Australia's most popular sporting websites will emerge as key drivers of the online display advertising market next year, as marketers cash in on the wave of interest in major events such as the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup in Germany.
Telstra's advertising and directories arm Sensis yesterday announced an exclusive deal to sell ads for the official Cricket Australia site, cricket.com.au, through its online advertising division MediaSmart.
It follows a similar deal last week in which online search group Ansearch stitched up the media management rights for ESPNsoccernet.com, the world's largest English language football website.
MediaSmart's group sales manager Anthony Saines said the group was interested in building relationships with other popular websites that hadn't received the advertising attention of big players such as ninemsn and Fairfax Digital.
"This is fantastic news for advertisers as they can connect with our sports-mad country through our network of sporting sites, which receives over 30 million page impressions per month," he said.
In the six months to June 30 this year, the display advertising category grew 47 per cent to $80 million. Although this lagged the 61.3 per cent expansion in the total online market — worth $263 million over the period — internet analysts said display still had plenty of room for expansion.
"Sporting sites themselves have attracted a fair number of eyeballs … because they lend themselves to timely information about scores and teams and events," said Foad Fadaghi, the Australian research director at Frost & Sullivan. "So it certainly makes sense that a lot of the advertising dollar is starting to shift that was as well."
Five of Australia's biggest online businesses — ninemsn, Fairfax Digital, Sensis, News Interactive and Yahoo! — attracting more than 70 per cent of the display advertising dollar.
Lee Stephens, the chief executive of online buying agency emitch, said that independent sports sites had not yet attracted anywhere near the share of the ad dollar that their popularity warrants.
"Sport attracts a lot of page views, it's a great driver of internet traffic," he said. "But historically — just like newspaper sections — it has never done financially really well."
But he said there was a trend towards sports sites because of the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games.