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In-Game Advertising Explosion

Page history last edited by dw5149@wayne.edu 12 years, 2 months ago



In-Game Advertising Explosion


“Here’s the pitch, swing – it’s going back, back, back…Gone! This homerun was brought to you by Taco Bell - a homerun for any meal.” This sounds quite ludicrous, but the fact of the matter is, this could be the near future of sports advertising as we know it. Companies are looking for new and creative ways to get hold of their consumers and what better way to do that than through sports. An audience averaging 14.3-million in the 2010 World Series is opportunity in the eyes of corporations. Advertising agencies are getting their product’s names out there in more and more ways in the sporting world. And why not? Advertising in sports can reach a ridiculously large audience due to the draw that sports has on today’s society, they can maximize exposure time of the product, and they can use today’s low-economy to their advantage.  This overexposure of advertising in sports brings up an interesting query as to whether or not it is right.  Should ad companies submerse themselves in the activities that allow people to escape reality for a short time?  Either way we would encourage you to sit back, enjoy the game, and grab a Ball Park® frank. “The official hot dog of every sport.”


Although cliché, the idea that there is a “Rat Race” for product exposure hits the nail right on the head when it comes to describing today’s market. With so many brands for the same or similar products, the companies that last are the ones that get their name out to the consumer most successfully. Finding new creative ways to reach the population is vital and companies are now finding ways to enter the actual sporting event itself. Advertisers know that they can create exigencies for their products by placing logos on the walls, glass, and even jerseys of a consumer’s favorite sporting team. This technique is not new by any means. Let NASCAR serve as the poster child of advertising in sports where they place logos all over the cars as well as the drivers. But it is being taken to newer extremes in particular sports that never before allowed such advertising. These sports, NHL for example, have felt the crunch of the economy and have had to reach out to advertising agencies in hopes to relieve their financial issues. This has opened the flood gates for advertisers to get creative with ad strategies as well as placement.


Almost everyone has at sometime in their life participated in some sport, and if not has at least seen a game on television or at the stadium. It’s part of our culture, and a huge part at that! The attention sports gain in society is staggering and ad agencies have used that to their advantage. These companies will pay too. The average cost for a 30-second spot in Super Bowl XLV was a hefty $3 million dollars. That $3 million is going to get their product 30-seconds in front of 111-million viewers. That’s a huge potential market! Not only do sports attract a huge fan base (aka potential customers), but they also attract a wide variety of cultures. There’s a sport for everyone and if they can’t go to the event, there are now a growing number of channels on television that cover the events. Advertising companies are now able to reach a range of sports from football to surfing to ping pong. With such a wide variety nowadays, it would seem almost impossible to be able to reach potentially every person who owns a TV. This huge potential market gives ad agencies a lot of different ways to go about getting their product out.


 One way, particularly in sports more than anywhere else is using the ethos of a sports star to sell a product. Everyone has seen this in action. Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods or any other sports star comes on the screen and gives some speech about how they use a particular product and it works. As if to say, “Buy this product, because we’re famous and we use it.” This approach seems a bit queer because for the most part the product has nothing to do with sports; whether it is watches, cars or some other product. It does work though, and it works well! People will buy things just to be like their favorite player.  Take Power Bands for example. The trend exploded when athletes like Kobe Bryant began wearing them. This just goes to show that sports are king in today’s culture. Ad agencies know this and are exploiting this social crutch to their full advantage.

The advertising agencies may have finally found their loophole to divulge deeper into the major sports that previously were hesitant and strict on where and how ads were used in the sport.  The economic downturn has hit many of the sports franchises around the states and they have had to turn to the advertising companies for additional fiscal support.  In return they have allowed these agencies to place ads in places never allowed before this point.  For example, the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team had to partner up with Giordano’s pizza chain.  In return Giordano’s logo will be placed on the practice jerseys of the team.  Now this doesn’t sound like a huge deal.  But it’s a slippery slope and it’s only a matter of time before you could potentially see these logos on the game jerseys themselves. 

Not only are these companies buying the athletes and jerseys to get their product’s name out, but they are starting to buy everything else that has to do with the sporting event. The glass surrounding the ice rink and the bases around the diamond are at risk now as well! Advertising is going to new extremes to get their names out there. Digital advertising is the new “Holy Grail” in sports advertising. It’s a new way of bringing ads to the center stage of a viewer’s television. Now every time someone scores a goal in hockey, the television viewers will be reminded of Subway sandwiches. A large, digital logo is placed across the entire width of the glass behind the goalie. This new strategy works brilliantly for ad agencies for several different reasons. It’s a sort of subconscious advertisement. They may not have a catchy jingle or explosions, but there is the constant reminder of a particular product every time the cameras pan past it. Every goal, every pitch gives a friendly subconscious reminder of a product.  Ad companies can get really creative with this style of advertising as well.  They can place the ads pretty much anywhere, since they are not really there.  Only the television viewers will see the giant Geico sign behind home plate.  This sign before wouldn’t be able to be present because it would have to literally be placed on a sign behind home plate.  That was never allowed because it would be a distraction to the athletes playing the game, mainly the pitcher in this instance.  Now this ad can be placed digitally and broadcasted directly to the viewers at home.  Although this is a new territory in advertising history, it is moving at an accelerated rate.  Not only can they broadcast a digital ad in strategic places, but they can also track what particular viewers tend to watch on television on change that digital ad to fit the consumer on the other end.  It’s like a “smart-bomb” for advertising.  They can now hit the customer with ads that will be subconsciously planted into their heads as well as making those ads interesting to each individual on a personal level.

            This new digital-era of advertising could also be the final straw with many fans.  In many ways, NASCAR is the “sell-out” of sports.  Every part of the car and even the driver is covered from head to toe with ads.  It’s quite a ridiculous spectacle to see so much advertising going around and around a track for several hours.  While the sport does attract a certain demographic, many people find are turned away because of the information overload.  This could be the fate that many other sports face, if indeed they do embrace this advertising.  Yes, you could say, “It’s just an ad on the glass” or “It’s only a small ad on the base.”  The fact is, it’s a slippery slope and that can lead to ads on jerseys and anything else that can be seen by fans.  For many people, this will be where the line in the sand is drawn.  The national sports leagues need to really look hard as to what they want to be recognized as – the pure (not counting steroids) game or a media whore.  It seems hard to envision such a prestigious league like the National Football League taking a chapter out of the NASCAR book, but this seems to be the road its headed down.

Another question that pops up, is whether or not its ethically right to put ads all over sports.  While it is acknowledged that the ad company’s job is to get the product exposure to potential consumers, when does it go too far? When does it cross the line and impose on people’s lives?  Sporting events are a perfect way for people to escape from reality for an hour or two.  What are you really escaping if these companies are allowed to place ads all throughout the game?  It’s a difficult problem to assess.  On one hand, this outlet seems like a great way to get a given product out to the public. On the other hand, how ethical is shoving these ads in the faces of people who are trying to escape for a little while.  There are reasons as to why this could be a beneficial (economically) method, but the negatives just seem to heavily outweigh these positives. 

            The rapidly evolving field of sports advertising has raised many questions and should be critically analyzed before it is allowed to continue any further.  They have a very strong strategy to get their products out to the consumers through the pathos of famed athletes, the strategic placement of ads and the emerging and affective digital advertising.  These techniques have made it very easy for advertising agencies to hit the ground running and really get out of hand.  The potential murder of the sanctity of the game and the ethical issue of imposing these ads on fans make this a pressing issue.  While it seems that there is no slowing down the advertising onslaught in sports, there is still a chance that control is regained.  The sporting leagues can choose to legislate the ad use in their sports in a way that can both benefit the advertising companies as well as the fans.  A fan can only hope.


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