Why following your hometown sports hero could lead to digital advertising dollars


Marketers have long recognised the value of hyper-locality and connecting with consumers via messages that resonate strongly on a local, city-by-city, neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood level.

The digital universe has redefined hyper-locality, and these days there’s a gold rush of digital content that newspaper publishers can welcome as a bright star on the horizon.

The concept of hitting grassroots, hyper-local markets has always been key, but scale has been the challenge.

Now — within the digital landscape — connecting to local and hyperlocal.coms with high-quality, relevant local content is easier. And marketers have the ability to attach their brands to that content in a variety of ways.

Digital media now makes these marketing opportunities accessible with scale, and this is the holy grail for advertisers.

Digital data — given proper context, interpretation, and presentation — allows publishers to drill deep into previously untapped hyper-local markets. It’s a large reason why local digital ad spend is booming.

According to a recent report from BIA/Kelsey, local digital ad dollars are expected to grow in the United States from US$31.7 billion in 2014 to US$52.7 billion in 2018.

The sports industry is a particularly fantastic platform for capitalising on hyper-locality. Leagues and organisations, from football to golf, thrive on the deep emotional connection fans cultivate with their favourite teams  and players.

Yet up until recently, the revenue potential of this hyper-locality has been under-appreciated or poorly understood, by both the leagues and newspaper.coms that publish sports content.

Imagine the power of a local publisher being able to quickly upload high-quality digital highlights and interviews that focus on a player who comes from its distribution market, even though the community might have little affinity with the player’s team?

Take, for example, first baseman Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins baseball team, who was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). He is from New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, and newspaper.coms have a huge appetite for content surrounding their local hero.

Or, as another example, take Bryce Harper, who was the No. 1 draft prick for the Washington Nationals. But where did he come from?

He played for the Harrisburg Senators prior to making the big show, and fans in Harrisburg view Harper as their star, too, and want continued coverage of him. He also attended Las Vegas High School, and the Las Vegas Sun, Tribune, and Review-Journal would love to see more content surrounding Bryce.

It’s local and relevant — that’s the key. Before digital media, these great stars would get lost in national coverage, with local markets forced to search nationally for their favourite player.

Now, individual player syndication can continue feeding this cycle of hyper-local content that fans are dying to consume.

Personally, I remember being frustrated trying to find coverage of Steve Nash, two-time MVP for the National Basketball Association, when he first started out in Phoenix in 1996.

Nash is from my hometown, and the entire city wanted to follow his career. Yet fans found it difficult to get their fix of news about the hometown basketball superstar.

Hyper-locality has opened entirely new avenues of communication and connection with fans, and consequently streams of revenue from advertisers naturally attracted to a highly targeted marketing opportunity.

Though hyper-locality might seem like a flavour-of-the-month buzzword, people are talking about it for good reason. It’s a case of being able to finally see the digital forest beyond the trees.

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