Sports Apps Lift the Trophy for Mobile Ads in Q3 2019

As summer reaches its peak and moves into fall in Q3 each year, two very different kinds of football kick back into action on both sides of the Atlantic ocean. Throughout Europe, highly popular soccer leagues return in August, while in the US the National Football League (NFL) starts its new season in September. With huge fan bases and regularly scheduled games, these major events offer sports app publishers improved traffic and attractive ad inventory, and supply advertisers with an ideal opportunity to achieve highly engaged users via their mobile devices.

Sports Apps Spike on Premier League Game Days

When it comes to soccer, there’s no larger yearly competition in the world than the Premier League. The 2018-2019 year had a cumulative international audience of 3.2 billion individuals,1 while in the United Kingdom, around 70% of the population tuned in to watch their regional teams play last year. The vast majority of games take place on Saturday or Sunday, which ensures that throughout the weekend, followers and fans are regularly checking scores, stats, news stories, and even watching the games via their phones and sports apps.

In the UK this growth in activity was perfectly illustrated throughout Q3 2019, following the return of the Premier League on August 9. Data from the Smaato platform showed that sports app ad requests were up to 3X greater on game days than the quarterly average.


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The trend in high weekend ad requests saw a substantial decline on September 8 and 9, during a break for European Championship qualifying games, which may be attributed to the fact that no Premier League teams were playing. What’s more, ad requests spiked again mid-week once the teams played for the EFL Cup — a knock-out championship that coincides with the Premier League.

Back across the pond in the US, the sporting tendency followed a remarkably similar pattern — but for an entirely different sport. Fan excitement during game weekends scored a touchdown for advertisers and app publishers alike.

Sports app ad requests and ad spending both increased by almost 260% over their quarterly averages on each weekend in September. Most NFL games are played on Sundays and this was where the high peaks of action occurred, as users switched to sports app to get stats and scores or to stream the action live. Ad requests and advertiser spending also increased on the Saturday before as anticipation built amongst fans.

The elevated levels of in-app activity caused by the NFL come as no surprise once we analyzed the game’s biggest event. Last season’s Super Bowl saw fans go digital to watch the big game; a typical audience of 2.6 million streamed via mobile, desktop, or CTV — up 31% on the previous year, while TV viewership dropped to 98.2 million, the lowest level since 2008.2

Data from the Smaato platform also provided insights into the different advertiser verticals spending their budgets on sports apps throughout Q3. The wide range of categories was clear to see in the US. Media and retail advertisers accounted for 51% of ad spend, while health care, food and beverage, and energy brands all compete for visibility in sought-after ad placements during those important game days.

Plan Your Monetization Offense

Whether you are an app publisher looking to take advantage of the huge interest in these popular sports and want to maximize your revenues, or an advertiser hoping to deliver successful campaigns to a highly engaged audience — we’ve got good news. It’s not just Q3 in which these sports take place; the Premier League runs from August until its finale in May the following year, using a total of 380 games. From the NFL regular season, 256 games are contested by teams over 17 weeks, followed by playoffs, and the game’s biggest event — the Super Bowl in February. This guarantees that there are regular events to plan your in-app monetization strategy around or deliver successful advertising campaigns. It might be that fans were glued to their TV sets — but they are glued to their phones.

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