While professional sports have drawn sponsors to finance important components of the business, such as the expense of operating major stadiums, brands can benefit from sports sponsorships at all levels of sport. Sports have a large audience that may be addressed in a variety of ways today. Brands have the ability to raise awareness and adapt their image to meet shifting marketing objectives.
As we enter the digital age, there are even more opportunities for businesses to harness sports and engage with their fans in meaningful ways. My comprehensive guide to sport sponsorship examines the options accessible to sports teams of all levels and demonstrates how you can utilize your audience to tempt some of the most relevant, high-profile brands.
What is the significance of sport sponsorship?
Even at the amateur level, live sports bring enormous crowds together. The more famous the sport or team, the more attention the events receive. Sports have an intriguing effect in that they bring together groups of people who are both bonded and competing with one another. While professional sports have the potential to reach billions of spectators, making them an appealing proposition for multinational brands, amateur sports have their own attraction, particularly within the local business community.
There are numerous sponsorship opportunities available, and they can reach a diverse clientele. With the audience in hand and the opportunity to devise creative ways to engage the audience, sports teams can use sponsorship cash to improve the fan experience while also boosting what they provide their athletes.
Status as a celebrity
The power of athletes at their peak gives an aspirational view that brands find appealing. It provides new possibilities for them to display their brand in support of an active, healthy lifestyle. Put a can of soda in the hands of an athlete and it becomes a magical potion that can do everything from make you perform like a superstar to live a life of luxury. People don’t comprehend the athlete was paid to drink the beverage and instead equate drinking the soda with the athlete, their ability, and lifestyle. A brand used by an entire team might have the same effect.
The cash raised through sponsorships can be used to offer the tools that the team and supporting staff require to be successful. In a tiny town, sponsorship may be the difference between having one soccer ball for practice and one for each team member. It could entail having higher-quality uniforms or a well-kept soccer pitch. It can mean luring the greatest coaches and medical care with better compensation and more services at the stadium for supporters for a professional team.
When revenues are raised through sponsorships, team management focuses on training and performance rather than brainstorming new fundraising ideas. This boosts team performance and moves them closer to championship contention.
When you get sponsorship right, you develop emotional ties that help promote fan loyalty and distinguish casual fans from die-hard fans. In other words, you produce zealots rather than fans. When fans are happy, they invest in the club through ticket sales and stadium purchases, which all come full circle to support the team’s needs.
Upgrading the fan experience
Improving the fan experience increases ticket sales and encourages people to support their club. Sponsors enable teams to organize extra activities on game day or even build off-season fan experiences. Fan days are an excellent example because stadiums are opened up and fans are invited to stroll the field, engage in activities, eat stadium food, and often meet the players. This shows fans appreciation and allows teams to connect with them. As a sponsor for such events, brands receive recognition as the event’s host, the chance to participate with handouts, offer contests and prizes, and other benefits.
During breaks, each game can also include a unique giveaway or contest, such as selecting stadium seat numbers for prizes, or allowing fans to try to score a goal, hit a home run, or take a shot at the basket to win a large cash reward. These events provide entertainment, but they also allow fans to interact with other fans, try out their skills, and often meet their favorite players.
Sponsorship resources and goods
Resources or properties are distinct entities that target a specific demographic. Each property has its unique set of assets, both real and intangible. Some examples of properties are:
- Advertising in the arena, stadium, and so on.
- Rights to broadcast
- Sampling privileges
- Pouring rights/food and beverage rights
- Stadium naming rights Logo placement on tickets, shirts, and so on
It is usual to mix up goods or properties with resources or assets. However, assets are packaged under each property to make them more appealing as an investment, such as:
- Physical space naming rights
- Event and attraction naming rights
- Product samples and giveaways
- Opportunities for display
- Social networking sites
- Mailings and newsletters
- Benefits that are passed on
- Venue utilization
- Paid advertising
- The conventional media
- Employee advantages
- Possibilities for hospitality
Your goal is to develop packages that include the most relevant properties as well as a long array of assets. It is always preferable to go with a larger sponsor for a property in order to boost audience response by helping to lessen all of the noise they are subjected to at a sporting event. Incorporating exclusivity for the most intriguing assets will also assist you in locating greater investments, ensuring a clear link between the fee paid and the benefits acquired through the goods or properties and resources or assets.
Identifying your target audience
Although sports might have a broad audience, there are subsets in every audience. For sports, specifically professional or semi-professional teams, your audience might be divided into the following categories:
- At-home viewers
- Dedicated vs. casual fans
- Holders of annual passes
- Holders of corporate tickets
This is significant because each of these groups should be treated differently and should receive various rewards from sponsors. It makes no sense, for example, to give general admission attendees the same benefits as season ticket holders. You can also create distinct chances based on the industry of specific corporate ticket holders.
Your duty is to understand each audience segment so that you can appropriately assign a monetary value to each group and tailor your sponsorship options to each target. This increases your sponsorship levels while also assisting you in creating more defined, targeted activations.
Sponsors will base their level of commitment on their own criteria, so you must thoroughly know your audience. They will usually consider things like:
- Your target audience’s purchasing habits
- The audience’s level of closeness with properties and assets, whether causal or intimate
- Each property’s range
- Is the lifestyle of the sport’s supporters consistent with its brand? Are we paying for an overly broad audience, lowering ROI?
They will also consider the activations as well as any potential obstacles or conflicts:
- Is the image conveyed by each activation consistent with the company’s brand?
- Is the team or sport larger than the brand, which may make it difficult for them to break through the noise?
- Who are the other sponsors, how do they match with their brand, and does participation in multi-brand properties make sense?
- Will the activations cause logistical problems during execution?
- Can they supply sufficient personnel to manage activations? How did previous activations work?
If you can link your segments to these common questions and criteria, sponsors will be able to evaluate how they fit in and whether they can reach their objectives.
Developing experiential activities
When it comes to brand experiences, almost every audience today, sports fans or not, has higher expectations. They become even more critical when they suspect a brand is manipulating them to generate sales. As a result, generating authentic, entertaining, and impactful experiential activations is critical for sponsors. So you’re stuck trying to please fans while simultaneously ensuring sponsors receive their money’s value.
From a fan perspective, they anticipate the following from their stadium visits, according to a report from one of the big three:
- Safety, convenience, and hygiene.
- A point of view that corresponds to their expectations.
- A fantastic game.
- The stadium has a thrilling atmosphere.
If you get #4 to the point, you can generate funds to improve #1 through #3. According to the survey, fans want the ability to share experiences unique to the stadium that are tailored to their specific interests, as well as live entertainment options before, during, and after the game. These data enable you to identify targeted sponsorship options that provide:
- One-of-a-kind artifacts for sale in the stadium, or counterparts in giveaways
- New methods to use mobile devices to enhance the stadium experience, such as watching game highlights and replays
- Postgame and beforehand fan entertainment is available.
- New opportunities for fans to communicate with the team, sponsors, and other supporters
- In-event experiences tailored to fan preferences, new methods for reviewing highlights, and real-time fan stories and experiences
Remember that different fan bases have different requirements. While soccer and rugby fans place little attention on pre- and post-game entertainment, volleyball fans anticipate and desire distinctive entertainment. When it comes to anticipating an entertaining stadium atmosphere, the basketball ranks first. Knowing your fan base is therefore essential for giving the proper kind of experiential activations.
Making use of social media
Social media is becoming increasingly crucial for sports fans, who utilize it for a variety of reasons. Mobile devices and online options are growing significantly more broad and fascinating, from streaming live sports events to receiving the best clips following or even during games, to commenting on plays in live streams. There are now more platforms for sponsors to enhance the fan experience, displacing television as the conventional sports medium.
Athletes, in fact, have their own social media profiles, which are quickly becoming the preferred medium for “accidental” endorsements showing them using products. There are now new revenue prospects for both sponsors and teams that can work effectively when combined with complete stadium connectivity, not to mention high-quality screens and other forms of beacon technology.
Sponsors might be present to give a variety of experiences by engaging with followers on social media. This can include calls to action to attend their pre- and post-game entertainment, sweepstakes, urging fans to be among the first 1,000 to obtain a free product at the door, encouraging supporters to join in heated debates about a certain play of the day, or moaning about a recent transaction.
To assist sponsors in meeting their goals, your properties should incorporate social media assets. This could include:
- Possibilities for engagement and sharing
- Use of photographs and video given by the team and sponsors, with permission to use them on their own social networks.
- The ability to stream highlights live to fans
- Collecting feedback to better understand fan reaction to their sponsorship
Social media also gives social verification that activations are functioning, as well as the ability to collect fan feedback via simple surveys. This brings us to the second important factor in sports sponsorship success: Focus groups and surveys
Surveys and evaluation
Measuring sponsorship impact and achievement demonstrates to sponsors that their investment was worthwhile. However, you should combine current event measurement with fan input to better establish what is expected, what works, and what is a waste of time. When you can combine survey and focus group feedback with social proof that specific activations were effective, you can assist sponsors in deciding where to invest for future possibilities.
Tracking user interaction and gathering feedback allows you to target the best brands for the best possibilities. You can search for specific information that can influence sponsor decisions, such as:
- Where did fans see logos the most?
- What channels/platforms are they most likely to use during and after a game?
- Which activities they would partake in and which they believe are a waste of time
- The kinds of gifts that would get them out of bed and keep them on the couch at home
- The brands they select from a list for increased interaction, and so on.
- Apps that they believe enhance their fan experience
You can then communicate your findings to sponsors during brainstorming sessions, pitches, and other points of contact.
Match the audience and the prospect
The proper sponsors will be familiar with your target demographic. As a result, when creating your prospect list, you will use your surveys and focus groups to choose logical prospects who are most likely to connect with your followers. In general, your prospects would be as follows:
- Companies with similar target markets
- Companies that sponsor similar properties, fans, and sports teams
- Companies that fit the profile and lifestyle of sports fans
- And, of course, companies that fans have mentioned in your research
You can then create tailored packages to match the demands of these brands.
Beyond basic packages: use
We’ve already covered the fundamentals of properties and assets. This serves as the foundation for your bundles. Sports sponsors, on the other hand, tend to seek for a broader range of options that allow them to participate on a more exclusive or unique level. They may be looking for the following ways to leverage their sponsored sponsorship:
- Added-value: Fans can provide evidence of purchase from a sponsor to gain a discount at the door, or they can do the opposite and provide a discount voucher at the point of purchase. This can also be linked to anything else to offer value, such as a seat upgrade with proof of purchase, to enhance the viewer’s experience.
- Self-liquidators: Merchandise offerings at the game or at the sponsor’s location can include something as simple as a sports reel of the year’s top plays, or a high-ticket item such as an official jersey for a very low price.
- Team recognition for better optics: Allowing a brand to feature your team name in an official capacity, such as the official cereal, may frequently gain brands additional shelf space across chain retailers for improved exposure.
- Co-sponsor cross-promotions: Arranging for sponsors to collaborate with other aligned businesses might help you save money while still providing equal benefits to you and the sponsors.
These are just a few examples of how you may help sponsors to receive more bang for their buck by leveraging their sponsorship. This can motivate people to keep participating. Essentially, you provide them with an additional menu that allows them to “exploit” their relationship with the team, whether it’s to increase traffic to their stores, sell more products, boost sales with borrowed imagery for marketing, or get their product to more people through sampling and discounts.
You will still be obliged to price your sponsorship packages appropriately in sport sponsorship sales. Similar value can be found in a variety of places, including:
- Advertisement rates in trade publications
- Digital advertisements on prominent sports websites
- Conferences and events in the industry
- Your typical game attendance versus special event sponsored days
- What do other sports teams charge for sponsorship?
Other teams will be your best resource for obtaining some decent average pricing to assist you in determining a reasonable value for your assets and properties.
Strategy for activation
Your sponsorship activation strategy should address each stage, including:
Onboarding of Sponsors
Onboarding will cover objectives and every component of activation to ensure that everyone is on the same page, including:
- Each activation will target a specific audience segment.
- Each activation should solve a problem for the audience.
- Any issues that each activation should resolve for the sponsor
- Better approaches to tailor the activation to achieve better results
Clarify Sponsorship Contracts
Don’t let poor communication jeopardize your prospects of successful activations. To eliminate confusion, a checklist shows everyone what’s what, including:
- What kind of logo placement and firm name mention are they entitled to?
- Who pays for what at events and activities?
- Timelines for all marketing collateral production
- Clear a schedule and places for sponsor speakers, talent, and so on so that they know when and where to appear.
- A calendar should be established for events such as players appearing to sign t-shirts.
- Clear setup instructions, including when sponsors can access the venue, how to access the venue, and so on
Delivery schedules and deadlines for anything the sponsor may have to provide that they will not be managing themselves, such as door prizes, event prizes, t-shirts to be worn, and so on.
The list will grow more thorough as the activation becomes more tailored.
Execution and activation must be confirmed
To minimize disagreements over whether activation occurred or not, make sure everything is confirmed, including:
- Sponsors should sign off on any event collateral to guarantee you have permission to use their logo and corporate name
- Have your own people there at each activation to guarantee that everything is done correctly, such as ensuring that handouts reach fans’ hands, discount coupons are distributed, discounts are offered with evidence of purchase and proof is collected, and so on
- Photograph each activation
- Encourage fans to use game and activity hashtags when posting to social media platforms
- Make screen captures of anything you find online so you have proof in case it is erased after the game
- When possible, provide social confirmation that an activation was successful
With a strategy in place, you can ensure that nothing goes lost in the hectic stadium on the day of the event.
Annual sponsor meeting
Sponsor summits are a great method to not only gather information on how to strengthen sponsorships, but also to recognize sponsors for their contributions. They ask sponsors to attend an event that includes food, drinks, and, most crucially, organized group work and presentations that allow participants to network, learn from one another, and pick each other’s brains. You can incorporate extra exclusive time with your reps as well as influencers or speakers in attendance for your most exclusive sponsors. This fosters relationships and builds goodwill, allowing sponsors to understand that their investment is valued and adds value to your fan experience.
Sponsors can justify their marketing dollars by tracking the impact of their sponsorships. As sponsorship opportunities become more specialized and difficult to follow, data and tracking become more vital than ever. Brand and logo detection is one approach to demonstrate success. As previously said, social proof works wonders for proving activation success, as do real-time surveys to record fan reactions to experiential marketing activations.
Sport sponsorship is a significant money-making option that allows you to connect with brands that want to be in front of your followers. This guide will give you the information you need to create effective packages that will entice major brands to invest in your team.
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