Feb 10, 2010 at 04:34 PM
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TNS: In-Game Ads Reach Avid Sports Fans

Are sports focused advertisers wasting money on general sports fans when they'd be better off reinforcing mind share with avid sports fans? That's what an ESPN Sports Poll conducted by TNS in partnership with Electronic Arts asks. The poll explored the similarities among traditional sports fans and the sports gamer audience.

"Fans consume sports in multidimensional ways," said Robert Fox, Senior Vice President at TNS and Executive Director of the ESPN Sports Poll. "Today's interactive entertainment enables fans to engage with their favorite sports on a platform that looks incredibly close to the real thing. When a person is engaged in the video game, there is no channel surfing, and the game is paused only for necessity. This is a terrific way for real-world advertisers and sponsors to develop incremental affinity for their brands."

The typical sports fan may be more scatter brained than we thought. TNS says the average Sports Fan follows six to eight different sports, not just the big four. However, Sports Poll data shows that the average person is an "Avid" Fan of only two to three sports. TNS makes the conclusion that marketing campaigns have a much better chance of being noticed by these avid sports fans.

The study concludes that the National Football League has the largest number of Avid Fans (85 million), followed by college football (64 million) and Major League Baseball (53 million).

Meanwhile, about half of the households in the country own a gaming console and of those households, half of the sports fans and 69% of the avid sports fans own at least one sports video game.

So who are avid "Sports Gamers?" The answer may surprise you. While they tend to predictably be single males with disposable income (three-quarters of these players are male, more than half are between the ages of 18-34), the study suggests that Sports Gamers are more physically active than sports fans in general (60% of Sports Gamers have exercised or participated in a sports activity within the past week compared with 44% of sports fans.)

TNS' Takeaways for Marketers:

Sports video games represent an attractive opportunity for marketers to activate sponsor commitments already in place. IEG Sponsorship estimates that about $12B, or 68 cents of every dollar, is spent on sponsorship that is sports related. Those sponsorship investments require activation to be effective. The Sports Poll study shows that three out of four sports fans say that in-game advertising plays a part in reinforcing a company's real-world sponsorship of that sport.

"Fans have grown to expect that the game experience mirrors the real world and allows them to be Mark Sanchez for the night. Part of the authenticity is the advertising that is imbedded in the game or that is dynamically served during connected play, and includes the finer details like in-stadium and in-arena signage," said Elizabeth Harz, Senior Vice President, Global Media Sales at Electronic Arts. "For sponsors looking to differentiate their brand in a crowded field, the Sports Gamer is influential and the messaging options robust."

(1) Question Wording: Thinking of the sports video games you own, in a typical week during that sport's season, do you spend more time watching live sports on television or playing sports video games (Responses were rotated).