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Football’s coming… to a more diverse and responsive audience

This year’s World Cup had the highest viewing figures for the women’s game to date and went some way to lift the proverbial glass ceiling from the football pitch. The BBC reported that in total its coverage was watched by 28 million people across TV and online platforms. The semi-final between England and the USA was watched by 8.9 million people, making it the joint-fourth most viewed programme of the year.

In the Netherlands, the final was watched by 35% of the population – 5 million people – and took 86% of the viewing share, more than any single programme in 2018 or 2019.

Outside of live sports events, it is very hard to reach that many people with one spot, and we usually stay away from these kinds of events when it comes to response-focused campaigns. Firstly, the cost can be extremely prohibitive, with stations putting premiums on rates, and usually only selling airtime in a package so there is no option to test before committing to a big investment. Secondly, we don’t usually see a strong response especially from shorter sports (football, rugby etc.), people are more likely to be watching in groups and/or drinking.

So as not to buck the trend, TV stations across most markets underestimated the women and did not place major premiums on buying spots in the games, and as they were being sold on a spot by spot basis, so we decided to take the opportunity to test a few spots for some of our response-focused clients. The initial results were very positive, in some cases achieving 50% of our monthly acquisition targets with just 11% of the spend.

We then continued to book spots in the markets where the return on investment (ROI) was in line with targets and had two All Response Media clients running in the final itself, which was broadcast on NPO1 (Netherlands). The results were very strong with big spikes in web traffic, driving the highest number of conversions year-to-date.

Why then, did the women’s game perform differently to previous tournaments?

The average gross rating points (GRPs) for the 2015 Women’s World Cup for the 13+ age group was 1.5 vs. 9.9 for last year’s men’s World Cup (which the Dutch were not in) and then 10 for this year’s World Cup. So, we can see that there is definite growth in interest in the tournament compared to four years ago, which gives good reach opportunities, to begin with.

However, where we think the biggest difference has come, especially for our NGO advertisers, is the increase in 50+ year old female viewers. In 2015, GRPs averaged at 1.2 vs 10.6 in 2018 and 13 in 2019. The index of the target group jumped from just 80 in 2015 to 126 this year. Men aged 50+ were also a core group and were the most dominant group but this is consistent across all three tournaments. We also saw a lower number of GRPs for 15-34 age groups, and so for advertisers looking to hit an older audience, there was less wastage compared to the previous men’s tournament.

Average GRPs

Source: SKO (Netherlands viewing data) 

Index by audience

Source: SKO (Netherlands viewing data)

All Response Media viewpoint
The ability to access a higher variety of sports via digital sources has meant that in general, it has become more accessible to audiences, but especially sports that may have been considered niche or uninteresting to the masses. As a result, TV coverage is improving for both major tournaments and regular games. With more investment into the sports, the quality also continues to improve, and it is likely that coverage will continue to grow. This means more supply in sports breaks, and therefore more opportunities to access the airtime at reasonable prices. Sports viewing is also not excluded from the world second screening which also increases the likelihood of response.

More coverage means bigger and more diverse audiences, leading to less restrictive pricing with the addition of improved responsiveness makes live sport a much more attractive proposition for response advertisers.

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