The Summer of Sports: A Goldmine for Marketers Eyeing Gaming Audiences

As the summer of 2024 approaches, sports enthusiasts are gearing up for an exciting lineup of major events. From the highly anticipated Paris Olympics and UEFA Football Championship to the prestigious Wimbledon tournament and The Open Championship, this summer is promising an adrenaline-packed feast for fans around the globe. And following the most-watched Super Bowl of all-time (which saw over 123m viewers in the US alone), it’s clear that the popularity of sports isn’t going anywhere.

While these events traditionally attract millions of viewers, studies show that they also inspire sports lovers to jump into their favorite games. As marketers are increasingly realizing their potential to reach untapped gaming audiences, let’s look at how the overlap between sports fans and gamers presents a winning opportunity for brands to score big this summer.

Many sports fans are also gamers

Both sports and gaming audiences are among some of the biggest on the planet. While there are currently over 3.3bn gamers worldwide, it’s also estimated that six in 10 people in the US identify as sports enthusiasts (myself included, although I'm personally more partial to a session on Hogwarts Legacy! Quidditch is a sport, right? Or at least flying is — come on, give us Quidditch!).

Studies show that many sports followers are also avid players of sports-themed games across mobile, tablet, PC, and console. YouGov research found that five in nine US gamers watch or follow sports, while G2A found that nearly half of gamers (40%) play real-life sports. Given that both real-world competitions and video games deliver an exciting adrenaline rush, rely on strategic thinking, and foster a sense of community, this should come as no surprise.

This overlap is also reflected in the popularity of several top-earning sports titles, including EA Sports (formally FIFA) (which has over 700m players), NBA2K23 (which sees 2m players daily), Tennis Clash (which has over 50m downloads on Google Play alone), Golf Clash, and Soccer Super Star.

With a guaranteed influx of traffic during major sporting events, advertisers can maximize their presence by strategically placing in-game ads where both sports and gaming communities will converge. Sporting events also attract a wide range of demographics, offering advertisers an opportunity to tailor their content to resonate with diverse audiences and ensure maximum impact across different age groups and interests. 

Sporting events lead to peak in-game engagement opportunities

Our research has found that big sporting events translate into big gaming audiences, as player bases of popular sports games have increased significantly during the run of real-world events.

For example, Golf Clash’s player base peaked during The Open Championship in 2023, reaching up to 216k players during its three-day run. Tennis Clash’s player base, which sees 4mm monthly active users, also skyrocketed during the 2023 French Open, seeing players during the tournament’s two-week run. 

We helped a popular condiment brand win attention from players when it ran display and video creatives across a mixture of popular mobile and PC titles (including Cooking Diary, Drift Max Pro, and Trackmania) during the US football playoffs. Their campaign reached a total of 756k unique users, and they saw a 25pt lift in ad recall, a 23pt lift in purchase intent, and a 3pt lift in top-of-mind awareness.

During last year’s FIFA World Cup, we also launched a campaign with US record label EMPIRE to promote recording artist Kizz Daniel’s latest track, placing intrinsic in-game ads throughout the field of Soccer Super Star and engaging over 1m players. Several other popular football-themed games we work with, including Active Soccer 2023, Football Kicks, and Soccer Super Team, see a collective average of 6.5mm monthly active users and offer advertisers an invaluable opportunity to reach a large, diverse, and highly engaged audience of fans during big matches.

Given the easy access that people now have to games, research has also found that gaming is an activity that sports fans are even inspired to do while their favorite matches are on TV. According to research from Sharethrough, 79% of sports fans use their phones, tablets, or computers during commercial breaks of major sports tournaments, while 36% like to play a game while a commercial is running.

This further demonstrates why advertisers should seize the moment and target gamers during big sporting events, taking full advantage of their increased engagement during these periods. In fact, research from Apptopia projects a 22% increase in traffic during real-world golf tournaments, as well as a 15% increase during tennis tournaments.

Game on!

This summer, brands will have the chance to harness the excitement surrounding major sporting events and also benefit from their wider impact across gaming communities. By running intrinsic in-game ad campaigns within popular titles, advertisers can align with specific sports or gaming audiences and drive impact within contextually relevant environments.

Whether you want to build an exciting new world in the metaverse for sports fans to engage with, test audiences with new creative assets, or even run 100% viewable ads across various locations, languages, and demographics via a game takeover (which will allow you to place intrinsic in-game ads throughout an entire game environment and receive 100% ownership of the gameplay), we can guide you on your journey into gaming.

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Nerissa MacDonald

Nerissa is the EVP Global Sales at Anzu. An industry veteran, she has a strong background in AdTech, Programmatic, and Creative. She's a huge fan of gaming and the metaverse and has a passion for enabling brand success in this exciting space.

Nerissa MacDonald