Emily Groch
Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to telecom providers.

If you watched the NBA Finals on ABC, you probably noticed that YouTube TV was the presenting sponsor. The streaming live TV service was featured prominently on the court, in call-outs, and during commercial breaks. In an effort to underscore the sports coverage included with its subscription live TV service, YouTube TV was the very first presenting sponsor of the NBA Finals. In addition to its on-air promotions, YouTube TV reinforced the sponsorship with its own online and email marketing efforts, helping to drive trial sign-ups.

YouTube TV’s NBA Finals sponsorship is just the latest effort from the streaming live TV provider to tie its brand to a major sporting event. According to Pathmatics, YouTube TV’s online and display advertising spend experienced two major increases over the past twelve months. One occurred in October/November 2017, when YouTube TV was the presenting sponsor of the World Series, and the other occurred during Game 2 of the NBA Finals on June 3, 2018 with over 90% of YouTube TV’s video and display advertising spend going to ESPN.com. Youtube TV was followed by other top publishers including BleacherReport.com and NBA.com. The advertising consisted of animated banners featuring the service’s 40+ channels, no cable box required, and $40/mo. price point. The call to action was to “try it free”, with the provider’s free, seven-day trial.

YouTube TV also sent an email to a whopping 45 million recipients on June 3, promoting the Finals. The email encouraged recipients to “Watch the NBA Finals on ABC with YouTube TV”. The email , recapped Game 1, and repeated the call to action with “try it free”.

YouTube TV Drove Trial Sign-Ups

It appears that YouTube TV’s June 3 marketing efforts drove trial sign-ups. In fact, according to Mintel ePerformance, YouTube TV sent more welcome emails on June 4, 2018, than on any other date since the service launched.

Unfortunately for YouTube TV, it seems that most of these trial users simply picked up the service to watch the Finals and opted out at the end of the seven-day trail. On June 9, YouTube TV sent more cancellation emails than on any date previously.

Was the sponsorship worth it?

Time will tell whether YouTube TV brand awareness was heightened in any meaningful way by its sponsorship of the NBA Finals. Although the trial users seemed to leave as quickly as they came, a long term impact may have been established around the awareness of the Youtube TV brand during the NBA Finals. The trial users also might remember YouTube TV when their cable contract runs out.

Why sports?

In situating its brand around important live sporting events, YouTube TV is trying to dispel the idea that you can’t watch live sports without cable. If consumers become aware that they can still watch major sporting events on the streaming live TV service, and if they can do so for less money than with a traditional cable TV service, YouTube TV may be able to pull subscribers away from traditional pay TV. Cable and satellite TV providers would be wise to market their own low-cost TV service around key sporting events, and perhaps even take an aggressive approach to highlighting the cost difference between their own lower-tier bundles and YouTube TV’s ballooning $40/month price point.