Before a ball has even been kicked in anger, the first giant-killing of the season is in. The Scottish Premier League takes the title of the most likely to see digital out-of-home ads.
In a recent open letter to the outdoor industry, ISBA Media Leaders expressed concern at the distribution of digital screens. The worry being that they are too clustered; stifling brands’ ability to achieve mass market audiences when using the medium. This, it is felt, is exacerbated by screens replacing traditional poster sites.
While it is correct that a significant proportion of digital inventory is found in urban conurbations, this perhaps doesn’t tell the whole story about the reach of digital screens. Let’s have a closer look.
New data from Route confirm that while 68% of the population see a digital screen each week, 83% of people in towns with Scottish Premier League teams are exposed, a higher proportion than any of the main football leagues – even without a presence in London.
We are also able to determine the digital reach by football club – more of which later.
How did we figure this out? Well, relax with a family size bag of Walkers as we do our best Gary Lineker and Alex Scott impressions and take you through the highlights of the match of the day and drag our beleaguered extended metaphor limping into injury-time…
The first step in the analysis is to create the target audiences. Route facilitates the creation of targets by demographics, psychographics or geographies. It has a list of 859 towns from which to select and build audiences. Here, we allocate a Route town to each of the 116 football teams across the six divisions and aggregate them into collective ‘league areas’. This gives us the people who live in towns where a football team is to be found.
In this analysis three campaigns are shown and a single measure (cover) is derived.
- All digital screens
- All large digital screens
- All large format posters
The chart outlines the weekly cover achieved among people from towns where a football team is based, grouped at league level.
Across Britain, 68% see at least one screen each week. However, people from ‘football towns’ tend to be better served in this regard. 83% of those from towns with a Scottish Premier League team will see a digital screen, this is virtually the same as the English Premiership and also the Women’s Super League (both of which have significant London presence).
When the focus shifts to large format screens, a very similar pattern emerges. Just over a third of the population (36%) see large digital screens on a weekly basis but this rises to 52% for the WSL and EPL, and to 53% in Scotland.
However, with greater inventory available, large format billboards offer more cover in each of these regions. It’s here that the EPL and Championship strike back. In each of these areas, 92% of the population will see an ad on a large format billboard.
In summary, the ‘big leagues’ do a little better in delivering digital cover, but not perhaps as much as we may first have thought.
The league tables
Route data also enables us to go beyond this analysis. We can create a fun and spurious league table system which may (or may not) be a predictor of future footballing success. But it does enlighten us on the localised reach of digital screens around the country.
The example town given in the ISBA article was Swindon, so let’s start right there in heart of Wiltshire and establish how Swindon Town compares to its League 2 rivals in terms of the proportion of residents who will see a screen in a week.
Each week, 78.6% of Swindonians are exposed to a digital screen (higher than the GB average) however, this is only good enough to secure a playoff place – as they rank 6th in their league (though this is an improvement on 13th which they achieved last season care of their footballing skills).
Top of the tree and staring promotion in the face are Leyton Orient, Crawley Town and Salford United. At the wrong end of the table we have a notable mention to Scunthorpe United who return the lowest weekly cover of any football team. Just 17% see a digital screen each week.
In League 1 we see a strong performance from AFC Wimbledon who secure automatic promotion as champions with Portsmouth as runners up. Oxford, Bristol, Coventry and Sunderland all perform well too and fight out the playoff positions.
Moving up to the Championship, we again see the London teams rise to the top, with Brentford pipping Fulham, QPR and Millwall in a hard-fought battle. At the other end of the table we see a disappointing season ahead for Preston, Barnsley and Stoke City.
Following the success of the recent Women’s World Cup, interest is sure to be high in this season’s Women’s Super League. Again, a similar pattern emerges, with the London teams dominating proceedings.
Perhaps surprisingly, Manchester United fail to hang on to survival and are set for relegation to the Women’s Championship thanks to being based in Leigh where digital cover is below the national average. Perhaps they should consider moving to Old Trafford in a bid to secure safety? In a similar vein, were Arsenal to move their women’s team from Borehamwood to the Emirates, they’d also be in contention for the title. Take note Joe Montemurro.
Onwards and upwards, this time, north of the border…
In Scotland we have some frankly astonishing news. For the first time since 1985, the Old Firm have been usurped at the top of the table. Basking in the glory are St Mirren. 96% of the good people of Paisley will see a digital screen each week, meaning that the Buddies run away with the title and can look forward to Champions League (qualifying) football next July.
Celtic, although not able to secure their 9-in-a-row or quadruple treble, do come out on top of Rangers (boo!) as the reach of digital screens in Glasgow North just pips that of the South side. At the bottom of the table, the departure of Scotland manager Steve Clarke has clearly hit Kilmarnock badly. They slip from third last season, into the relegation places, but do still manage to stay ahead of highland heroes Ross County. 47% of the Dingwall population will see a digital screen each week.
And so finally, ‘the big league’ … the Premiership…
With a Leicester City-esque performance, Crystal Palace have stormed the Premiership this year, with virtually everyone in Thornton Heath being exposed to a digital screen each week. The Champions League and European positions are also largely dominated by London teams, with only Brighton entering the fray.
At the other end of the table, we bid farewell to Burnley, Norwich and Leicester all of which offer less than the GB average for weekly digital cover.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season is the relatively poor performance by both Manchester clubs, who only just cling onto survival (they do equally poorly as they are both from the same Route town).
End of season review
Our tour of the football leagues may have been a slightly off-beat analysis but it does paint a picture of the state of digital out-of-home audiences around the country. While still relatively nascent, digital inventory is growing in terms of its spread and audience. It is making its presence felt outside of the main urban conurbations too. That said, it is still more effective at reaching urban populations. This is true for both large and small format screens. Crucially, for advertisers though, the data demonstrates that digital out-of-home can and does reach audiences as far and wide as Dingwall, Doncaster and Dagenham.