NEW YORK: Live sporting events are a major draw for television advertisers but with the imminent start of the NFL season digital players such as Google, Facebook and Twitter are also looking to attract brands targeting sports fans.

"We're entering a time when there are going to be a phenomenal number of opportunities for brands," according to Jill Sherman, svp/social strategy at digital agency DigitasLBi.

"The opportunities that we're seeing this year are really about wrapping brands more tightly around the real-time conversation," she told the New York Times.

Google, for example, has devised a product that places pre-roll ads on video search results related to football, and beer brand Bud Light has signed up as a way of reaching fans at relevant moments.

"We see a ton of query volume happening in Google Search, particularly while events are happening live," said Tim Katz, sports partnerships lead at YouTube. "This is a great way for us, from an advertising perspective, to become part of the conversation."

Facebook too has developed products that allow advertisers to target football fans and run campaigns around both NFL and college games, while Twitter enables brands to sponsor clips related to the NFL.

There are also good economic reasons for brands to shift money into digital, since the very attractiveness of TV commercials during live events has pushed up their price.

The advance of digital into sports is further evident in the NFL's own strategy, with plans to livestream more games than ever across multiple platforms and to employ dynamic ad insertion in both live-game streams and in archived material.

A note of caution came from Jason Maltby, director of national broadcast TV at media agency Mindshare. "Ultimately, everybody – the league, advertisers, agencies and broadcast partners – wants to see what is the effect of adding these platforms," he told Advertising Week.

"Are you cannibalising one platform for another, or are you inviting new viewers into the franchise?"

Data sourced from New York Times, Advertising Week; additional content by Warc staff