The global COVID-19 health crisis transformed the year 2020 into one of the most unpredictable and overall strangest time periods for publishers, advertisers, and all the affiliate ecosystem. In addition to businesses going digital and minimizing face-to-face interactions, some of the most important sporting events of the year were rescheduled, played behind closed doors, or simply canceled.
That said 2021 is already proving to be a better year for sporting events, with important competitions like the Euro 2020, summer Olympic Games, and the NBA Finals already being scheduled.
However, this year will also be different for many reasons, so publishers need to make the right adjustments to succeed with affiliate offers that are influenced by sports events in 2021.
We’ve reached out to our team leader of publisher partnerships, Maria Panova, and put together an article with everything you need to know about monetizing sports events in 2021.
Digital Traffic in 2021: How Will Sports Events Impact Behavior?
“Although sports events usually produce a boost in traffic, this year we can expect a higher number of visitors than ever before,” says our team leader of publisher partnerships.
“There are two reasons for this. First, the overall number of internet users is growing due to cheaper smartphones and faster internet connections. Second, there are more people watching these events online because bars, restaurants, and stadiums are all closed.”
Who Benefits from This Boost?
The best part is that, according to previous trends, the boost in traffic is not limited to sports sites.
As a matter of fact, “the entire digital ecosystem experiences a boost in activity because users run more online searches, spend more time connected to the internet, and are more likely to interact with ads because they are in a better overall mood,” says Maria.
Choosing Between Mobile and Desktop Traffic
“Rather than putting all their attention on one type of traffic, publishers need to target both desktop and mobile users. This is because smartphones and other devices help generate more money, but desktop computers are more comfortable for users to watch and connect to their televisions,” Panova tells us.
Therefore, publishers should ensure that their desktop sites are performing well in terms of speed and functionality. At the same time, these need to be optimized for mobile in order to attract and make the most of traffic from both channels.
Which GEOs Will Experience the Biggest Traffic Boost?
“The best GEOs of each event will depend entirely on who is participating. As a general rule of thumb location-specific events are mostly viewed by people from that location. So, the Euros are most popular in Europe, Copa America in North and South American countries, and so on,” says Panova.
Some events are international either because of the sport or the level of the athletes competing. For example, Connor McGregor UFC fights or NBA Finals that feature LeBron James.
For instance, here’s how one of our publishers managed to monetize the fight between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. on November 28, 2020 (sports website):
Period: October 20th – December 10th|
Platform: Mobile + Desktop
CPM improvement: +30%
Paid: +60% in November
NB: For security reasons, we can’t post the name of this publisher or his website address.
Best Ad Formats for Increased Profits
According to Panova, “Publishers shouldn’t be afraid of monetizing every single visitor because traffic volumes during sports events are not stable, but come like a tidal wave instead” In the 2 or 3 hours that an event lasts, you can get tens of thousands or more visitors, so you need to leverage every monetization alternative you have available.”
Most ad formats are compatible with each other, especially leading ones like pop ads and push notifications. That said, you need to test out different combinations and compare performance before these events start in order to calibrate everything properly.
Adjusting Your Monetization Strategy
“There are many steps publishers should take in preparation for this years’ sporting events. The key is to start now in order to improve the publishing platform’s performance and get the highest number of visitors to see the content,” says Panova.
“For starters, publishers should optimize their sites and other platforms for SEO. Search engines generate a huge chunk of today’s internet traffic on both mobile and desktop, but getting the best rankings takes time,” Panova reminds us. “Therefore, publishers need to start now and get those rankings up as much as possible.”
The keywords you should optimize for have to include the names of the participants or the event, as well as the date and the type of content users should expect. For example, “Barcelona – Real Madrid April 20 watch online” would be a good keyword for streaming platform owners.
“Additionally, publishers should make technical improvements to their sites in order to create a better user experience,” explains Panova. This includes a fast connection so that users don’t have to wait for the video to load or get up to reload the page. According to Panova, “renting more servers in preparation for higher traffic volumes is always a great option that can result in more revenue.”
Finally, if you don’t already have them set up, you should create an email marketing sequence and push notifications to remind users about important games, something like “hey, we’ll broadcast this and that event this week, interested?” in order to increase the people that visit your platform during the event.
Mistakes to Avoid and Risks to Consider
“There are plenty of different mistakes that publishers need to avoid and risks they should weigh before starting,” says Panova. These include:
- Diversifying audiences: the goal of a sports publisher is to attract a diverse audience in order to maintain a steady stream of events. If you always opt for the most popular ones, there will be ridiculous competition and little traffic when there are no events.
- Choosing the same monetization schemes as regular traffic: users that watch sports online are different than other types of traffic. They don’t mind a huge number of ads and similar techniques that don’t work with other verticals in exchange for a free broadcast.
- Planning for stable traffic: sports events traffic goes and comes in massive waves, so you need to be aggressive and forget about spooking users.
- Expecting consistent results: sports event traffic is not only inconsistent in volume, but also performance. You should not expect the same results from similar pieces of content because the performance varies depending on the location and other user demographic details.
- Changing monetization strategies mid-season: publishers should evaluate, test, and choose the best monetization formats and partners before the season or event starts. You need to ensure that your partner will give you a good CPM, ensure that tags are working, and make your account manager available during the event in case you run into technical issues.
“There are many unreliable partners out there, so you can’t waste precious time vetting the different platforms while an awesome event is running,” says Panova.
This means that you should test your partner on a much smaller event and use it as a mock run in preparation for a larger gathering. So, you should test tags, landing pages, content, and every other variable that helps you make a better choice.
Want to find out more about monetizing traffic from sports events? Contact PropellerAds and our team will be glad to help.