Why Marketers Should Start Thinking YouTube & CTV When They Think Super Bowl (And Sports in General)

football strategy

By David George, CEO, Pixability

The long-term decline of linear TV and the rise of Connected TV (CTV) continues. According to eMarketer, the U.S. will have a total of 221 million CTV users in 2022, representing a fivefold increase since 2021. Meanwhile, the number of pay-TV viewers will sink to 144 million, representing a 25% decrease over the last six years.

The one thing keeping traditional TV alive? Sports programming. In 2021, the lone bright spots for traditional TV networks were ESPN’s 11% increase in viewership as sports programming rebounded from the COVID pandemic, as well as some success from the Super Bowl and Summer Olympics for CBS and NBC, respectively.

But as we get ready for the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics in 2022, marketers must begin to consider that sports on linear TV advertising may not offer the reach they need. To get in front of premium audiences — younger audiences in particular — advertisers will need to look to YouTube and other CTV platforms.

Here are three things for marketers to consider:

1. Sports Content is a Force on YouTube: Pixability recently released a study that showed that the sports space on YouTube had amassed a mammoth 1 Trillion views, making it a top 10 content category, beating out popular categories like Style & Fashion and Automotive.

Sports content is fueled by highlights, which represents 57% of available videos. When live competition returned in 2021, content views grew in turn by 20%. While advertisers across all industries are using YouTube for incremental reach, industries like retail, health and wellness, luxury and food and beverage have seen above average performance on sports content in particular. The key takeaway for advertisers: shift a portion of your TV dollars to YouTube using Google’s Reach Planner to find ways to achieve greater reach for the same spend.

2. YouTube and Hulu are the Leaders in Connected TV: While the CTV space may appear fragmented, the reality is that reach on CTV is very concentrated on just two platforms. YouTube and Hulu make up roughly 70% of viewing hours among ad-supported CTV platforms. If you’re a Boston Bruins fan like I am, that means that you’ve had to turn to Hulu or ESPN+ streaming to watch certain games this year.

Additionally, since more than half of sports content on YouTube is over five minutes long, many viewers are choosing to watch it on their TV screens. As brands seek to gain more airtime on popular sports content, they will need to leverage these two CTV platforms to run ads in the living room too.

3. The Super Bowl is Big (and So Are Its Ads) on YouTube: Even just a decade ago, Super Bowl Sunday was known as much for the game-day advertisements as it was for game-winning field goals and touchdowns. But in a major sign of our shift to on-demand viewership, consumers now watch Super Bowl advertisements according to their own schedule — on YouTube. 70% of views of AdBlitz, YouTube’s channel dedicated to Super Bowl ads, happen before and after gameday.

Brands that run ads in AdBlitz in addition to TV also see more engagement than those that invested in TV alone, demonstrating the limitations of taking a linear-only approach to the Super Bowl today.

As brands prepare for two of the most significant TV sporting events of the year, they need to adopt a strategy that will allow them to maximize their return on ad spend. Linear TV advertising will still be a critical component of media plans for many brands but it can no longer be the only pillar in their TV plans.

The way people watch sports is changing and the way advertisers reach them needs to change as well. Sports are no longer just for linear TV–and neither are the ads. It’s time to invest in the future.

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