More NFL Advertisers Are Running Split-Screen Ads — Here’s Why

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As the kickoff for a highly-anticipated NFL season draws closer and teams gear up for action on the field, advertisers are looking at making their own big plays. The 2023/2024 NFL season is poised to be an advertising gold rush, with new digital advertising innovations enabling unprecedented consumer engagement, tracking, and monetization opportunities for brands. 

The NFL consistently draws the highest ratings among all major sports in the U.S., making football a target-rich environment for brand advertisers. Outside of traditional 30-second Super Bowl spots and corporate sponsorships, brands are finding new opportunities in connected TV ad enhancements and shoppable ads. Brands like Bud Light are also looking at connecting online and offline campaigns by adding QR codes to cans, which fans can scan to win NFL merchandise and gift cards.

“Live sports are some of the few remaining events that people actually watch live instead of time-shifted, which increases the likelihood of people paying attention to commercial breaks.” says Frank Maguire, vice president of insights and strategy for Sharethrough, an ad exchange that works with brands like AT&T and BMW. “That said, most people still do not pay attention during commercial breaks, so advertisers need to keep that fact in mind and continue testing and learning about which strategies and techniques will help maximize attention and ROI of their ads.”

Maguire says one of the biggest changes we’re likely to see in NFL advertising this season involves split-screen advertising. That’s where instead of cutting to a commercial break, a live program is shrunk down, so it’s still within view during the television commercial. With sports advertising making a conscious effort to improve the attention of its most sought-after ad slots, split-screen advertising has reemerged as a valuable tool.

“Consumers are less tempted to change channels, look at their phone or leave the room and more likely to still at least have part of their attention on the ad playing alongside the game,” says Maguire.

Another way sports advertising is improving attention is by keeping sports tickers running on screen when cutting to a commercial break, so fans can continue to see the latest scores. Maguire says this trend likely started with ESPN, but over the years it’s become the industry norm.

“Other stations have followed suit—including news tickers on channels like CNN,” Maguire says. “At Sharethrough our CTV Sports Ticker does the same thing, but it can be appended to any CTV ad on any program to help draw the attention of sports fans.”

Sharethrough is one of a number of ad exchanges actively courting brands looking to capitalize on the rise in digital live sports viewership. The company says it can help brands align with contextually relevant digital content during the NFL season with TrueTemplate technology, which helps video, display and native ads better fit into sports sites.

According to Maguire, Sharethrough is seeing increasing demand for CTV Sports Ticker ads as interest builds leading to the NFL season. That interest extends to brands like Taco Bell, which is looking to use the CTV Sports Ticker to improve the attention their ads receive.

“​​We’re seeing most major NFL advertisers and sponsors take advantage of split-screen ads, which is a good indication that it’s helping improve the attention of the ads,” Maguire says. “You can expect to see more of these types of ads this NFL season and across other sports.”

In recent years, the NFL has solidified its position as a premier platform for advertisers, reaching millions of viewers across the country and around the world. This season, however, takes the ad game to another level. Maguire says it’s important to remember that sports ads don’t have to be limited to only live sports programming, especially when there are many other ways to attract sports fans by adding value through useful content. 

“I could see ad enhancements that run beyond just live sports getting even more customizable, such as customized news for viewers’ fantasy teams or greater customization towards individual teams through geo-targeting,” he says. “All of which should go a long way in improving the attention of ads.”

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.
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