Data power: How to target sports audiences in the cookieless world

By Priyanka Pachigar | 29 Jun 2023

When major sporting moments like Manchester City’s recent historical treble win captivate fans around the world, brands of all kinds vie to win a share of their attention. The immense power of sports fandom provides marketers with a unique opportunity to connect with audiences on a deeper level.  

Many of our agency partners understand this opportunity and how live sports evokes passion, creating a chance for brands to engage fans with context, meaning and precision.  

However, as third-party cookie data loses value and attention spans dwindle, engaging sports audiences has become more competitive and complex.  

How can marketers continue to unlock the power of sport in the cookieless, digital-first world? This was a hot talking point at MAD//Fest 2023 for brands and agencies alike – and the answer lies in data. 

Audience Data  

As the industry anticipates Google’s H2 2024 cookie phaseout, brands must take proactive steps to build their own audiences of sports fans. Creating ownable audience data allows for personalised targeting based on factors like location, favourite team and the latest live sports fixtures, with zero third-party cookie reliance. Surprisingly, 60% of marketers are still developing their audience data strategies for the cookieless world. 

Gamification has emerged as one of the most effective audience data capture strategies for sports fans. By providing engaging and interactive experiences, tools like fantasy contests, quizzes, polls, and line-up predictors enable brands to empower fans to test their sporting knowledge while capturing rich behavioural, psychographic, and demographic data.  

Gamification can be seamlessly integrated into websites, apps, and even in-store experiences, creating a fair value exchange for fans to share their personal contact data, known as "zero-party data”. Social platforms like Twitter and Meta also offer the potential to embed gamification directly within ad creative, maximising fan engagement. 

Jersey Mike's Subs, a U.S. franchise, leveraged gamification with its College Basketball Trivia Challenge and Tailgate Trivia activations, converting over 150,000 and 200,000 fans respectively. Notably, gamification doesn't require sports intellectual property, making it equally effective for non-sponsors as well. 

Personalisation without cookies 

Modern sports fans crave personalised and relevant content. Second-screen viewing is thriving, and the modern attention economy means that if your marketing isn’t closely linked to live games or the larger sports conversation, you’re likely missing out. 

Unlike other audience data capture strategies, gamification provides deep insight into individual fan preferences, such as their favourite league, team and player as well as location and engagement habits. 

This enables deep personalisation that extends to owned channels like CRM, such as 1:1 emails offering tailored discounts to specific segments of fans, such as Liverpool supporters before an upcoming game. 

These insights also facilitate powerful segmentation and targeting in ad buying, even without cookie data, through data connectivity platforms like LiveRamp, which connect owned audiences to demand-side platforms (DSPs). 

The result? Hyper-relevant, tailored content at scale. Zero-party audience data even gives you the buyer understanding required to build robust look-a-like audiences so you can reach more fans. 

In addition to gamification, brands can integrate live sports data into their campaign ads. By incorporating live sports data such as kick-off countdowns and live game scores, brands can ensure their content auto-updates across various channels, including Twitter, Meta, Snap and programmatic display. 

This real-time contextual content has already proven successful for brands like Coca-Cola and Heineken. By precisely targeting around leagues and teams, marketers can engage fans with content that directly relates to the live game, fostering a deeper connection. 

As we navigate the cookieless world, marketers must adapt their strategies to effectively engage sports audiences. The power lies in building ownable audience data through strategies like gamification and leveraging personalisation to create hyper-relevant content.  

Genius Sports stands ready with the tools and expertise to help brands win in the ever-evolving landscape of sports marketing. 

Drop me a message if you want to chat.  

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