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Over three-quarters of adults globally are now sports fans, YouGov research shows. If you’re trying to expand your audience, sports event pay-per-click (PPC) strategies are tough to beat. But, getting a return on investment (ROI) on sports event PPC isn’t always easy. We’ll walk you through some event-driven PPC techniques to help you score big on this page.

1. Know Your Values

Sponsoring a team can boost purchase intent by ten percent, Nielsen reports. Sponsors routinely receive special perks, such as permission to use team trademarks. These aspects can boost your PPC results dramatically, but bear in mind that sports fans form tight-knit communities of their own. They’re hyper-aware of who belongs and who doesn’t, and rivalries are intense. This makes digital marketing for sports fans distinct from any other type of campaign.

If you plan to support a specific team or athlete, make sure you’re committed to standing behind them and prepared for backlash from the opposition. You’ll win preference and loyalty from “your” team, but it will likely cost you business from competing teams. An alternative approach is to sponsor an arena or game. It can help boost brand awareness, though it’s unlikely to produce the same solidarity you’ll see by sponsoring a team.

Whatever path you choose, incorporate it into your brand values and make it part of your company ethos. It will make your campaigns more authentic and help them perform better.

2. Align Your Campaigns

Standalone PPC campaigns can perform well. However, most brands leveraging sports events for marketing tend to run many types of campaigns. For instance, you may have TV, radio, social media, and SEO activities all surrounding a single sporting event. If your brand leverages this approach, you’ll get better results if messaging is consistent across all channels.

Create a Marketing Brief

Develop a marketing brief to share with everyone working on your campaign. It should include:

  • Overview of the company and its values
  • Purpose of the campaign
  • Campaign objectives and strategy
  • Target audience
  • Deliverables
  • Relevant channels
  • Keywords and hashtags
  • Schedule
  • Total budget and budget by channel
  • Names and contact details of people involved

3. Consider Your Goals and the Best Metrics to Track

Most brands leveraging ad campaigns for sports tournaments are focused on building brand awareness or recognition. This is the first time people hear your name and may not even be looking for your products or services. If this is the case for your brand, simply tracking engagement, subscriptions to your newsletter, or similar metrics may be sufficient.

However, your goals may be different. For instance, if you’re selling licensed merchandise or operating a business close to a live event, you may want to focus more on sales or foot traffic. It may make more sense to track total sales/ orders placed, sales volume, or ROI.

4. Select the Ideal Timeframe

PPC optimization for sports seasons differs from managing online advertising during individual sports matches. Make sure you nail down your timeframe early to ensure your budget is applied effectively.

For instance, if you’re running a single campaign before a game, you may want to start a few weeks ahead, ramp up advertising just before the game, and be prepared to maintain high levels or decrease spend depending on the outcome. A similar approach can be leveraged for sports seasons, though spending fluctuates less.

5. Target the Right Audience

Cost-effective real-time bidding for sports events hinges upon targeting the right audience. Platforms like Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising offer affinity audience targeting, which allows you to zero in on fans of specific sports. It may be worth testing these broad audiences to see if they’re effective for your brand. However, you can run much more targeted ads for sporting events.

Create Custom Segments

Google Ads, among others, allows you to target specific audiences based on specific interests and sites or apps they’ve visited.

Keywords

Reach people who have run searches for specific keywords of your choosing or people with interest or purchase intent that relates to specific keywords. For instance, someone searching for “Super Bowl time” is likely a fan intending to watch the game. Equally, someone searching for “49ers jersey” may well be a 49ers fan that you can target with other 49ers merch or team-related advertising.  

URL

Reach people who have visited sites similar to your inputs. For instance, you might add “www.manutd.com” to your list if you’re hoping to reach Manchester United fans.

Apps

Reach people who download and use apps similar to your inputs. For example, you might add “Toronto Maple Leafs,” which is the official app of the hockey team.

Target by Location

Virtually all PPC campaigns should include targeting by location. Deep geotargeting is preferred if you’re trying to reach people attending a live event. Let’s review a few examples.

Zip Code/ Postcode

Let’s say you want to reach people attending a live Manchester United game. Rather than geotargeting Manchester, the location of Old Trafford Stadium, you might enter the stadium’s postcode “M16.” It drops the local population down to under 36,000, compared to 2.8 million in Manchester.

University

Perhaps your team plays at a local university. For instance, the Ohio State football team plays at Ohio Stadium on the Ohio State University campus. You can use targeting to zero in on “Ohio State University” and only reach people on campus.

6. Be on the Right Platforms and Select the Best Formats

Engaging sports audiences with PPC is easier than you might think, even during games. Nearly half of all sports fans alternate between screens while watching a game, Neilsen reports. Not surprisingly, younger generations are more likely to multitask.

This means mobile ads can be quite successful, especially if you’re meeting them where they are. For instance, display ads in apps are likely a strong bet, followed closely by social media. For example, X (Twitter) and Facebook tend to be hotspots.

Activities sports fans engage in while watching sports

7. Choose Keywords Mindfully

Selecting keywords for a sports event isn’t remarkably different from traditional keyword selection. However, you’ll want to be especially mindful if you’re targeting live in-person audiences and trying to increase foot traffic or sales to a local business. Your audience may not know the area they’re in, so they’re more likely to search using landmarks or with voice search.  

For instance, someone planning a visit to attend Super Bowl LVIII is more likely to search for “hotels near Allegiant Stadium” than “Las Vegas hotels.”

A person leaving the stadium and looking for food will likely use voice search in their car. Rather than using a typed search of “pizza near Allegiant Stadium,” the searcher will use natural language and perhaps pose a question such as, “Where’s the closest pizza place to Allegiant Stadium?”

It’s essential to consider your audience, goals, location, and technology as you define your keyword strategy because of this.

8. Speak Their Language

Speak Their Language

If you can do so with authenticity, try to speak like your audience does in your ad copy and on landing pages. For instance, phrases like “Red Devils” and “Reds” would likely be at home in ads targeting Manchester United fans. Because you’re speaking like they do and calling them by name, they’re more likely to take notice of your ad and click if it’s relevant to them.

9. Use Scarcity and Exclusivity as Appropriate

As you home in conversion strategies for sports events, experiment with scarcity and exclusivity in your ads. For instance, you can offer a game day discount, special pricing during a match, or discounts for people who prove they’re fans by wearing a jersey or showing a ticket stub. These approaches often boost conversions, provided your targeting is spot-on.

10. Leverage Extensions

If you’re running seasonal PPC for athletic events, don’t forget to include extensions in your search ads. Be creative and think beyond the types of extensions you might generally run. For instance, if you sponsor a team, consider creating a landing page that details your sponsorship and include it as an extension. If you’re trying to increase foot traffic, offer directions from the stadium to your location. Google will test your extensions and run the most effective ones, so try multiple angles to see what boosts your clicks.

11. Be Mindful of Ethical and Compliance Considerations

Most teams, leagues, and major sports events have trademarked names, slogans, and logos. For the most part, this means you cannot legally use them at all. Some ad platforms will catch that you’re using them and flag your ads, while others won’t. Your ability to upload an ad containing a phrase or image should not be taken to mean it’s allowed. You can still be sued or penalized for it. Because of this, it’s usually better to work with phrases you know are not trademarked. For instance, many brands use the phrase “Big Game” instead of “Super Bowl.”

You may receive special permission to use trademarks if you sponsor a team or event. Read your contract carefully to determine what’s allowed and what isn’t.

12. Track and Analyze the Performance of Sports Event-Related PPC Campaigns

Always set aside time after running sports-themed ad campaigns to measure your success based on the metrics you selected before you began your campaigns. You’ll also want to set aside time during longer or high-volume campaigns to make adjustments. For instance, if your campaign runs an entire season, you’ll want to check performance and adjust keywords at least once per week.

Get Help Improving Your Sports Event PPC Strategies

PPC for sports events is unique. Even if you’re successfully running PPC campaigns for your business, tailoring them to events creates another layer of complexity. However, those who create strong strategies, deploy campaigns with accuracy, and optimize effectively can achieve incredible results. We’re happy to match you with an experienced PPC agency that not only understands sports PPC but is familiar with your industry to help ensure you receive top ROI. To learn more or get started, request a complimentary consultation.

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