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Advertising During a Big Moment: What You Need to Know

It’s no secret that one of the best times to advertise is during a Big Moment. These tentpole events include programs such as the Super Bowl, Academy Awards, Olympics, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, to name just a few. These events draw a loyal and captivated audience, who crowd around the couch and a coffee table full of snacks every year to watch.

These prolific advertising spaces deliver high ratings, surrounding buzz, and attentive viewers—but they also come with big price tags. Not only that, but sports-related big moments yield different ad performance and engagement than other, non-sports events. So, across these environments how do you decide which program could work for your brand? Let’s break it down.

Sports Big Moments

Historically, sports big moments yield stronger environments for TV ad performance than non-sports big moments. This suggests that viewers may be more actively engaged with high-profile sporting events and/or the advertising created for them. According to 2019 data from Phoenix Brand Effect, Brand Memorability for sports big moments was 24%, compared to only 20% for non-sports big moments (against a norm of 20%). In addition, while the ads in non-sports big moments were more appealing and likable to viewers (scoring slightly higher in likeability than sports big moments), they failed to communicate their intended message as clearly (scoring lower in message linkage).

Relative to other programming, 43% of brands who advertise in sports big moments saw a significant lift in Brand Memorability. This success was likely driven by contextually or seasonally relevant ads, easily identifiable sponsorship elements, or simply a focus on strong creative. Sponsoring a sports segment has been shown to bolster branding for a variety of advertisers and can be a powerful tool when paired with an advertising campaign.

We recently explored the sponsorship impacts of Bud Light and Microsoft in the NFL, which were shown to give the brands considerable lift. Heineken’s ad experienced high performance during the International Champions Cup, aided by their partnership with the ICC as the exclusive beer sponsor of the tournament in 2016. According to data from Phoenix Brand Effect, their ads saw 63% Brand Memorability during the tournament, compared to just 19% outside of the event. However, while sponsorship can be a great supporting component, brands cannot rely solely on sponsorship to carry the brand and achieve brand memorability during these types of events. To be successful, your brand must play a key, clear role in your advertising efforts.

Non-Sports Big Moments

With that said, there were several ads within select honors and choice awards shows that produced the strongest Brand Memorability, and advertisers who incorporated attention-grabbing creative and pop culture references gained the most positive momentum. In terms of programming, the top-performing non-sports program for Brand Memorability was not the Academy Awards, but the Academy of Country Music Awards. The ACM displayed a Brand Memorability score of 34%, while the Academy Awards hung on at the bottom with a score of 24% (against an average of 20%). This suggests that high viewership does not necessarily correlate to a boost in Brand or Ad Memorability.

Over the past two years, 20% of non-sports big moments advertisers saw a significant lift in Brand Memorability, with the most highly-successful brands falling within the apparel and beauty industries. However, it is essential to keep in mind the context in which your ad is airing. Macy’s ads were 85% more memorable within the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade than in all other programs, making them a top performer among non-sports moments. McDonald’s also observed strong results in the Academy Awards, relative to other environments. The brand found particular success when their ads featured pop-culture icons and celebrities. They also designed their ads specifically around the awards show, compared to a more generic ad focused on a single product or offer, which led to additional success.

Best Practices for Big Moments

Overall, ads that were relevant to the time of year or fit within the context of the program, but were still a natural fit in other programming environments, performed the highest during big moments. This rings especially true for ads that demonstrate a distinct creative style relative to their competitors. When in doubt, always remember the golden rule of advertising: creative is king!

However, when deciding between advertising in a sports or non-sports big moment, there are a couple of key differences between the two environments. When it comes to sports big moments, keep in mind that ads that compliment a brand’s sponsorship elements tend to boost brand communication. Sports programs generally provide more opportunities to sponsor a segment or display brand signage, so take advantage if you can. For non-sports big moments, know your audience and try to incorporate celebrity appearances or pop-culture references where possible. That, coupled with contextually relevant and appealing creative content, will help drive your ad’s performance and help your brand stand out in these cluttered environments.

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