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Using Sports in Political Media Buying: A Cost Effective Approach

Posted by on Sep 1, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

Three of the most populated states have major political races coinciding with major sports followings.  In New York City, where the Yankees, Giants, and Jets reign in the fall, there will be competitive races for Senate and Congress in both New York and Connecticut. In California, both the Governor and Senate seat will be heating up as will the division leading Padres and USC college football.  Meanwhile in the heart of Texas, a contested Governors race will compete for headlines with the Cowboys, Longhorns, and first place Rangers.

When looking at research in New York City, Dallas, and Los Angeles, there are some interesting trends in sports viewership in order to reach voters. Using survey data from Arbitron, there are distinct differences when comparing consistent voters 35 and older in statewide elections to non voters in the same age range.  In Dallas, ESPN ranks as the second most watched cable network, and 40% of respondents are “Very interested” in NFL (20% more than non-voters). When looking at broadcast viewing habits, sports ranks as the 3rd highest TV program typically watched (14% higher).  Meanwhile baseball is the craze in New York City, where “Very interested” in MLB leads the category, and voters use the internet for sports scores 20% more than non-voters, the highest percentage difference.  In Los Angeles, voters are 33% more likely to be “Very interested” in college football, and four of the top seven highest voter percentage cable networks are sports related.

While buying sports can be costly, when looking at specific games or teams and considering the delivery audience, there are efficient ways to buy sports. In Dallas, Cowboys games generate huge audiences, including a 16.8 rating for cable, which is larger than any broadcast show that week. However at $50k a spot, this is not an efficient cost per point.  This does not mean to avoid football, just to buy the appropriate game and rate. The Texas/Oklahoma game will deliver a 15.6 rating on broadcast, and at only $22k a spot will be more cost effective than 12 regular primetime programs that week.  In LA, cable is efficient when looking at USC Football, which pulls in a 1.5 rating, two times higher than the second rated show, and at $7k, it is cheaper per point than 10 other networks. In San Diego, the Chargers are a good buy as well since their 20.5 rating on broadcast is more cost efficient than 20 other programs, including non-primetime shows like the Price is Right.

Therefore, here are the key dates in the fall for the three major sports in several battleground states (PA, OH, CA, FL, TX, NY), which should be cost effective and deliver huge audiences. These teams are either highly ranked, big rivalries, or playoff contenders.

Key College Football Dates/Games:

  • 9/11 – Ohio State vs Miami, Penn State vs Alabama, Florida St vs Oklahoma
  • 9/25 – Texas vs UCLA
  • 10/2 – Florida vs Alabama, Texas vs Oklahoma
  • 10/9 – Florida vs LSU, Miami vs Florida St
  • 10/16 – Texas vs Nebraska, USC vs California
  • 10/30 – Penn State vs Michigan, USC vs Oregon, Florida vs Georgia

NFL Key Dates/Games:

  • 9/12 – Cowboys vs Washington Redskins
  • 9/19 – New York Giants vs Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets vs New England Patriots,
  • 9/26 – Miami Dolphins vs Jets, Houston Texans vs Cowboys
  • 10/3 – Philadelphia Eagles vs Redskins
  • 10/24-5 – San Diego Chargers vs Patriots, Dolphins vs Pittsburgh Steelers, Cowboys vs Giants

Key MLB matchups before the playoffs on cheaper local networks:

  • 9/3-9/5 – Cincinnati Reds vs St. Louis Cardinals
  • 9/10-9/12 – New York Yankees vs Texas Rangers
  • 9/13-9/15 – Yankees vs Tampa Bay Rays
  • 9/16-9/19 – San Diego Padres vs Cardinals
  • 9/20-9/23 – Yankees vs Rays
  • 9/24-9/26 – Yankees vs Boston Red Sox, Reds vs Padres
  • 10/1-10/3 – Yankees vs Red Sox

The teams above will all be contenders to make and go far in the playoffs on Fox and TBS, which begins around 10/6 and will end near Election Day.

While the success of the politician and local team may not coincide, at least you can win by efficiently reaching the voters at the same time.

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