The Winning Formula: Why Premium News Sources are the key to success this Summer of Sport

By Stephanie Himoff, Executive Vice President of Global Publishers at Outbrain 

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much, much more serious than that.” Who can argue with the wise words of legendary Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly?

This summer will see sports-fuelled passions at an all-time high. We’re spoilt for choice with what to watch with The Euros, Wimbledon, The Ashes and of course The Olympics and Paralympics all taking place within a matter of weeks. I count myself amongst the fans and have bragging rights on snagging tickets for the Paris Olympics this year after regretfully failing in 2012 – I even called in back-up from our Paris office to make sure I didn’t miss out!

This embarrassment of sporting riches creates a golden opportunity for brands to step into a league of their own by working with premium publishers who are primed to deliver on brand safety and loyalty.

Shifts in tech and consumer behaviour have transformed how people enjoy sports, with fans wanting to create a complete experience at home by immersing themselves in digital experiences as the action unfolds. The second screen phenomenon means that more  than half of consumers simultaneously access online sports content while watching games, and when choosing online sources, they prioritise credible sites on the open web over the walled gardens of social media.

At Outbrain, we have seen the impact of the second screen phenomenon time and time again. Sports content consumption regularly results in a surge upon our platform during major sporting events, which results in a 31% increase in page views compared to the daily average prior to a game.  Fans no longer simply watch a game, their attention is fragmented, engaging in real-time conversations with fellow fans around the world, watching instant replays and reading relevant new stories.

No longer limited by geographical presence, to their club, their home or country, consumers can build and join communities around the world, opening up a brilliant opportunity for brands to get much closer to their consumers and be at the forefront of creative, engaging and personalised experiences in a trusted multimedia environment.

In a world riddled with misinformation and bias, consumers are once-more turning to news outlets to find impartial and fact-based information. The pandemic was the turning point, setting the need for responsible news in motion. And the IAB’s Value of News report revealed that 84% of respondents agree that advertising alongside responsible news is positive and influences that all-important brand trust.

Ad space on premium news sites offers a commitment of safety that social media simply cannot. On social media, brands have no guarantee of the organic content that will surround their advertising. Advertising on platforms like X with its ‘Freedom of Speech, not Freedom of Reach’ approach could risk a brand’s hard work being displayed alongside harmful content.

But if trust isn’t enough, advertising on the open web provides greater opportunities for consumer engagement. Compared to social ads, native ads in premium publishing environments are +21% more clicked on and +24% more likely to lead to purchases.

At the last World Cup, we worked with a leading soft drinks brand to craft a dynamic digital experience for consumers. The brief was clear – they wanted attention and engagement in a way that was relevant to the event and to inspire users to discover its app.

Our Brand Studio crafted a full screen image format with customer interactive elements activated by swipes and taps, inviting viewers to bounce the ball (reminiscent of ‘keepie uppies’) and in doing so redirected the user to the brand’s website.

This swipe/play function helped maximise the potential of user engagement while still being consistent with the theme of the content – the football World Cup.

Our campaign secured remarkable engagement – a 22.45% engagement rate with over 1.2 million engagements across the 5-day campaign. The top performing campaign experience reported that 92% of those that engaged and later clicked the Call-To-Action to go to the app. And another 52.51% of users who interacted for sound once, later interacting with the creative experience again.

Advertising on premium news sites not only aligns with the activity of target consumers, provides better engagement, and provides better brand safety, but it also gives brands the opportunity to support journalism at a very trying time.

As much as consumers are yearning for factual news sources, publishers are being impacted by the growing popularity of artificial intelligence and a lack of intention media investment. Prohaska reports that last year, US publishers estimated that 30% of their ad inventory went underfunded or undersold due to ‘brand safety blocking’, as one in three advertising and marketing professionals has been given the directive to ‘block the news category’ at one point in time. The odds are stacked against publishers at a particularly trying time, even when the benefits to all parties involved – brands, consumers and publishers – are so crystal clear.

While the advertising environment is key for brands, crafting creative moments is essential for standing out, capturing hearts, and deepening the bond between brand and fan. And this summer, premium news sources are the perfect platform for advertisers to establish a meaningful connection with their audiences.