EDO TeamOctober 23, 20233 min read

Live Sports During the Holidays? The Gift That Keeps on Giving

It’s that time of year again, when football and basketball games dominate TV lineups, and fans are already eyeing the holiday calendar for must-see NBA and NFL matchups. Far from being “background noise” at family parties or get-togethers, live holiday sports are a massive engagement magnet for advertisers and are proving to be a safe harbor even amidst industry uncertainty.

This spring and summer saw the slowest upfront period in years, the result of ongoing talent strikes, economic nerves, and countless new streaming options. These factors have pushed more inventory than ever into scatter markets to be purchased à la carte closer to air dates, and now advertisers have to decide if and where to allocate their discretionary spend. Using recent, real-world TV data from EDO’s 2023 Holiday Outcomes Report, media buyers can predict with precision which days and times will drive the biggest impact on their flexible budgets.

Holiday sports consistently deliver above-average engagement

Across the board, live holiday sports are possibly the safest bet advertisers can make. In 2022, all eight major sports broadcasts on Christmas and Thanksgiving Day outperformed the primetime average. The top performer of these broadcasts, a Thanksgiving Day NFL matchup between the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings, generated a 70% lift in per-person, per-second advertising engagement above the primetime average.

The massive audiences for live sports also provide an amplifier effect for high-engagement broadcasts. Last year, Retail brands that advertised during Thanksgiving week NFL games saw a walloping 314% spike in total engagement volume from their NFL advertising the previous week. This 314% week-over-week engagement spike was generated by only an estimated spend increase of just 75% — good for more than a 4x ROI.

Primetime broadcasts prove most effective 

Our data makes the case that media buyers can maximize their performance during the holidays by looking for live sports events that air during day parts that punch above their weight. 

For example, afternoon time slots typically have higher viewership, but evening games drive more engagement. NFL viewers on Thanksgiving were 23% more likely to engage with ads during the 8:15pm matchup than viewers of the average NFL Thanksgiving Day game over the past four years. Similarly, NBA viewers who tuned in for the league’s 8pm game on Christmas Day were 28% more likely to engage with broadcast’s ads than viewers of the average Christmas Day NBA game in the preceding three years.

Amazon’s Black Friday NFL game is Primed for success

In just a few short years, Prime Video has rapidly become a force in live sports. Its weekly Thursday Night Football streams have proven up to 116% more effective at driving consumer engagement than the primetime average. This year, Amazon is breaking new ground as it airs the NFL’s first-ever Black Friday game, another milestone in the rise of streaming sports.

Based on previous Black Friday broadcasts, we can expect this to be another easy win for TV advertisers. Last year, live sports on Black Friday outperformed the rest of the day’s programming by 12%; it also surpassed the average for all winter programming through December by 32%.

Deliver holiday campaign success with TV outcomes intel

As the media landscape fragments, live sports only seems to grow its unique power to drive audience engagement at scale. There are other hidden gems that media buyers should also consider for their holiday TV campaigns, from under-the-radar movie marathons to the ebbs and flows of weekly engagement volumes.

Check out our full 2023 Holiday Outcomes Report to see these latest trends, or sign up for our newsletter to get fresh insights all year long.


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