According to AdWeek (2014) by way of a study conducted with ad targeting firm Simulmedia, there are 283 million television viewers each month (the population of the United States is 313 million), each watching an average of 146 hours of TV. Compare that with 155 million online video viewers averaging just shy of six hours monthly on mobile and almost six and a half hours over the Web. TV may be the most effective perception driver of all media platforms, but with that reward comes considerable risk. TV is expensive, and it’s not worth the money unless you have something compelling to say and the audience to say it to. Plus, timing is crucial. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to me to invest exclusively in TV ads running during games featuring your program and thus likely only being watched by existing fans. Unless it’s a culture moment, you’re not talking to anyone new, so why spend all of your money there?
If you’re going to invest in TV, save your money to advertise during a nationally televised and nationally relevant game. In fact, consider promoting your team during your rival’s game, even if you’re not the opposing team. In that case, you’re likely still talking to many of your own fans (let’s face it, we all watch our rival’s games hoping beyond hope that they lose) while at the same time talking to a great number of potential fans who make geographic sense to speak to. Plus, like our out of home example, the simple fact that you bought media space during your rival’s game is a story in and of itself that will get people talking, including the media, pouring more gasoline onto the rivalry flame.
As in any media campaign, be disruptive. If you’re going to invest in TV, invest in strong creative and wait until you have something meaningful to say along with a meaningful moment to say it.
Imagine ESPN or Fox chooses your rivalry for its “Game of the Week,” a moment in which a national TV audience that reaches well beyond your traditional fan base will be watching. These are the types of culture moments brand marketers dream of. These are the moments to take your most relevant and compelling topic and bring it to life. What better time or place to run an ad promoting your very own National Player of the Year candidate? Or maybe your team won this particular rivalry game the previous year. Why not build an ad that specifically highlights that victory? Poor some salt into that wound! Get aggressive! Get people talking! That is exactly the type of provocative message that will stir the pot. Show some swagger! High school athletes will love you for it. .
Here’s the other reality that should be taken very seriously: Quality TV production is expensive. Building a brand is expensive. But you get what you pay for. How many low-budget university ads have you seen during televised college sporting events? Too many to count. How many Apple- or Gatorade-level university ads have you seen? Zero. That is what gets me fired up. The door is wide open. The opportunity is right in front of every school in the country. Invest in your brand to build your brand.