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Brands embrace Yahoo, NFL streaming event but misfire on mobile innovation

Sponsors such as American Express, Dairy Queen and Toyota, along with the NFL, CBS and Yahoo, are partnering for a viewing experiment in which Yahoo is streaming one night of football globally across channels without network television competition or subscription fees, but it may be missing the mark in terms of innovation.

Yahoo will be streaming the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars? game to mobile devices as well as desktop this Sunday, in an attempt to target the NFL?s large audience and mobile viewers. A substantial number of sponsors are flocking to the event, and Yahoo will essentially be recreating the television ad experience for mobile devices, which can integrate well with the NFL game format but is missing out on a potential to connect more with mobile viewers. 

"In terms of significance, the NFL continues to be one of the most prestigious media plays in the traditional broadcast realm, delivering massive, highly engaged audiences around a core passion area," said Gian LaVecchia, managing partner of digital content marketing lead at MEC North America. "Although streaming will also exist on the NFL app, I think Yahoo still provides the unique value proposition of audience scale combined with an elegant video playing experience on both PC and mobile.

"In terms of the ad model, it is certainly replicating traditional formats but there appears to be a rational and valid reason, organic pauses in gameplay create downtime so it creates a natural aperture for brands to have a role," he said. "That said, I think there is certainly opportunity for greater innovation and creativity behind video ads. 

"Interactive games, deeper analysis, behind the scenes footage, multiple camera views etc., could help drive greater interactivity that could enhance the viewing experience."

Advertising on mobile
A slew of brands have jumped on board to the new one-day-only experience such as American Express, Citi, Applebee?s, Subway, Arby?s, CiCi?s Pizza, Dairy Queen, Esurance, KFC, Kohl?s, Toyota, Lincoln Motor Company, Cadillac, Chrysler, Microsoft, Nationwide, Papa John?s, Redd?s Apple Ale, Mars? Snickers, T-Mobile, and others. The event is significant because viewers throughout the world will be able to stream from any device through Yahoo. 
Fans worldwide will be able to tune in on mobile and desktop top devices through Yahoo?s Web site and its Tumblr application on Sunday, October 25 for the Bills vs Jaguars game. 

The partnership will not only increase NFL viewers globally, but also be a chance for Yahoo to regain its place as a significant digital platform after its present slip to mobile technology. While Yahoo?s ad strategy to carry on with traditional ad interruption during broadcast is likely to succeed due to the NFL fan base and frequent pauses in gameplay, the platform is lacking ingenuity that can be achieved through mobile. 

"The mobile experience needs to change," said Raju Malhotra, ?senior vice president of products at 
Conversant. "For a multi-tasking consumer, who is on Twitter, surfing the Web, and watching video all at the same time, this experience presents long-term opportunities that go well beyond a pre-roll or mid-roll 15 or 30 seconds spot. 

"Watching a video on mobile today already is a different experience, e.g., you can see a companion ads to the video being watched," he said. "A digital experience, however, allows brands to engage a lot more intimately with their consumers versus traditional TV."

Yahoo up
The strategy is likely to get a wide base of viewers, but may miss out on long-term success. Mobile tech invites brands and marketers to reach consumers in unique and innovative methods, and to not take advantage of that is detrimental. 

The National Football League selected Yahoo as its exclusive partner to deliver the first-ever live stream of an NFL game to a global audience across devices in June to put the game on mobile platforms, where fans increasingly can be found (see more). 

Gap Inc.-owned apparel brand Old Navy also partnered with Yahoo recently to engage millennials by showcasing its new spring line on microblogging social media application Tumblr and its Yahoo parent (see more). 

Yahoo is going after a different audience,? said Bob Hall, senior vice president at RadiumOne. ?Football is the most popular sport in the US, and professional sports in general are key for attracting large audiences and building a broad content offering. 

?By offering NFL games, Yahoo gets access to a lot more casual and non-hard core football fans, whereas the NFL likely caters only to the hard core pro football fan,? he said. 

Final take
Brielle Jaekel is editorial assistant at Mobile Marketer