Sponsorship Marketing in the age of digital

Sponsorship Marketing is rapidly changing.

Rob, our Head Of Sponsorship, has been thinking about some of the key trends emerging in the sponsorship marketplace around the influence of ‘digital’. That’s both the technology and the growing importance of social media.

Here are Rob’s thoughts in his own words. We’d love to know what you think about this evolving arena.

Mobile will be an increasingly important area in activation as more and more stadiums become connected.

There are several trends as I see them:

Driving brand advocacy through richer engagement

 Sponsorship has become more scientific and less reliant on simple branding.

The access that the likes of social media is able to give fans, means that that they can now be sat 1000’s of miles away and still have behind the scenes access to the stadium.

Use of mobile

The second area that will see further development will be the use of mobile, with this becoming an increasingly important area in activation as more and more stadiums become connected.

This will provide sponsors rather than just clubs with a great opportunity to not only engage with fans but also to improve the fan experience.

The key to the media will be successfully grabbing the fans attention in an ever-increasing cluttered landscape. Thus sponsorship success will be judged on the quality of the activation.

For this year and next, the brands and rights holders that recognise this first, rather than put up defensive walls around their “ownable” content, will be best positioned to both benefit from increased interaction but also innovate the game day experience for fans.

The key to the success of this will be having the correct commercial rights to enable them to leverage the opportunity via engagement, education and excitements.

The growth of VR in sponsorship marketing

This has enabled that remote social presence to be taken even further. To combat this, clubs like Manchester City have looked at how to create in-stadia activations, such as a hospitality offering that allows fans to view the players in the tunnel area, an area previously only accessed by the likes of club officials and television cameras.

We’ll see the boundaries of live streaming pushed even further with both clubs and sponsors looking to utilise the media in their sponsorship activation plans.

Improvements in the in-stadia experience

The increasing focus on digital makes this a great time to be a sports fan, with rights holders and teams looking at suitable channels to connect with fans and encourage them that the in-stadia experience beats the at-home experience.

Clubs/rights holders are looking to update stadium facilities, which enable revised assets and amenities in order to provide greater connectivity to fans. This will allow brands to become a more seamless part of the fan experience, delivering brand advocacy.

Sponsors that look to ride on the crest of this digital wave will benefit from providing direction to this digital evolution. Social media channels such as Facebook (Live) and Snapchat will continue to evolve and brands will need to fully embrace these channels to keep up-to-date with the latest trends.

A tailored content approach to sponsorship marketing

This means tailoring content strategies aimed at the specific benefits delivered through each channel (concentrating on brand engagement and interaction through the likes of Facebook, Instagram and YouTube).

The second strategy is focused on providing instant access to the here and now via the likes of Snapchat, Facebook Live and of course Twitter. The latter due to the real time nature, allows the club to provide the glimpse behind the curtain.

But the drawback is that the production/creative branding has to take a less prominent role. The advantage to brands is that ultimately, they are able to provide the content that fans crave thus providing a deeper level of connection to brands far beyond the standard commercial rights.

The Power of Influencers

Brands and sponsors are turning towards influencers as major marketing channels. This is a key vehicle for companies to enhance the reach, popularity and influence of their brand.

The distinction between influencer and brand is becoming increasingly less easy to distinguish. It is a two-way street: a relationship between brand and influencer, as they help each other grow and refine their branding.

Everything is based on trust, which is delivered through the relationship between the influencer and the consumer, which then benefits the brand.

What that means is, as a follower, I can just as easily unfollow an influencer as I can follow them. So I could say, “I’m not going to follow this influencer anymore because I feel like she’s advertising too much or she’s not authentic or she’s not working with brands that are really high quality.”

On the positive side, that means the brands that do get to work with influencers create much higher purchase intent with their customers. There are few things that drive a sale more effectively than a warm word-of-mouth recommendation.

The distinction between influencer and brand is becoming increasingly less easy to distinguish.

Data will be Key

As sponsors look to generate significant revenue through their sponsorships, data will become increasingly important. Brands will look to increasingly work with rights-holders to create interesting content to access their data.

The brands that look to activate this as a jointly branded partnership with gain the best traction. This will be a key growth area throughout the rest of 2017 due to the revenue potential it can deliver.

One of the obvious benefits of data is it will enable rights holders and brands to greater understand consumer behaviour whilst opening valuable new revenue streams.

Another area where data is going to be used more effectively is informing brand creativity, which in turn drives brand advocacy in order to gain the maximum return.

Conclusion

As always the Sponsorship Marketplace is evolving at a rapid pace; technology is currently the key driver of this evolution.

Our view is the pace of this change will only increase as social media channels further develop their products to drive both engagement and usage.

An increased focus on a richer engagement will lead to greater consumer interaction whilst providing brands with an opportunity to excite, educate and engage with consumers directly. More than ever before actually.

Brands that embrace this challenge – and early on – will obviously benefit the most.

The challenge will be for rights holders to adapt to this changing landscape. This will enable them to provide the commercial rights and opportunities that brands can utilise. And so push their sponsorship activation forward, in a fresh and exciting direction that provides both brand advocates and a commercial return.

As always the sponsorship landscape is an exciting channel that provides high levels of interaction. I’m looking forward to seeing this evolution play out over the coming months with our clients, as they navigate through this constantly changing environment.

Please contact me – Rob@bananakick.com – if anything I have said has grabbed your interest!