Promoted feature: The evolution of online sports experiences and how you can engage fans

Laura Scanlan of Facebook provides an insight into how sporting fans can be reached and engaged with

Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed a shift in the way people consume sports entertainment and media. With more viewers going online for coverage of their favourite sports, online audiences have, for the first time, overtaken TV sports viewing figures.(1)

Forty percent of global sports fans now watch online(2), with over one billion unique views of sports content in 2019 alone, among a diverse mix of ages around the world. We’re also seeing more long-form content consumption online where sports is concerned. For example, in 2020 more than 13.7 million people in Latin America tuned in to the UEFA Champions League final, making it the most-watched football broadcast on Facebook.(3) At times like these, ‘the beautiful game’ becomes more than a game; it’s a way for fans to interact in real-time, sharing the highs and lows of a major event. This creates valuable opportunities for marketers. Advertising where your viewers are watching means you can reach large audiences in a highly targeted way, on platforms they’re actively engaging with (such as Facebook).

Facebook Olympic media consumption

Social media’s role in traditional viewing

While streaming is now the most popular way to watch sport, social media plays a role even for traditional TV viewers. Sixty-three percent of fans use social media while watching sport(4), 53% view Instagram Stories about live sports events, and 40% and 35% use WhatsApp and Messenger respectively to talk about global sporting events.(5) So it’s not just broadcasting but the consumption of sports which is evolving.

Facebook sports dual screening


According to FB internal data, football is the most-viewed sport on Facebook with 350,000,000 unique views in 2019 alone. Looking at the number of fans on our platforms, you might say that football is coming home to Facebook and Instagram, or rather that football fans are. Seventy percent of fans read sports event-related posts on Facebook and two times more videos are watched by sports fans on Instagram versus non-sports fans.(6) With major events like the European Championships on the horizon, this presents a crucial opportunity for marketers.

What does this mean for you?

Conversation on social media tends to start early, and peaks around key games.(7) So as mentioned major sporting events like the upcoming European Championships create opportunities for high levels of engagement and interactivity.

Below you’ll find four recommendations to help you make the most of these opportunities.

  1. Choose your moment 

With so much existing noise in the market, it’s crucial you identify the right moment for your campaign. Reach & Frequency (R&F) lets you book campaigns in advance with predictable, optimised reach and controlled frequency. This buying type can deliver high-reaching penetration around key spikes with a fixed CPM, warming audiences up for the conversion stage. You can utilise R&F to ensure strong baseline awareness with an R&F campaign running across the tournament. Broad-reaching campaigns generally drive higher overall impact, while a frequency of two-a-week can help drive fulfilment of campaign objectives.

Working hand-in-hand with the baseline awareness driving activity is an opportunity to identify key moments to drive share of voice and maximise reach at relevant times with one to three day R&F.

Facebook Euro 2016


  1. Look beyond key moments 

While the opening and finals are key competition moments, there is still plenty of interest during other phases. It’s important to track trends throughout the competition to build different strategies, and to identify relevant games for your market.

Engagement, interest and interactivity continues outside of live matches during major events. Seventy percent of people read sports event content on the newsfeed,(8) while 69% like that they can interact with sports stars on Instagram.(9) Fans are the ones leading the commentary, seeking the content they want, or creating it for others. As a 2019 BBC article stated: “The democratisation of digital media has put ordinary fans squarely at the forefront of football commentary.”

Facebook’s sophisticated marketing tools help you reach relevant audiences throughout the tournament. You can zero in on Football Fans, Sports Fans, or Lookalike audiences, allowing you to continue the conversation with an extremely engaged audience. This enables you to extend the relevancy of your reach throughout the tournament using sophisticated signals to reach the right audience at the right time.

  1. Capture opportunities as they arise 

Measure opportunities against existing customer strategies and retain players post-tournament. As we explored previously, only one in five emails from gambling companies are opened.(10) So personalisation is important for effective customer relationship management (CRM), but can be hard to scale when working with incomplete data and a large, diverse customer base. That’s why social media is a powerful way to connect. Effective CRM after key events involves finding the right segmentation, ad technology, campaign setup and creative, and developing a test and learn mindset.

  1. Utilise ad creative

Ad creative is an important part of social strategy. Sparked by the rise of mobile, the worlds of performance and brand are converging. So, consumer attention on mobile doesn’t differentiate between brand and direct response ads. Everything is a brand experience, and everything is about performance.

When creating ads for mobile: 

  • Build mobile-first creative to help drive performance.
  • Stick to 15-second (maximum) ads which deliver messaging and branding early.
  • Design for sound-off, instead use text and graphics to deliver your message.
  • Take a test and learn approach with a mix of static and video creatives.

As more major tournaments approach, now is the optimal time to begin planning your strategy. Whether your goal is to attract and retain new players, or re-engage older ones, these recommendations can form the basis of a solid approach.

For more information on any of our recommendations, you can visit the Facebook IQ resource center.

Responsible gambling advertising with Facebook

Supporting and protecting at-risk and vulnerable people across Facebook’s apps and technologies is important to us. As such, we’ve made significant progress to expand our advertising controls. Our guide will inform gambling businesses or firms about these controls and tools, helping them to implement campaigns responsibly, while helping to protect people who use our services.

Article citations

  1. Source: E-Marketer Sports OTT landscape; January 2019
  2. Source: Global Web Index ; All markets, Q1 2020
  3. Source: The Evolution of Watch, Facebook, September 2020 
  4. Source: Global Web Index ; All markets, Q1 2020
  5. Facebook IQ Source: “Multi-App Behaviour During The Olympics Games” by Facebook IQ-commissioned survey of AU, BR, FR, GR, JP, KR, RS, UK, US, by YouGov, Apr 2019.
  6. Source: Facebook IQ commissioned a survey with YouGov to survey 9,173 people aged 18-64 across Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Russia, the UK and the US; July 2019
  7. Facebook IQ Source: Facebook app data. France only; ages 18 and above. Facebook analysis of overall conversational volume, themes, and logically related terms.
  8. Facebook IQ Source: “Multi-App Behavior During The Olympics Games” by Facebook IQ-commissioned survey of AU, BR, FR, GR, JP, KR, RS, UK, US, by YouGov, Apr 2019.
  9. Source: Facebook IQ commissioned a survey with YouGov to survey 9,173 people aged 18-64 across Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Russia, the UK and the US; July 2019
  10. Source: Email Marketing Benchmarks and Statistics by Industry, Mailchimp

Laura Scanlan, Facebook

Laura Scanlan is a senior client partner working on Facebook’s Real Money Gaming business for over six years. With over 15 years’ marketing and media experience, she is passionate about supporting the partners she works with to achieve their business objectives and elevating the marketing practices of the gambling industry.

CRM | Customer retention | Facebook | Football | Instagram | Marketing | Social media | Sports