John Litster: MD of Sky Media
John Litster: MD of Sky Media
A view from John Litster

Embrace the passion of sports viewers this summer

We're set for an outstanding summer of sport, and among those waiting in anticipation is John Litster, managing director of Sky Media.

Sports fans are on the edge of their seats thanks to exciting events including Wimbledon, the Ashes, the British Grand Prix and the Golf Open Championship. Then, before you know it, the new football season will be underway once more, with the smart money on Tottenham Hotspur winning their first league title in over 50 years…

In the UK we love every facet of sport, from our memorable hosting of the 2012 Olympics to kickabouts in parks, and from proud parents’ sports day videos through to the incredible viewing choice offered by the UK’s fiercely competitive broadcasters.

What we find at Sky is that the more sport we offer across multiple platforms, the more viewers embrace it. Their passion means they want to get as close to the sports they love as possible. This in turn is leading to rich engagement opportunities for advertisers with new ways to enhance the experience, from big spot advertising to the digital space and mobile.  

I like what Hardys is doing on Sky Sports this summer, in its second year as the official sponsor of England Cricket (I’m tickled that an Australian wine is sponsoring England cricket for a start!). Not only does Hardys interact with viewers during fixtures, but this year it is engaging with cricket fans remotely through its microsite on Sky Sports online.

The hub we have created for Hardys, which includes editorial features, videos and competitions all related to Hardys Summer of Cricket, takes user engagement to another level. Hardys demonstrates perfectly the opportunities brands have to tell a story to sports fans ahead of a key event such as the Ashes, and in turn enhance how viewers experience the sports they are most passionate about.

Talking of passion, with 10,912 hours of football aired on Sky Sports in 2014 there’s plenty to set fans’ pulses racing. This year’s Premier League season begins on 8th August and will see Chelsea seek to retain the title.

Regardless of club affiliations I hope that all advertising professionals appreciate the extraordinary milestone that Ford has reached, with its 24th season working with Sky Sports - the UK’s longest running sport sponsorship. With the Ford Fiesta in clear first position and the Ford Focus in second, Ford leads the UK car market and its relationship with Sky Sports is the epitome of a successful long-term brand partnership. 

That said, it’s horses for courses and there are also plenty of effective short-term tactical campaigns. For example, in 2014 VisitScotland teamed up with Sky Sports in the run-up to the Ryder Cup to find the event’s best ‘Brilliant Moment’ throughout the years, which created much attention at the time. 

Advertisers can add to the sports viewing experience by understanding audience flows across platforms and showing relevant content at the right time. To give some context, last year we broadcast 59,000 hours of viewing across 100 different sports and our digital platform had a reach of over 35 million unique users per month. The data behind this - we use Sky ARC to ascertain cross-platform campaign cover - is a valuable additional resource for advertisers.

Across the broadcast landscape one of the most notable fundamental shifts lately is the growing interest and demand for women’s sport content. We have seen more and more female role models emerge in the sporting arena, too many to name but Jessica Ennis-Hill, Nicola Adams and Charley Hull spring to mind. There has also been growing investment in women’s sport, a key example being the England Women’s Cricket Team, which has been sponsored for the first time this year by KIA.

Another element is Women’s Sports Week, a national campaign launched by ‘Women in Sport’ this year to raise the profile of women’s sport at all levels across the UK. Sky Sports supported Women’s Sports Week in many ways, including commentator Gary Neville writing a moving blog about his sister Tracey Neville, head coach for the England Netball team and the challenges she has faced as a female athlete. 

The acceleration of women’s sport on TV will precipitate a raft of commercial opportunities this summer and beyond, to the benefit of those marketers alert to the new possibilities.

Whether it’s a short-term tactical hit or a long-term brand-build, sport content is one of the most powerful ways to reach and engage with a passionate audience. This summer is another opportunity to look at how advertisers can benefit from this country’s love of premium sports content across TV, online and mobile channels. If anyone wants to target me I’ll be right in front of the TV – impossible to miss.

John Litster is managing director of Sky Media.