What the Premier League final day teaches brands about leveraging trending content in real time

From Arsene Wenger’s departure to Tottenham’s victory over Leicester, Josh Baines, product marketing manager at digital brand intelligence analysts Grapeshot, reveals how it is possible to take advantage of 'tent-pole' events.

What the Premier League final day teaches brands about leveraging trending content in real time

Arsene Wenger’s departure represented a brand opportunity on the Premier League final day

Live sporting events offer brands an unrivalled opportunity to connect with engaged fans online. As people take to the web for live updates on scores, reviews, previews and everything in between – brands are presented with a truly unique opportunity to engage fans with relevant, in-the-moment messages.

That said, there’s an unpredictability around live sporting events that can sometimes feel like an inconvenience for brands. Controversies, adverse results and unexpected successes can add another layer of confusion to campaign planning, and can impact the precision of targeting an audience. The way people consume live sports and its related content has also changed dramatically; the consumer is now ultimately in control of the agenda, setting out what, how and when they consume content related to these events.

In a climate like this, brands need to react to changing agendas instead of looking to create them. Using something like predictive contextual targeting gives brands the ability to capitalise on the content that millions of online sources are generating in real-time, to identify trending themes and emerging audiences. With insights like these, brands are better able to deliver messages that are highly relevant and effective, whilst identifying and reaching potential new audiences simultaneously.

Owning the moment

It can be tempting to view every live sporting event in the calendar as an opportunity to drive value. But it’s important for brands to critically evaluate each event and consider why it would be a great opportunity. Owning the moment is about reaching a mass audience with a relevant, significant message at specific, important times during an event. In this sense, brands need to remain as flexible as possible; able to adapt and tweak campaign content at short notice. Consumer interests during these times are fluid and fast-changing, with unexpected developments often leading to a change in direction within many online conversations.

The final day of the Premier League: unexpected moments

We saw this unpredictability in motion when we analysed content surrounding last Sunday’s final day of the Premier League.

Using artificial intelligence (AI)  technology that interprets the content of individual webpages, we were able to identify trending keywords over the course of the day – finding 13.3m web pages categorised as relevant for a Premier League audience on that day, in 31 languages.

This year, final day game drama didn’t materialise as anticipated. Instead, we found that interest in the event spiked when key stories from across the games reached their conclusion. For example, the weekend’s final day brought with it the end of Arsene Wenger’s tenure with Arsenal, Swansea’s relegation, Mo Salah winning of the Golden Boot, alongside Michael Carrick’s retirement among other major themes.

Mo Salah winning the Premier League Golden Boot was one of the most engaging topics on the Premier League final day

In fact, the heaviest focus of engagement was actually around Wenger’s final game (38 per cent), followed by Mo Salah’s winning of the Golden Boot (21 per cent) respectively. The unpredictable and unforeseen nature of trending content surrounding these events was also reinforced when an unexpected game generated the highest engagement. The Tottenham vs Leicester game was initially one with little to play for, but with nine goals scored overall, it started to trend. Lamela’s unexpected goals and performance was the third most engaged with topic over the weekend. (13 per cent).

We also discovered that Premier League engagement was almost exclusively at its highest during, or immediately after games shown on the weekend, meaning there was only a small, crucial and potentially lucrative window for brands to reach audiences at key moments.

Being able to predict trends like these provide brands with a unique opportunity to capitalise on important moments within the season that no one could have anticipated from the beginning. Likewise, these insights generated in real-time could have helped brands align their messages with the positive moments that genuinely defined the final day of the season for audiences.

Being able to predict trends like these provide brands with a unique opportunity to capitalise on important moments within the season that no one could have anticipated from the beginning

Fans put their money where their mouth is

The words that we saw populating the Premier League segment tended to overlap with other segments including online gambling (19 per cent), the World Cup (17 per cent), Men’s Health (17 per cent), European soccer fans (16 per cent) and golf fans (12 per cent).

With these insights, brands could realise the potential to extend their reach into new connected audience groups where messages are likely to have the biggest impact. At the same time, this enables a better understanding of the broader profile of content that brands can aim to target. Given the real-time nature of these assessments, they can be updated as the conversation moves on – meaning brands can remain highly relevant at all times throughout the tournament and beyond.

The World Cup – prepare now

The next major sporting event on the calendar for soccer fans will be the Fifa World Cup, and brands looking for that competitive edge should be exploring new ways to reach audiences when, and where, it matters most. Not only will this kind of campaigning be more effective and efficient, it will be more welcomed in the moment by audiences who gravitate towards well-suited ad placement.

Josh Baines is product marketing manager at Grapeshot