When Live Sports Return to TV: Viewership and Ad Insights for NASCAR and Golf

After a months-long hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, a handful of live sports events began returning to TV screens the weekend of May 16 and continuing through Memorial Day weekend, including German soccer matches, various NASCAR races and a couple of high-profile golf fundraisers. Below, a look at viewership and advertising insights around a few of these events. (Data is from May 16-24.)

According to Inscape.tv, the TV data company with glass-level insights from a panel of more than 15 million smart TVs, Sunday, May 24 was the biggest recent day for sports, capturing 7.7% of all live viewing (including non-sports programming).

(Image credit: Inscape)

Looking at just live sports that were on TV during this time period by share of all TVs, The Match: Champions for Charity golf event was tops with 11.72%. Given the celebrities who participated — Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning went up against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady — it’s not surprising that this was a huge draw for viewers. In second place was NASCAR on May 17 (9.43%), followed by NASCAR on May 24 (9.11%) and the TaylorMade Driving Relief golf event on May 17 (7.35%). 

Below, a deeper dive into the golf and NASCAR events, with insights from Inscape as well as iSpot.tv, the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company.


Inscape took a look at crossover for the golf events and found that 41% of people who watched TaylorMade Driving Relief also tuned into Champions for Charity, but only 22% of Champions for Charity viewers watched TaylorMade.  

(Image credit: Inscape)

Looking at DMA tune-in for both events, you can see some similarities (Florida hotspots of viewing, for example), but one big difference is that there was significantly more tune-in for Champions for Charity in the Denver DMA.

(Image credit: iSpot)

According to iSpot, Champions for Charity racked up 783.8 million TV ad impressions, over twice as many as TaylorMade Driving Relief (312.7 million) and enough to put it in the top 20 programs by impressions during this period (at No. 13). 

For both events, Michelob was one of the advertisers with the most TV ad impressions: 69.5 million for Champions for Charity (second place, behind Progressive), and 23.7 million for TaylorMade (second place not counting network promos for Golf Channel, behind Farmers Insurance). 


As mentioned above, the biggest day for NASCAR was May 17, with it capturing a 9.43% share of all TVs, per Inscape. Here’s a look at minute-by-minute viewership during NASCAR on the 17th. The biggest spike occurred right before 5 p.m. ET:

(Image credit: Inscape)

While Champions for Charity may have captured a larger share of TVs, with multiple races during the period measured, it’s no surprise that NASCAR generated far more total TV ad impressions — 1.14 billion across Fox, Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2, according to iSpot, making it the No. 6 program by impressions from May 16-24. The biggest impressions-generating day was May 17, with 505.1 million. 

Aside from network promos, across the races and simulcasts, GEICO was the most-seen brand (78 million impressions), followed by Wendy’s (50.5 million) and Subway (41.8 million).

(Image credit: iSpot)