How Sports Impact Smartphone Usage and Mobile Ads


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Sports has always evoked passion amongst fans. Whether it’s baseball, tennis or soccer – watching a live sports game brings with it an unparalleled experience, intensified only by the presence of smartphones. There’s no doubt that mobile devices have changed the way we consume sports, and brands have an opportunity to leverage each event to connect and engage with their consumers.

Mobile, Sports and Going for Gold

The beginning of 2016 witnessed an interesting trend on mobile, particularly around national and global sporting events. In the run up to the Super Bowl 50 in February, American smartphone users began downloading NFL related gaming apps. These gaming apps witnessed over a 100 percent increase in downloads, and by the last week of the Super Bowl, users consumed 150 percent more of their favorite sports app than usual.

Similarly, during the COPA America Centenario in June, users from the 16 participating countries went on a downloading spree of gaming apps, increasing app installs by more than 70 percent. Fans were constantly scouring sports apps to check scores, game schedules, and to keep track of the latest updates, results and commentary, which saw a 200 percent increase in content consumption of sports apps on mobile devices. According to Accenture, 87 percent of consumers use a second screen device while watching TV. It’s not surprising then that sports fans were glued to not just the TV, but they had their mobile devices handy for that second-screen viewing experience.

Expectedly, all this excitement was too much to contain and clearly needed an outlet – after all, sports is about teamwork, community and sharing. Particularly during the last week of Super Bowl 50, sports fans spent 45 percent more time on social apps than normal, connecting with family, friends and sports fans around the world who cared about the game enough to do the same. Fans shared their opinions as they celebrated wins with their teams and mourned a loss or expressed frustration. It was all about connecting with fellow sports fans and feeling the adrenaline in real time, while having a good time with their dear ones – online or offline.

The Opportunity for Advertisers

If Super Bowl 50 and COPA America are any indication, major sporting events represent a huge opportunity for advertisers. There are various micro-moments that present themselves throughout the event, and advertisers need to find creative ways to engage an audience that is constantly second-screening.

In a world where 57 percent of consumers use more than one device at a time, namely the smartphone, it only makes sense for brands to break the shackles and reach out to their audience on a channel that users will always have in their hand. While there are fans who rarely shift their eyes away from the TV during a game, there is also a substantial ratio of fans who get distracted by their mobile devices, engaging with friends, or checking social apps at the same time. The biggest opportunity for brand advertisers today is to find ways to grab shorter consumer attention spans on the “one thing” most people claim they can’t live without – their mobile device – and to show game specific content.

2016: The Year of Sports

Numerous sporting events have taken place this year including Super Bowl 50, COPA America, UEFA Cup, and most recently the Olympics. These events, amongst others, offer advertisers a chance to reach a larger audience, across the various micro-moments that present themselves during an event. Reveling with your audience in their joy, sharing their hopes and anxiety and showing support during hard times are just a few opportunities where brands can connect with their consumers. Timely messages and push notifications can do wonders, and brands need to make each experience about the customer, and cater to their wants and needs, contextually.

The shift to mobile and online video is expected to draw millions of eyeballs away from traditional television viewing, providing both content creators and advertisers significant new opportunities to reach fans.

Mobile as Number One

Mobile is now seen as the first screen and can no longer be an afterthought or an add-on. Instead, mobile is at the center of every media company’s content and engagement strategy. It provides advertisers with a level of customization and on-demand accessibility, so it’s no surprise that we’re seeing consumers turn off the TV and turn to mobile to stay connected, especially when it comes to some of the biggest sporting events of the year such as the 2016 Rio Olympics.

However, brands still need to think long-term and how they can create an experience that’s compelling enough to obtain and maintain consumer attention. It’s important to make use of the incredible amount of data every mobile interaction provides. These insights can help better understand your audience and ensure you’re delivering the most relevant, and impactful, experience possible.

Smartphones aren’t just enabling real-time updates, but they also enhance the in-stadium experience. Many stadiums now offer high-speed Wi-Fi that enables in-seat ordering, video streaming or directions to the closest bathroom, which is taking the experience of watching live sporting events to a more comfortable and fun level. Teams have also started accepting mobile tickets for entry into the stadium, and many are even collaborating with ticketing apps to offer fans additional features and services.

Mobile ticketing now offers a segway into loyalty programs for fans. The possibilities are endless when smartphones solve real world problems by taking consumers online. However, for a brand, large sporting events are a boon – they are responsible for gathering millions of users in one place at the same time. The next move is for brand advertisers to decide on how they target users, via which channels, with what content, and when is the peak time to catch their attention.

Pooja Kalloor is a Research Analyst at InMobi.

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