March Madness Means More Mobile & Multiscreen Multitasking

march madness on mobileA raft of recent reports reveal how we engage with our mobile devices (and tablets) while watching TV, but research released today shows that our appetite for multi-screen access might be greatest during live events where having a bird’s-eye view into everything (the event, the action, the background facts and stats, and the latest news and updates) delivers us a 360-degree experience we genuinely appreciate.

This is the key takeaway of the April 2012 SMART report (Scorecard for Mobile Advertising Reach and Targeting) from Millennial Media. The report provides a snapshot of top level findings from a research partnership that brought together independent mobile ad and data platform company Millennial Media and the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), an organization of 500+ leading media and technology companies responsible for selling 86 percent of online advertising in the U.S. The research examines how mobile impacted our access and experience of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Basketball Tournament in the U.S.

To find out how people engaged with mobile during this popular and live event, the partners commissioned Harris Interactive to survey 2,000+ adults in the U.S. The results demonstrate that mobile has evolved beyond being the remote control of our lives (borrowing here from a milestone presentation by industry authority and author Alan Moore). It is fast becoming the first screen for following the action and news around live events.

Significantly, the viewing/following experience is even more valuable now that companies and marketers can also offer mobile apps designed from the ground up to enhance the viewing experience. Mobile apps hadn’t hit the mainstream in 2008, when Alan published his data and insights.

Mobile impact

How does mobile fit in how we experienced the 2012 NCAA Tournament? Here’s what the numbers tell us:

  • 69 percent of fans who watched the tournament on TV were also using their smartphone
  • 26 percent of fans were primarily using their smartphones to follow the tournament
  • 69 percent of fans following the tournament saw value in their mobile devices, which they said allowed them to access content conveniently

But the shift in mobile behavior is about much more than an urge to multi-task. People used their mobile devices to engage with a variety of content related to the NCAA Tournament (before, during and after the event), including apps and updates.

Predictably, apps were a major part of the mix for sports fans wanting to follow the tournament action. Millennial Media measured this interaction in impressions (the number of times an ad unit appeared on a mobile device), and found that Sports apps experienced a 31 percent impression increase on the first day of the tournament, compared to the previous week (as the snapshot below shows).

increased mobile app engagement trends

During the 5pm-7pm time-slot in particular, Sports app impressions increased 158 percent week-over-week.

Overall, over one-third (40 percent) of fans who identified themselves as being “passionate” purchased/downloaded an app related to the NCAA Tournament. Almost half (48 percent) used mobile to check scores.

How Mobile Was Used By Consumers

Location matters

Live events are where the excitement is naturally linked to the location. Predictably, mobile usage spiked on Millennial Media’s platform in several metro areas where the games (and the action) were hot. However, it’s not just about local fans rooting for the local teams. Passionate sports fans are everywhere and use mobile to engage with apps, news and more around their favorite teams. (On a personal note, I am based in Germany but born and raised in the ‘Burgh. I’m glued to my devices to follow the Pittsburgh Steelers — no matter the difference in time zone!)

My take:

Sports is a passion and it’s in our DNA to get the most out of every game. Thanks to the advance of smartphones we can multitask — and more. Yes, many of us watch TV or follow the games from the stands, but this new research  confirms that we also reach to our mobile devices to get much more out of the experience. We follow news and updates, check scores and trivia, interact with Sports apps designed from the ground up to enhance the tournament action — and the list goes on.

Yes, the chance to get in on March Madness has passed. But the timing is perfect for brands to run campaigns tied to other major sports events like the UEFA Champions League soccer games or the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. And use your imagination. Sports fans love the game, but it’s also an opportunity for brands and verticals to deliver advertising that adds to the experience before, during and after the fun. And don’t think of location as a boundary. In the case of the Summer Olympics it makes good business sense to focus your campaigns on London. But remember passionate fans are everywhere (and a significant number are engaging with Sports apps).

This post is part of our Mobile Advertising Briefing Room, a thinking space dedicated to providing its community mobile intelligence, consumer research, case studies and industry best practices that equip marketers to reach and engage their target audience at scale. This discussion is hosted & sponsored by Millennial Media.

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