Create a winning live sports strategy with The Trade Desk

Recommended best practices to make the most of your live sports media investment

Live sports have long been a cornerstone of linear television, but sports fans have recently begun to embrace viewing options outside of their traditional cable subscriptions. In fact, 65 percent of US adults 18-34 turn to streaming to get their sports fix1. And at the same time, the number of streaming services that offer live sports has dramatically increased.

As sports viewership continues to move to digital, it presents advertisers with a massive opportunity to reach their customers as they stream across platforms, apps, and devices. But navigating this complex buying landscape can be a bit daunting. That’s why we put together these tips and recommended best practices — to help you make the most of your campaigns and maximize your impact with live sports.

Premium content, audience-first approach

Reach them wherever they’re watching and boost scale

Maximize reach across devices

Live sports are not limited to Connected TV (CTV) devices. In fact, many sports fans stream games directly on their personal devices. This was evident during the 2022 Superbowl, where over 20 percent of viewership occurred on mobile, desktop, and tablet devices, according to a recent Conviva study. Moreover, The Trade Desk’s live sports streaming inventory is accessible across all devices, from CTV to mobile, desktop, and tablets. That’s why we recommend expanding your device targeting to include all devices. That way, you can reach your audience wherever they’re watching.

Scale your buy with the right audience strategy

One of the main benefits of buying live sports on The Trade Desk is the ability to utilize robust audience targeting tools. But at the same time, it's important to make sure your targeting criteria aren't too restrictive, otherwise, it may limit how much you're able to scale. Leverage Koa’s audience targeting capabilities to focus spend on the right viewers while aiming to extend reach. We also recommend enabling Koa Identity Alliance, which selects the best cross-device vendor at the impression level to help you extend your reach even farther.

Consider shoulder programming to broaden reach

Lots of sports viewers also tune into shoulder content, what we classify as any sports-related highlights, reels, interviews, or shows that mainly occur before or after live games. In fact, we found that about 30 percent of regular sports viewers will tune in early or stay after the game to watch whatever surrounding programming is on2. However, this premium inventory often gets overlooked by advertisers, which means you could be missing out on opportunities to get your message in front of your viewers. Consider adding shoulder content to your advertising strategy as a way to expand your reach to a broader sports-minded audience.

Set your campaign up for success

Tools and recommendations to win more impressions during the big game

Break out your live sports strategy from the rest of your CTV buys

Live sports games are short-lived and don’t run consistently, which means avails can be unpredictable and can vary significantly by time of day or day of week. It’s not uncommon to see spikes in spend during certain days and times. Because of this inherent volatility, we recommend separating out your live sports strategy from the rest of your CTV ad groups, so you can give it the attention it needs and focus your efforts on targeting this highly premium inventory more effectively.

Raise your frequency and your bids in an effort to increase win rate

While frequency control might be the main appeal to advertising on CTV, we recommend taking a different approach when it comes to live sports. Because the live sports ad environment is highly competitive, advertisers often face higher CPMs and lower win rates. To improve your win rate, try increasing your frequency and setting your max bid floor higher than your typical CTV strategy. That way, you should have more chances to win those highly coveted impressions, while still not oversaturating your viewers.

Pace smarter to help you capture more opportunities

Since sports are only live for a few hours on average, we recommend pacing ahead to the end of flight to reduce the risk of underspending, especially for short-lived deals. This tactic helps combat CPM inflation by getting in front of the competitive bidding before demand spikes. If you’re using auto-allocator, we recommend aligning your settings with your spend targets, and ranking your live sports ad group as a “priority one” to prioritize spend accordingly.

1: The Trade Desk’s Future of TV Report June 2021
2: TTD consumer survey with YouGov, Dec 2021