JUNE 29, 2020



Here Are 5 Ways to Activate a Digital Sports Sponsorship


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Here Are 5 Ways to Activate a Digital Sports Sponsorship

by Robert Mazzucchelli, Chairman & CMO of SportEdTV

In the wake of Covid-19, billions of sponsorship and brand activation dollars have been pulled or suspended from live sporting events. Many of these resources are being used to shore up other corporate expenses, as revenues have declined for several companies. And many of these dollars are sitting on the sidelines, waiting for live sports to restart.

But smart brands can find other places to put those dollars to good use, and keep their brand communication alive to the sports audience, through sports-related digital sponsorships. Sports fans and participants have not disappeared as a result of the pandemic. They merely have had, like all of us, to change their behavior to include more digital and virtual interaction. By applying best practices of effective sponsorship to digital ‘events’, brands can maintain their connection to consumers and keep their brands front and center during the transition period back to the ‘new normal’. Here are 5 things to consider

5 Ways To Activate Digital Sports Sponsorship

  1. Selection Matters. As with any sponsorship opportunity, there are good and bad brand fits. There are also some sponsorships that lend themselves to deeper connection and engagement than others, so choose wisel y. Look for homogeneous audience groups to keep your targeting tight. If you are looking for people who play tennis or coach basketball, for example, there are good digital ‘places’ to reach these targets. Digital audiences can easily be segmented demographically, geographically and even by channel, as most branded digital activity worth sponsoring is now distributed across channels. To get started, the key is to find a solid, professionally managed, digital event, activity or group to build your sponsorship around.
  2. Call-To-Action Goals. One of the key differences, and benefits, of a digital sponsorship is that you are able to be one click away from a desired action. If a consumer sees your brand on the side of a soccer field at a live event, it’s nice for building brand awareness and affinity with soccer fans, but they will have to recall your brand after the event to take action (for example, make a purchase). Will they remember? With a digital sponsorship, calls-to-action can be built into the actual sponsorship experience in real time. Are you a car company wishing to schedule test drives for a new model? A simple button on the website, right next to the content, gives your consumer immediate access to your dealer website’s scheduling feature. They can quickly schedule a test drive and return to their activity without missing a beat. Want to sign a targeted consumer up for a new credit card? Have them click to ‘sign up now’ with a special offer tailored for that audience. If you don’t have a specific call-to-action as part of your digital sponsorship, you are missing an essential benefit.
  3. Become Part of the Event. Wherever possible, try to have your product included IN the digital ‘event’. For sports instruction videos for example, it’s easy for a sports drink to be put into the action as athletes take breaks. But even less directly related products can make a reasonable story connection. How about a clothing brand running a ‘giveaway’ on a branded social media happy birthday celebration feature? Don’t cloths make a great birthday gift for your favorite athlete? Or a soft drink putting their brand on cups that will be used by participants in a Zoom interview? Use your imagination to find great product integration opportunities, and don’t let this valuable chance to create awareness and consumer connection pass.
  4. Begin a Digital Relationship. We all get our email inboxes stuffed with junk we don’t want. But how nice is it to get something we actually DO want. It’s such a refreshing change. Most digital events offer ways of connecting with participants, whether through email, social media or proprietary communities. Use these communication opportunities to surprise and delight participants throughout the sponsorship period. Make new fans or reward old ones. If it is a one-off event you are sponsoring, engage the audience before and after the event with some meaningful communication (a special offer or just even a heartfelt ‘Thank You’), not just a sales pitch. Consumers will appreciate that you were there for them digitally when they were stuck at home without their favorite live sports events.
  5. Don’t Leave Them. Don’t Leave Them. When live sports begin again, maintain your digital connections and see if you can utilize them to better activate your live event sponsorships. Most digital platforms will provide an opportunity for you to tout your brand’s activities - use the relationships you’ve built online to bring new fans into your live sponsorship activity. For example, if your brand is a league or team sponsor, run a ticket give-away for your new ‘digital’ friends. This will connect your digital and physical worlds, and grow your consumer base. Have your new digital friends share content related to the live events you are sponsoring, and give them an incentive to do so. There are so many ways to bring these two worlds together, once the world is back in order

During my career, I have seen over and over that brands that find ways to consistently communicate with and engage their consumers in tough times come out stronger on the other side of a crisis. The brands that sit on the sidelines suffer to regain awareness and market share. They struggle to regain expensive lost ground. Just because live sports sponsorships are off the table for now, doesn’t mean you can’t continue building your brand in ways meaningful to your sports audience. In fact, you can’t afford to sit and wait.