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Sport and the mobile marketing revolution

By Adam French

The venerable Mary Meeker’s Internet trends report recently pointed out a glaring discrepancy between attention/time spent by users on mobile versus the advertising spend marketers are dedicating to the medium.

The report from the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner suggested a $20 billion market gap between the value of the mobile user and the current size of the mobile advertising market.

Eighty percent of British consumers surveyed by Google never leave home without a smartphone. Among this ever-growing smartphone audience, 87 percent pay at least some attention to mobile advertising.

With that in mind, only the exceedingly brave would suggest that mobile’s share of ad spend will not continue to grow, since technology enables richer, more targeted user experience.

But the question remains: Which verticals, brands and properties will lead the charge and be the first to truly realize mobile’s enormous potential for advertisers?

One vertical that immediately stands out is sport.

Mobile advertising sprint
During the 2012 Olympic Games in London, mobile advertising grew 50 percent, with some agencies reporting 150 percent growth in mobile ad media spend, showing just how sport can help move the needle in terms of mobile advertising.

Fans wanted content direct to their mobile device and this opens up to advertising and marketing opportunities for brands wanting to reach those relevant and engaged fans.

Sport is big business and perhaps none more so than European football and the English Premier League.

The frenzy of the recent transfer period played out differently this year to the corresponding transfer week five or even two years ago and clubs spent a record $1 billion on players over the summer.

As part of this, fans had an almost endless appetite for news, updates, interaction and engagement, largely driven now through their second screen – the screen in their pocket.

These fans are not just based in Britain, but right across the world. Thirty-seven percent of global mobile media users followed the English Premier League at the end of 2012, representing a huge opportunity for advertisers across the world.

Sport appears to be a perfect vehicle to help mobile advertising to finally reach its potential:

1. Sport = engagement
Marketers working with sports properties are working with a market filled with fans: highly passionate, energized and engaged people rallying around a particular team, individual or group.

Highly passionate fans invest their emotions, their time and their money into supporting a team.

This passion manifests itself in a disproportionate interest in everything connected to that team, including advertising.

Advertisers in the sport space are feeding a nearly insatiable appetite.

Savvy sports marketers and organizations can harness this by strategically integrating offers for merchandise, memberships, fan experiences and competitions into the fan experience of following a team via mobile.

2. Easily definable segments
Leagues and competitions very neatly split markets. In a group loosely defined as “people with an active interest in English football,” there is a very clear set of large segments within that, split neatly across team loyalty.

This ease of basic segmentation pairs nicely with new mobile ad targeting techniques such as contextual and geographic targeting.

Mobile makes it possible for an advertiser to reach fans from a particular team, at a particular time, based on data such as scores – on the device that is in their pocket.

Imagine a fan reading early reports on his team’s 3-0 win on the way home, being served an ad targeting fans of his team, offering ticket deals to a match their team just qualified for and a relevant and timely call to action.

Segmentation and targeting make that possible. Mobile makes it personal.

3. Second screening
Consumers using a second screen while they watch sport is commonplace and with the onslaught of 4G networks, more fans will be able to watch sport on their mobile, representing another fantastic opportunity.

The statistics, player data and social banter inherent in most sports make sport a perfect use case for second screening.

Advertisers are becoming more aware that the average person watching sport is probably now doing it with a phone or a tablet in their hand.

In 2012, some agencies saw mobile ad spend climb 150 percent to coincide with the Olympics. The high prevalence of second screening among sports fans is the reason why.

THE CONTINUED growth in smartphone penetration, faster network speeds and humanity’s love of watching sport have created a perfect melting pot for sport to showcase mobile’s true potential for marketers.

Innovative new targeting and rich media on mobile stand poised to offer ever-increasing, targeted value to sports fans, and better returns on investment for marketers.

The second screeners, football fanatics and mobile sports addicts may not realize it, but the improved relevance and user experience that the new generation of mobile advertising will bring will make for an even richer fan experience.

Adam French is U.K. country manager for Boost Communications, London. Reach him at [email protected].