Skip to main content
News >

Sports Marketers Raised Bar on Creativity, Innovation in 2020: OMG’s Tom McGovern

This interview was originally published by Beet.TV.

Brands seeking to reach a mass audience will keep partnering with broadcasters that offer unrivaled reach amid the fragmentation of media channels. The Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which were delayed by a year because of the pandemic, will showcase the power of live sports to drive viewership.

“The bulk of that consumption is going to take place on television,” Tom McGovern, president of Optimum Sports, said in this interview with Beet.TV. “There’s a lot of value in reaching a mass audience.” Optimum is the sports marketing agency of Omnicom Media Group.

Digital channels tend to be additive to the broadcast audience of cannibalizing it, while also providing more detailed information about viewers. However, sports fans are less likely to be cord-cutters because they want to access to live programming found on cable and satellite TV.

The pandemic disrupted viewing habits as many sports leagues suspended operations during lockdowns, and then competed with each other for viewers. The National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball aired their playoffs later in the year, all overlapping with the National Football League’s regular season.

That created situations where fans in cities like Houston had to decide whether to watch the NBA’s Houston Rockets, the NFL’s Houston Texans or MLB’s Houston Rockets play important games on the same day — for the first time in almost 40 years.

The pandemic also led leagues to schedule games on unexpected days and at unusual times, making it harder for fans to watch.

Lasting Innovation

There are signs that 2021 will be a more normal sports year as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament resumes in March. Amid the reversion to a more normal schedule, some innovations that were byproducts of the pandemic are likely to last.

Sports network ESPN, as one example, scored network-high ratings for a documentary with its airing of “The Last Dance,” which chronicled the Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ effort to win their sixth championship. The NFL also saw record ratings for its draft of college players, which was reformatted as a virtual event with camera crews placed nationwide.

Without fans in stadiums, broadcasters had more opportunities to experiment with different camera angles of games. In some cases, the change made brands more visible with their in-stadium activations.

“You may see more of that — the different signage opportunities around stadiums and venues,” McGovern said. “They’ve all had to get a little creative to bring things to the market, not only in the way the games are presented, but also with new opportunities for brands and marketers to engage.”

Sports programming drives the creative decisions by marketers and their agencies, with TV commercials showing references to sports or featuring prominent sports personalities as spokespeople. Their appearances support their credibility of brands.

“When you see athletes endorsing brands in commercials, that’s part of being in an authentic environment,” McGovern said.

This interview is part of “Live Sports 2021: What’s Next on TV,” a Beet.TV + VAB leadership video series presented by Effectv, a Comcast company. For more videos, please visit this page.