How the playoffs in professional sports affect your PPC budget

While walking down Broad Street in Philadelphia on a Sunday during the playoffs I noticed how fluid the merchandise market can be when a playoff game hits home. I first noticed a shirt on a mannequin that read “Giants Suck”. I was later approached by a street vendor with shirts that preemptively proclaimed an Eagles victory. These are both items created on a whim, that sell overwhelmingly based solely on a single game. Two weeks prior not even NFL officials were 100% sure that the match up in this game would happen, or that both teams would even make the playoffs.

If it is profitable to manufacture merchandise to satiate this sudden impulsive demand, it should also be profitable to explore the parallel impulse market that is being simultaneously created online. The objective here is to capture the eyes of the increased search volume around game day. This increase in search volume for a focused set of terms over an even more focused time frame will be based on what teams make the playoffs, and their geographical homes. Here it is still entirely about concentrating on the customer, in this case, the fans of away teams. The next game is coming up in a few days, and they need find a place to stay for game night. In fact, they may be visiting for a day before or after the game takes place.

Keywords revolving around tourism, especially terms that mention the city’s name with hotels, flights, restaurants, sight seeing, etc., would be searched much more when a sporting event is about to take place. This means that our target sellers are hotels, and other groups that can capitalize on tourism. A marketer should also consider that these fans are less interested in researching and bargain hunting; they are more interested in getting the details settled so they can enjoy the game. This, paired with the brief window between announcement of games and game time, should be what implies the sense of urgency to marketers.

As an example, last year’s super bowl was in Detroit. Take a look at what happened to searches for “Detroit hotels” near the end of January/beginning of February, right before the Super Bowl was played.


What about the word Detroit in general?


Now that you’re a believer, what’s next? A PPC manager should ramp up the PPC budget and closely monitor it almost to the point of obsession. Days before the game starts a marketer will want to watch conversion and spending activity like a hawk. Ensure that the budget is not being spent too quickly, and focus on the terms that are meeting the campaign goals. This is, of course, the same strategy for all PPC campaigns—use what works to minimize expense—but here it is to emphasize that there is less time to test variables, and that the market window will only be as long as the time between games.Sure, this is a lot of work, but the payoff can be sizable. The target audience is ready to convert because they need what they’re looking for immediately. We know from research1 that people closer to making the purchase are more likely to click on PPC versus those clicking PPC while only researching. You may be able to beat the competition to this opportunity.

Many marketers are not paying attention, and therefore the potential revenue is never realized. Don’t be one of those marketers! Use Google Trends and MSN AdLabs as seasonality tools to find out and prepare for your traffic spikes.

[1] Based on a study presented by Gord Hotchkiss presented at Pubcon Las Vegas in 2006. In this study, research focused queries resulted in 100% of click-throughs on organic results. On purchase focused queries, 44% of click-throughs were on PPC.