This guide is adapted to the sports sector. To learn how to launch a complete online advertising strategy for e-commerce visit our White Papers section, there you will find several free resources that will help you achieve success.
About the sports industry
As we explained in the study on the sports industry, this sector is one of the most important in many countries and represents a high share of the online market. It is a sector which has very different purchasing profiles, from children to adults. The socio-demographic profile is one of the most equitable in the ecommerce world.
One of the main characteristics of the sector is its high seasonality. During autumn and winter certain product categories are sold and during summer and spring other completely different product categories.
This is why we cannot follow a global strategy by treating the entire store’s product catalogue as a single product family.
About online advertising for the sports sector
As in all ecommerce, it is common to invest in various acquisition channels and to distribute the budget according to the results of each one.
Below are the main ones:
- Search Network
- Display Network
Facebook & Instagram Ads
Customer acquisition channels in the sports sector
Google Ads Campaigns for sports sector
In Google Ads there are two different advertising networks:
- Search Network: is one in which the user makes a query.
- Display Network: is one in which the user finds our banner while is navigating through different pages.
Search Campaigns in Google Ads
For this strategy we will have to divide the catalog into different well-differentiated product lines. We will create a campaign for each product category and divide them into different ad groups according to the product line.
One example of two search campaigns would be:
Campaign: Climbing equipment
- Ad Group 1: Climbing Shoes
- Ad Group 2: Harnesses, ropes and carabiners
- Ad Group 3: Magnesium
- Ad Group 1: Boxing gloves
- Ad Group 2: Boxing shorts
- Ad Group 3: Mouth protectors and bandages
Why this level of detail? The answer is simple: we want to show our ads only in certain queries and therefore we want the relevance for the user to be as high as possible. For example, a user performing a search for “buy men’s climbing shoes” would be better off landing on our Climbing Shoes category page than on the Outdoor Sports family.
In the sports sector it is important to know in detail the seasonality of each of our categories. It is very likely that there is no point in having an active “Surfboards” campaign in the middle of winter, for example.
Dynamic search campaigns
The previous strategy is the one that provides us with a greater capacity for segmentation but requires many hours of creation, optimization and analysis.There are many cases in which a dynamic search campaign saves us hours and hours of work. To know what it is and how to create a dynamic search campaign see our guide.
The best strategy? Use both at the same time.
All e-commerce has certain categories which provide them with the most revenue. These are the categories that we must create “manually”, for which we do not think we should consume our time is ideal to create DSAs also by category. After a few days or weeks and analyzing these DSAs we might see that there is a category with a great potential; in this case we will create a normal search campaign for that category and try to optimize it as much as possible.
Prospecting means that we will target our advertisements to people who do not know us or have not shown interest in our products. For the sports sector the most appropriate strategy is to strategically plan a schedule for launching prospecting campaigns according to the product category. Unlike a search campaign, a display campaign requires graphic elements and it takes time to create them.
In this sector, the display audiences that usually show the best results are those of “Personalized Intention” and “Market Audiences”.
For the creation of personalized intention audiences it is important to add only web pages of verticals of the products we are going to promote. In other words, for a boxing material sales campaign it is better to create an audience of people who visit stores like topking.shop than people who visit decathlon.com
Retargeting campaigns will be very different from prospecting campaigns. When a person has shown some interest in products of a certain category, it means that he or she has shown a buying attitude. For these people, the ideal is to send them dynamic advertising and show them ads for products similar to those they have visited.
Tip: Create different audiences depending on the product category they visit to increase or decrease the bidding according to the seasonality.
Product Listing Ads (PLA)
PLAs are ads that show much more information about a product compared to, for example, a standard text ad. They are usually positioned at the top of the search screen.
The three most used platforms in Europe are: Google Shopping, Microsoft Shopping and Amazon Ads. Below we will see how to create a successful campaign for a sports store.
Google Shopping Campaigns
In this section we are going to deal with very specific topics on the structuring of shopping campaigns for the sports sector. Before continuing it would be important for you to read:
If you have never created a Google Shopping campaign, click here
If you are an advanced user of Google Shopping, click here
Now that we have refreshed our memory, let’s see how to make the most of these campaigns for this industry.
One strategy that works well is to divide the catalog into seasons or, going into more detail, months. Basically, it consists of separating the campaigns according to the optimum sales season.
In general terms, we could have:
- Campaign 1: winter
- Campaign 2: spring
- Campaign 3: summer
- Campaign 4: autumn
The reason for dividing the campaigns like this is simple: each one will have a completely different ROAS depending on the time of year we are in. On the other hand, by applying a portfolio bid strategy like Objective ROAS we can apply various seasonality adjustments, so the system will work for us.
Another strategy, complementary to the one we have just seen, is: in the case of off-season products, we will only bid on those where we are competitive in price. Since products that are out of season show a lower conversion rate many advertisers decide not to pay for those ads in which they are not competitive.
Tip for Netrivals’ customers
If you are a Netrivals’ customer, you can create a specific feed in less than a minute for each of the cases given, and in an unlimited way. All you have to do is go to: Direct web > Product list > Select “Cheapest” and “Same price” > Select the category and the label (season of the year) > Generate the feed.
Amazon Ads Campaigns
Amazon has an internal programmatic advertising platform available. There you can create three different types of campaigns:
- Sponsored Products: These are advertisements for individual product lists. They work using the CPC
- Sponsored Brands: Like the products, they also work using Cost-Per-Click, but these ads include the brand logo, a customizable header and up to three products.
- Display: Used to promote the ads on Amazon and other sales channels.
Since this guide is intended for online stores and not brands or manufacturers, we will only discuss sponsored product campaigns.
For people involved in digital marketing, the main difference between advertising on Google Shopping or Amazon Ads is that in the latter the user is at a much more advanced stage of the consumer’s purchase process.
Let’s take an example: a user wants to change his mobile phone so he searches in Google “which is the best mobile phone?” In Google search results, Google Shopping results appear so you may be paying clicks for users who are in a need detection phase. In contrast, a search on any marketplace shows a much more transactional than informational intent.
Without any doubt, any advertiser in sponsored product campaigns on Amazon Ads can quickly see how easy it is to increase the number of orders in a few hours at the expense of getting less profit from each order.
Amazon Ads’ peculiarity: unlike Google and Microsoft Shopping, Amazon Ads only shows the product when we have the BuyBox. One of the main factors to get the BuyBox is to have the best price for that SKU. For this we recommend to make aggressive repricing strategies based on the price of the competitors.
Protip for Netrivals customers
To create a dynamic pricing strategy, you must access the Dynamic Pricing>Strategy Editor module and once there, create a strategy for the selected products.
When you create a sponsored product campaign you have two options: by product or by keyword. In general you always use the product option as it is the least time consuming to create it but in the case of online stores for sports products you may prefer to show certain product categories for certain keywords.
Let’s take an example: we want to promote a new line of swimming trunks with a pattern of drawings of a surfer. For this case we want to show the products for swimsuit related searches (by product) and when people search for surf related material (by keyword).
Microsoft Ads Campaigns
Microsoft Ads is a programmatic advertising platform where businesses can place bids for advertising space when a user performs a search.
In Mediterranean countries it is not a very common search engine, but in countries like the United Kingdom or France it is more widely used. Since no European country is the main search engine, competition is much scarcer than with Google, so preparing an exclusive strategy for this search engine can be a good source of income.
In the following screenshot you can see the similarities between Google Shopping and Microsoft Shopping.
The operation of the campaigns is pretty much the same except for certain points:
- Microsoft Shopping is not available for all EU countries
- The equivalent of Google Merchant Center is Microsoft Merchant Center which, unlike the first one, is integrated into the same advertising platform.
It is advisable to start with manual bidding strategies and optimize them according to the performance of the campaigns since Microsoft’s Smart Bidding strategies are much less efficient than Google’s.
Facebook & Instagram Ads
This strategy is almost identical to the Google Ads display prospecting strategy. The advantage of Facebook and Instagram is that the segmentation by users’ interests is much more accurate than that of Google.
Facebook and Instagram create audiences based on user behavior patterns on their platforms, which people they follow, what groups they are in, what kind of posts they like, and so on.
As we mentioned before, it is ideal to have a calendar of prospecting campaigns planned and to launch and pause them according to the time of year.
The objective of this type of campaign is simple: to show similar product ads to users who have visited our website while browsing its social networks.
In this type of campaign, the creation of personalized audiences takes on special importance; this time they should be done through the Business Manager Pixel.
Affiliate strategies are a great source of income for ecommerce in all kinds of sectors. They are platforms on which we report our product feeds and pay for each user who accesses our website through the affiliate page.
Unlike Google Shopping or programmatic advertising platforms, in these cases a CPC is usually set per product category and not based on the auction. This is why it is vitally important to have a well-segmented feed.
The ideal strategy for the sports sector on affiliate pages is:
- We send different feeds to the page according to the time division of our catalog
- For seasonal products we will send all categoriesFor seasonal products we will send all categories
- For off-season products: we will send only those in which we have the best price
This way we will only pay for clicks from users who have a higher probability of conversion.
As we have seen, the key to success in digital advertising in the sports sector is the correct classification of the catalogue.