Football is all about challenges. Challenging for the ball, challenging for trophies – or maybe more realistically for my beloved Aston Villa recently – challenging to stay in the Premier League. What has never been a challenge however, is finding football fans. Whether in the stadium or online, football fans have a habit of making themselves heard. That is until now.

With fans still not allowed in the stadium, it’s important for marketers to ensure they are still connecting with them digitally. Of course this is now also more difficult – Safari and Firefox block third party cookies and more cookie blocking is due next year, while many consumers browse in incognito mode or even manually delete cookies. This means roughly half of internet users are not identifiable through third party cookies: traditionally a key tool in the marketer’s arsenal to ensure they are reaching and retargeting the right audiences.

The return of the Premier League is a key period for marketers looking to connect with their best customers, but overcoming the obstacle of half the audience being inaccessible via third party cookies is crucial if that reach is to be maximized. Currently, many marketers are operating a kind of muddle-through model – such as workarounds like local storage. However, these workarounds are on the radar of browser developers, which, for example, is why Safari has already restricted the use of local storage. Meanwhile, Chrome announced that processed user agent data will be reduced so even fingerprinting will become increasingly inaccurate.

It’s clear marketers need a new way to work out which site visitors might be interested in football related marketing. This goes beyond the practical and into the emotional: customers do not want to be tracked and are increasingly aware that brands are following their movements around the internet. Consumer concerns around privacy are mounting and must be considered more stringently, unless advertisers want regulators to create even more severe rules. It is possible to create effective, targeted advertising without building profiles or tracking with cookies, if the right technology is in place. This is where live intent targeting must step in.

There is a huge volume of live data that can be used if advertisers can tap into it effectively using innovative technologies. Live, in the moment intent data has become as important in targeting advertising as it has in football but is certainly less controversial than VAR (and there are no ‘ghost goals’). Live intent data is far more effective than recycling old style data built via a fan ‘profile’ that inevitably comes with consumer privacy challenges.

As an example, we have helped advertisers such as Win Technologies, a partner of the Betway Group, overcome issues related to third party cookie blocking by leveraging live intent. We used our data to understand where a person has come from and what they’re looking at. For betting companies, the ‘whistle to whistle’ ban on TV ads means that digital audiences are more important than ever, and brands must ensure they can reach both those with cookies and those without. Using multiple signals of live intent-based data to target users including the Google keyword searches that drove them to a particular publisher site, site context, semantic and meaning analysis, sentiment analysis, on page analytics like dwell time and bounce rate, brand safety factors and more, these brands are able to reach the people currently hidden from cookie dependent solutions in real time with relevant, effective advertising.

In a post-GDPR world, marketers who want to score big with football fans must ensure that they put consumer privacy first. Relying on live (in the moment) intent rather than following people around the web is not only more compliant and more future-fit, it also drives the right results by ensuring the audience is in the best frame of mind to be moved to action by a relevant ad. And in the end we all want to get the right result.