth opportunity. Further, sports broadcasts are perhaps the biggest opportunities to reach both male and female heads of households in the same experience. Rather than create balanced and inclusive creative, advertisers take the easy path and appeal to only half the audience.

Why it matters: Sports increasingly market themselves as family experiences. Parents everywhere are tired of explaining erectile dysfunction to their kids as they try to make sports a family event. Adam Wainwright hit the note right with his call for restraint. In the rush to break through the clutter, advertisers risk going beyond ignoring the audience to alienating it.

Underlying these mistakes is an aggressive shift of marketing dollars to "above the line" investments. In simple terms, advertisers buying more media and investing fewer resources in less glamorous execution capabilities. As the dollars continue to climb and financial questions become more pointed, advertisers will need to account for their decisions. The question is whether solutions come from within the marketing team or if pressure will come from outside.
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

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