No more cookies: What audience data do brands need for cookieless sports audience targeting?

By Dave Goldfrach | 14 Jul 2023

The phaseout of third-party cookie data is one of the biggest shifts I’ve seen in sports advertising in the last 15 years. At the start of next year, this data will be turned off for 1% of Chrome users – with complete elimination set for the end of 2024 while browsers like Safari and Firefox already partially restrict cookie tracking. 

In short, the data that marketers have relied on for online audience targeting for the best part of 20 years will become insufficient for media buying.  

So, what’s your strategy for targeting sports fans in the cookieless future? Here’s a clue: As our new report shows, the answer is zero-party data. 

The power of zero-party data 

Zero-party audience data is personal data that users are happy to share with a brand because they receive a fair value exchange or experience in return. By collecting this data, marketers can personalize marketing for fans across channels like CRM, website and via display and social retargeting, with zero third-party data reliance.  

As traditional user identifiers like name, address and email will no longer be readily available in third-party audiences, zero-party, which includes a mix of demographic, geographic, behavioral and psychographic data, is set to be extremely valuable when the cookie crumbles.  

This owned audience data enables tailored digital experiences, 1:1 personalization, audience segmentation, deeper buyer understanding and even online targeting across DSPs through data connectivity platforms like our partner LiveRamp.  

Psychographic data for 1:1 personalization

When it comes to targeting sports audiences in the cookieless world, psychographic data is especially important. 

Psychographic data is a type of audience data that relates to individual preferences, for example a sports fan’s favorite team or athlete, lifestyle choices and personality traits. It’s the most valuable cookieless data category for marketers because it allows richer segmentation and personalization. 

With this data, brands can run personalized offers ahead of key sporting events – like a discount with a 1:1 message for a segment of Las Vegas Raiders fans ahead of their next game, but then an alternative discount for a segment of New England Patriots fans. 

Brands can even incorporate preferences like preferred vacation spot and weather season within messaging for hyper-relevance at scale. Advertising to sports fans can be noisy and competitive, so the deeper the data and the deeper the personalization the better. 

Get ahead with gamification 

If zero-party data is the key to cookieless targeting, and psychographic data enables hyper-personalized fan marketing, how do brands capture the audience data they need? 

While 60% of marketers are still to find a post-cookie audience data strategy (LiveRamp / Censuswide), smart brands are already using gamification to supercharge their strategy. This involves adding game playing and competition elements, like points scoring and predictions to a brand’s website, app or in-store experience.  

By allowing fans to compete against friends for prizes and test their sporting knowledge, gamification is a powerful data capture tactic because it incentivizes fans to consent for use of their personal data (including psychographic data). Today’s fans expect fun, interactive digital content. And gamification via fantasy contests, pick ‘ems, quizzes and bracket challenges provides an engaging experience fans are happy to sign-up for.  

This is far more effective than traditional data capture strategies. In addition to audience building, gamification is a brilliant way to forge brand affiliation with sport. 

With the phaseout of third-party cookie data looming, building an audience data strategy is high on marketer’s to-do lists. Zero-party data, including psychographic data, will be essential for targeting sports audiences in the cookieless world – and gamification is the number one way to gather it. 

Download our new report: New rules, new tactics. A guide to reaching sports fans in the cookieless future. 

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