Super Bowl LVIII opened another year of tentpole sporting events by breaking viewing records, becoming the most-watched TV program ever with 123 million viewers. These eyeballs created an advertising frenzy like no other, and few brands in America missed the opportunity to run campaigns during or around the championship game.

At a time of fragmented media consumption, sporting events remain one of the few moments when millions of people are paying attention to the same thing at the same time. With high views come high prices, and just 30 seconds of airtime in this year’s Super Bowl cost $7 million. In the attention economy, sports are still a superpower.

But with so many brands jostling for attention across so many channels, how can any campaign hope to stand out?

Take The Gold With Omnichannel

While big sports events may be rare moments of media unity, the channels through which sports content is published grow ever more fragmented. Even the lucky brands that manage to get a slot at the event or during an official live broadcast will still have to consider all the other channels that viewers might be engaging with to maximize reach and recall.

Sports viewers might be snack shopping on a retail site the day before, second-screening with social media during the game, and spending the lead-up and following days reading articles, listening to podcasts and watching commentary. The consistency of your message is key here. If your key slogans or imagery change from channel to channel or format to format, it undermines the cumulative effect of the audience being exposed to the same campaign across many touchpoints.

Make Campaigns Adaptive, Reactive And Interactive

Attempting to outspend the competition is another way to make your brand stand out, but a more powerful approach is leveraging the channels and apps that consumers use to launch adaptive, reactive and interactive campaigns that punch above their weight by being on the pulse of public opinion and encouraging direct engagement.

Social media is a particularly effective channel for capturing attention during live sports events, and nimble advertisers can seize the zeitgeist without needing celebrity endorsements or flashy production. Oreo’s historic and award-winning “Dunk in the Dark campaign” was nothing more than a single tweet during a Super Bowl blackout and is still discussed today as a benchmark for adaptive, reactive advertising.

The dynamic nature of sports opens avenues to drive engagement through interactivity, even outside of social media. A promotion running on retail media can be tied to a game’s outcomes, with discounts tied to the winning team, for example, or a digital out-of-home ad could use dynamic assets that update with the live score. Sporting events are also ideal for campaigns that encourage user-generated content as they are by nature social and physical activities that lend themselves to active participation and sharing.

Think Beyond Superfans To Maximize Campaign Reach

Big sports events also provide opportunities to think outside of sports superfans. Many people who don't engage with sports regularly still follow big national or international tournaments, especially if their local team is doing well. Incorporating overlooked demographics in campaign planning or promoting brands not typically associated with sports provides an opportunity to stand out.

This is doubly true of the Super Bowl, which broadens its cultural appeal through the halftime show, one of the year’s biggest music events. Usher’s performance and Taylor Swift’s attendance and romance with Travis Kelce led to a record boost in female viewership this year. Look out for similar evolving demographic trends in other sporting events that could create an opportunity to target audiences that other brands might bypass.

Thinking from content outward is a good way to break out of narrow demographics. Through contextual advertising, you can discover people with sports on their minds wherever they are on the web. This approach involves using media content and publisher usage data as a proxy for the audience, which maximizes potential placement opportunities, as the wide reach of big sporting events means related content might appear in publications or site sections that wouldn’t usually be considered.

For example, if an article about Wimbledon appears in a news site’s style section, it can still be targeted for ads related to the event even if sports ads are not usually sold there, as modern AI-driven contextual engines can automatically recognize the topic and sentiment of online content. Contextual advertising is ideal for big-scale events as it offers unlimited reach, targeting known and unknown users equally effectively—which is increasingly valuable as third-party cookies and other identifiable signals disappear from the web.

Ultimately, few brands can’t take advantage of engagement around major sports events. The incredibly broad reach of the Super Bowl, the European Football Championship or the Olympics creates opportunities to tailor sports-themed campaigns for just about any platform, at any scale. These mammoth events aren’t just for the biggest brands, or even those that would typically align with sports content and fans. The best thing about an event that gets everyone talking is that it gives you a chance to talk to everyone. Competition for attention will be fierce, but the reward might be your own crowd of new, loyal fans.

(As published on Forbes)