NEW YORK — Despite the fact that Amazon doesn’t sell cars, its “Thursday Night Football” programming has proved to be a good platform for Mercedes-Benz’s electric vehicle advertising push, said Monique Harrison, the head of brand marketing at Mercedes-Benz USA, during an Advertising Week panel Tuesday. According to the executive, having a partner with first-party customer data is only going to grow in importance as the consumer becomes more complex.
“I can tell you for us it’s more important today because we’re making the transition from the typical gas vehicles that we know today into the electric world,” Harrison said. “But, we’re all new to it, right? And we’re guessing to some extent on who's ready for that. But we can use the data that [Amazon] can provide us… and target exactly the right customer at exactly the right time.”
The other executives on the panel were: Danielle Carney, head of NFL sales at Amazon Ads; Michael Smith, news analyst for Thursday Night Football on Prime Video; and Jeremy Carey, chief investment officer at Optimum Sports. The group discussed what Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” programming could mean for the sports advertising industry, even for brands not traditionally associated with the e-commerce platform.
Kicking off a new era
Amazon’s early “Thursday Night Football” audience numbers suggest that the future of sports viewing has a life beyond cable television, despite being one of the channel’s last holdouts. During Prime’s first broadcast on Sept. 15, which saw the Kansas City Chiefs eke out a victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, 13 million people were streaming the game at any given minute, according to Amazon Ads’ Carney, who moderated the panel. She predicted that, by 2026, over 132 million people will consume sports only through digital channels, a seismic shift from a traditional linear TV presence.
Amazon’s stream proved highly popular with people between the ages of 18 and 45, a highly sought-after cohort for marketing professionals. An analysis of the first four broadcasts on the platform by Nielsen found that the games are averaging 2.6 million viewers belonging to this demographic, a 67% increase from the year prior. Additionally, those between the ages of 18 and 34 accounted for 24% of the audience, compared to just 14% of the NFL’s TV audience.
“What scares us as marketers in the live sports space is just how much consumption at a younger age is taking place across digital and social means,” said Optimum Sports’ Carey. “So, to get some of that back is incredibly attractive to us as marketers and as agents.”
The young audience is what drew Mercedes-Benz to the games on Amazon, enough so the automotive manufacturer sponsored the first half-time show. The company chose to use the opportunity to highlight its range of electric vehicles. The technology-forward football stream appeared to be a good opportunity to showcase the 2023 EQS SUV, per Harrison.
A hastily produced advertisement featured notable sports commentator and host Charissa Thompson driving the vehicle. During the panel, Harrison recounted a dramatic string of events that lead to the commercial being produced in time given how the cars were being made in Birmingham, AL, and the shoot took place in Atlanta, GA.
“We needed to make sure we had electric vehicles front and center,” said Harrison. “We literally had those vehicles on the road, not certified, no plate on, the car rushing down the highway to Atlanta to make sure we made it in time for this shoot.”
Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” experiment is already expanding, with the streamer recently announcing it would host the first-ever Black Friday game, scheduled to debut in 2023. The panelists touched on this, along with how they would like Amazon to grow in the coming seasons.
Amazon’s tracking technology has the potential to give brands a robust view of consumers and the possibility of shoppable advertisements seemed to be more of a question of when, not if, per the panel. Additionally, Smith teased the possibility of adding more sports to Prime’s livestream platform in the future, such as the NBA, with which Amazon recently agreed to a multiyear streaming rights deal in Brazil.
“Bring on the NBA rights, bring on college football,” Smith said. “Bring on more live sports rights.”