Black Friday continues to morph like a shape-shifter. Thanks to big-time retailers such as Walmart, our perception of Black Friday has changed from a single day to a month-long event online and offline. And now Amazon wants to transform Black Friday into something like the Super Bowl, combining both sports and entertainment to keep an audience of shoppers engaged for hours. Why? Because of Amazon Ads and Prime.
The NFL on Black Friday
On Friday, Amazon will broadcast the NFL’s first-ever Black Friday game at a cost of $100 million to Amazon, with the New York Jets hosting the Miami Dolphins. The NFL has never broadcast a game on Black Friday mostly because traditionally it’s a day for shopping, not watching football (unlike Thanksgiving Day, which usually reaps huge viewer ratings). But Black Friday has changed into an online/offline shopping experience over the past few years, and the popularity of Amazon as a shopping destination has something to do with that.
Amazon is banking on the growing popularity of its NFL Thursday Night Football livestreams to carry into its first Black Friday NFL game. After pulling down disappointing ratings in its inaugural 2022–23 season, TNF viewership (restricted to Prime members) has improved by 25 percent. To attract a bigger audience, Amazon is opening up the Black Friday game to anyone with an Amazon account. While they are watching the game, viewers will be enticed by special deals available during the game exclusively.
We don’t know yet how many people will shop while they watch, but even if Amazon doesn’t enjoy a surge in online revenue, its lucrative and fast-growing Amazon Ads business is already winning big. Advertising Age reports that brands are already treating the Black Friday game like it is the Super Bowl, with ad inventory sold out and a number of companies unveiling new ads like they do during the Super Bowl.
And brands are shelling out big money to advertise during the game. Per Ad Age, Amazon’s 30-second Black Friday ad placements range anywhere from $600,000 to in excess of $800,000 — double that of its TNF broadcast and comparable to the most expensive property in fall prime time, NFL Sunday Night Football.
The livestream occurs as Amazon Ads continues its phenomenal run. During Amazon’s most recent quarter, Amazon Ads grew by 26 percent, bringing in more than $12 billion just for the quarter — numbers that surpassed analyst expectations. Advertising with Amazon Ads is especially appealing because Amazon Ads has access to parent Amazon’s first-party customer data, which is used to sell highly targeted and creative ads. At a time when third-party cookies are dying, this first-party data is like gold.
Here’s how Ad Age describes the way Amazon ties its first-party data to its NFL livestreams (citing Amazon’s Danielle Carney, head of NFL ad sales):
Brands are trying to lead football viewers from commercial to holiday sales, and [Danielle] Carney said Amazon has data showing that it can take holiday shoppers down that path. Amazon’s first-party data showed that reaching viewers with a commercial on “Thursday Night Football,” as the first impression, and then hitting that consumer with a more direct-response style ad — down funnel — afterward, increases views of a brand’s product detail page on Amazon by 100%, Carney said. Purchase rates are also higher for brands that start with campaigns that launch on “Thursday Night Football,” according to Carney, improving sales goals on certain campaigns by 86%, compared to campaigns that didn’t start on Amazon’s football streams.
Advertisers are also attracted to Amazon Ads’s palette of ad units, including an “audience-based creative” strategy, which allows brands to target different audience segments with unique ads during the same time slot. Bose, for instance, will use Amazon’s technology to display three distinct ads: one featuring Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback Joe Burrow for non-Prime members (who are more likely to be hardcore football fans), and two others tailored to Prime members based on their search history. These shoppable ads enable viewers to place products in their cart and checkout without leaving the broadcast.
And using Amazon’s demand-side platform, Bose can extend its sales pitch beyond the game by retargeting ads to viewers with the help of its ad agency partner, VaynerMedia.
By tracking the number of people exposed to the commercial, those who engaged with it on Bose or Amazon’s platforms, and the subsequent sales conversion rate, Bose can gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of its campaign.
Amazon Music Live
But Amazon’s Black Friday strategy doesn’t end with football. After the game, Amazon will air its first-ever Black Friday Amazon Music Live (AML) special featuring Garth Brooks, who is using the opportunity to open his new Nashville bar. Prime Video will offer access to the concert even if you don’t have Prime or an Amazon account. Amazon will also air the concert on Twitch, which Amazon owns. This, of course, resembles an old-school network strategy of broadcasting new entertainment after the Super Bowl, known as the lead-out program strategy.
Amazon Music Live, now in its second season, is a feature of Amazon Music, now the third-largest music streaming service behind Spotify and Apple Music. Amazon Music Live offers a series of concerts from artists such as A$AP Rocky. So, why the concerts?
This is where Amazon Prime comes into play. With 200 million members, Prime is the crown jewel of Amazon’s empire. Prime customers tend to stay on Amazon and shop on Amazon. According to a survey from eMarketer, when shopping online, 80 percent of Amazon Prime members start their search on Amazon. (Only 12 percent start on Google.) They spend more, too: non-Prime consumers spend about $600 a year on Amazon. For Prime members, it’s $1,400.
Over the years, Amazon has offered a number of benefits ranging from an Amazon Music subscription to access to movies, TV shows, gaming, shopping deals, pharmacy benefits, and more. Amazon intends to make Prime a lifestyle hub. In doing so, the company increases the likelihood of customers making Amazon their default platform for not only shopping but living — all of which give Amazon an even stronger platform to collect first-party data to fuel Amazon Ads.
And Amazon hopes Garth Brooks will help out while Amazon gives the legendary country star a boost as well.
Cyber Week Is Next
Amazon’s attempt to reinvent Black Friday says something about the company’s continued reinvention. Amazon long ago branched out beyond online retail. It’s now an impressive advertising and media powerhouse, including music, the lucrative live sports marketing, and New Hollywood films and TV series (which I haven’t even delved into here). In the future, I predict Amazon will make a stronger Thanksgiving weekend/Cyber Week move that capitalizes on the pillars of its growth — a major entertainment statement like Apple TV airing The Beatles: Get Back, over Thanksgiving 2021. Amazon is reinviting Black Friday. Watch for Amazon to do the same with Cyber Week in the future.