From venue naming rights to players’ jerseys to in-venue apps, brands are putting their names all over everything. Sponsorship is already outpacing marketing and advertising in growth, reaching over $20 billion in spending in North America alone.
Sports and entertainment companies are securing 80% of that spending, but to be a part of that windfall, event owners need to go above and beyond offering logo space—and just leveraging digital and social isn’t necessarily enough. Here are a few things to keep in mind so that you can sell out your digital inventory (and engage your fans at the same time).
Find new ways of engaging fans
Even if you’ve sold out of your existing inventory, make sure you look beyond traditional sponsorship opportunities. Sponsors are looking to engage directly with fans, and subsequently be a part of the fan experience, as opposed to just getting their name on a billboard. Digital sponsorships are a great solution and can include everything from sponsored social media lounges to Snapchat lenses.
Reebok, for example, mashed up physical and digital at the CrossFit Regional competitions where they pitted fans against top CrossFit athletes whose were pre-recorded and shown on LCD screens while fans “competed” against them. They captured audience information, filmed their competition, and sent the video to participants to share on social.
Event organizers don’t always have the luxury of time or budget to deploy an engagement campaign like Reebok’s, but you don’t need to pull out all the stops for every engagement campaigns. Below are some examples of easier engagement campaigns you can add to your sponsorship inventory, so you can walk before you run (or CrossFit):
Voting promotions: Fans vote for their favorite player or headliner in an app or online
Meme generators: Fans can create videos or photos and share them with friends or submit them for contest entries
Unlock codes: Fans scratch off, swipe or spin for sponsor coupons or to unlock content
Understand your inventory’s value
Your goal when crafting an engagement campaign is to make it appealing for fans and sponsors, but there’s a broader goal you should be applying across your whole organization: to collect data.
After all, contests and t-shirt cannons aren’t anything new—the problem has been showing the value of those giveaways beyond, “it’s fun!” So before you go down the road of crafting an engagement campaign, think through your goals and the sponsor’s goals, and how you can measure results. Is the goal to collect fan emails? If so, make that a form-field requirement. If the goal is to drive clicks to a website, then make sure you have a tracking code.
If your goals are to know more about fans and add detailed fan profiles to your database, there’s even more you can do. Umbel’s engagement campaigns use social authentication, which allows you to collect the standard stuff like name and email, but also specific social likes, interests, and demographics. The value there then goes far beyond a specific campaign—you can use that data to target fans with campaigns later on, and continuously improve campaigns with more and more gathered data.
Demonstrate results to specific sponsors
Sponsors don’t just want more exposure. They want the right exposure to the right people. And to show the value to sponsors, your team should provide metrics and results for various campaigns. The data can justify a sponsorship investment and make the sponsor more likely to renew. In addition, your team will have success benchmarks to use when wooing new sponsors. In fact, in sports, sponsorship valuation and ROI measurement will be impacted by analytics over the next five years more than talent development and even ticketing (PDF).
What do “results” look like? For a long-term sponsor of an engagement campaign, you can look at whether social likes for their brand go up over time. On a specific campaign, you can show not only engagement metrics like how many clicks a sponsor’s coupon got, but offer up “who” those digital coupon clippers are. You can add contacts to a sponsor’s database as you add them to yours.
Be ready to show “brand fit”
Before a sponsors signs on with you, you obviously won’t have any results to share for that specific sponsors, so you’ll need to show them how well their brand fits in with your event. There are some traditional ways of proving brand fit like using survey research to estimate the demographics of your audience.
Once you start down the path of a solid data collection strategy, though, all that can be a whole lot easier as you’ll now have valuable first-party data like social brand affinities, demographics and behavioral data that you can use to craft the perfect story for a sponsor. That can start as broadly as being able to say “women ages 25-34 represent 40% of our attendees” to show overall brand fit, all the way down to “our last trivia campaign had 8000 users who liked your whiskey on Facebook.”
That’s good news for two reasons: the first is that you can start finding potential new sponsors by looking at general interests or specific brands your fans are interested in. The second is that you can better prove the value of specific inventory to sponsors, from the digital campaigns you run down to signs at the end zone.
We know that the future of sponsorship is digital—after all, there’s only so much physical space out there, and as the sponsorship industry grows, sponsors will continue to want to become a part of the fan experience. If you focus on that experience—and measuring it—, you’ll set yourself up for success.