Picture this. It’s Sunday and you just woke up with a massive headache. Maybe you had one too many vodka-sodas or maybe it was that last beer that your friend convinced you to chug. Every part of your body is screaming at you to go back to sleep but you can’t. Why? Because it’s Sunday and you know what that means.
It’s football time.
You roll over and pop some Advil while guzzling the leftover water from the night before crawling out of bed and over to the couch. It’s almost 1 PM which means it is almost kickoff so you flick on the television and over to CBS.
James Brown’s smiling face is there to greet you as he holds the roundtable discussion about how the day’s games will go. He tosses it over to former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher who sparks a debate. The debate begins to interest you until the camera cuts back to Brown letting you know that the segment is sponsored by Dominos.
But that’s just how it goes now. Advertising, especially on television, plays such a big part in selling the product that they can interrupt whenever they want. And because companies like CBS attract so many clients, they have to shrink the size of their segments to fit it all in.
Richard Dietsch, a journalist for Sports Illustrated, shared a similar opinion in his weekly media column. You’ll have to skip about halfway down the page to get to the part where he talks about CBS.
At some point along the line, advertisers realized two things. First, that DVR could ruin them and second, given the sheer mass of companies in existence, attention is a commodity.
Many of those advertisers then looked to sports to save them. Why? Because live sports are DVR proof. They demand your attention almost every second and, since they live, there is no point in watching them after they are over(i.e. DVRing it).
The simplest solution for advertisers was to slip it into live sports without you really noticing the difference. One of the easiest examples comes from soccer. When soccer first started to air in the US, the only thing on the screen was the scoreboard in the top right hand corner.
Something like that isn’t necessarily conducive to advertising so at some point along the line, someone had the bright idea to tack on advertisers to the end of the scoreboard. Here’s an example:
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) August 30, 2015
See how the Puma slogan “Forever Faster” is added on to the end? It’s subtle yet noticeable at the same time. The ads don’t stop there though. Occasionally, they’ll actually play a short 10-second commercial that dominates the scoreboard.
Another soccer related example comes from Fox Sports 1 who are starting to show more soccer than any other network. The only issue with showing more soccer is that it is very hard to get advertisers to pay to sponsor the show/presentation of the game because there are no breaks in soccer outside of halftime. That means they play for 45+ minutes straight with no commercial break.
What FS1 did to solve the problem is both intelligent yet utterly distracting
In the above photo, you can see that they shrink the game to about 2/3 of its normal size and display a pretty decent size ad from one of their sponsors. While they rarely show an all-video ad(each ad lasts about 20-seconds), it detracts from the actual viewing of the game just do to the size of the screen changing.
The decision to try and do ads like this in the middle of a soccer game is one that didn’t go over well with a lot of people though they tend to understand the necessity. I mean, there was a whole Reddit thread devoted to whether or not people were happy with FS1’s decision.
And while soccer is the clearest cut example of how companies are advertising in-game, it is far from the only sports. Now in most professional sports shown on TV, there is some sort of advertisement thrown on the end though it may not stay there all game.
Or maybe the play-by-play broadcasters and the studio analysts will engage in a meaningful discussion about concussion protocol, only after letting you know that the segment is sponsored by Sleepy’s, the Mattress Professionals.
Regardless, live sports were once thought to be a nearly ad-proof because of their dynamic nature and the irregularity of the outcome. With that no longer being the case, viewers will just have to hold on and endure the ride.