SOCIAL MEDIA SPONSORSHIP IS THE ASSET YOU MAY BE MISUSING.
Sponsorships are most successful when viewed by both parties as a partnership. In considering the social media aspects of these partnerships, that mindset is particularly important. Brands and rights holders offer the other the ability to achieve goals they may not alone. Rights holders offer brands fans with the expectation and perception of reality. Brands can offer rights holders opportunities that may usually be unattainable alone. Consequently, social media sponsorship, and the collaboration required to launch a successful campaign, will likely produce benefits for both partners.
How will your property meet that need?
Branded Content and Your Partnership
When promoting or assisting sponsors with social media content on rights holder channels, both parties should examine multiple options for collaboration. A communication and collaboration style will vary by situation. Choose the best option for you, your partner, and the audience you aim to reach. Generally, a rights holder and a sponsor will discuss three main options:
In this option, it will be clear to the audience the campaign is a joint effort. Logos and/or other recognition will be equally prominent (even if the level is low). Co-branding promotes a sense of unity between the rights holder and the sponsor; and portrays that unity throughout the campaign to the consumer.
Sponsor-based production and branding
This is the option for rights holders that want to give guidelines and nothing else; or for sponsors that want to create brand-based rather than event- or property-based campaigns. Rights holders should have the opportunity and expectation to approve all creative. Prior to creation and production, rights holders should offer brands a set of guidelines to set expectations.
Many sponsors want to take advantage of the added authenticity perceived on rights holder channels. If a brand is open to more subtle messaging, the partners can work together to promote the sponsor's initiative. How does USA Softball’s partnership with USSC Sports Camps allow athletes to be involved at the youth level? Do US Figure Skating athletes get ready to train with a PB&J sandwich made with sponsor Smuckers’ jam? How do USA Swimming athletes have the opportunity to utilize amenities at sponsor Marriott? If the partners can work together to produce content focusing on the lives of the athletes - something real and human and interesting - that features an almost-unspoken reliance upon a sponsor contribution, that will be authentic.
Each of these options can be successful. To ensure you and your partners choose the correct option, you must mutually discuss and agree upon a strategy. Without that step, any option used will likely be unsuccessful.
Work Together to Co-produce Content
Are there existing or new opportunities available to work with your sponsors on series of social media posts? Sponsors want their social media inclusion on rights holders’ posts to be authentic, natural and above all, successful. Working together to create a cohesive vision and product will reduce the likelihood of “logo drop” or “sales pitch” style posts on the part of a brand. This will likely result in a higher level of trust for both the rights holder and brand.
Wimbledon and Evian worked together to produce a series, “Wimble Watch,” as part of their partnership. The series was about more than tennis: it allowed Evian to show itself to Wimbledon fans as a lifestyle. Since the series was done at the tournament, it related back to the Wimbledon brand as well. Their successful campaign showed celebrity attendees reacting to Wimbledon: the strawberries and cream, the history, and the iconic tennis matches that happen on the only grass-court Grand Slam.
In the News
During the lead-up promotional period for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Twitter account (@teamusa) featured several examples of partnership-produced photo and video series. These sponsor posts were done by Hershey’s, Milklife, Milk Bone and KT Tape and featured American Olympians.
— U.S. Olympic Team (@TeamUSA) January 11, 2018
— U.S. Olympic Team (@TeamUSA) January 11, 2018
— U.S. Olympic Team (@TeamUSA) January 9, 2018
— U.S. Olympic Team (@TeamUSA) January 3, 2018
Each of these series offered the sponsors involved something different. For Hershey’s, it is a platform to promote success and how the essence of success ties in with its new Hershey’s Gold product. Milklife and KT Tape are able to showcase how their products assist athletes compete in the Olympic Games. KT Tape concentrates on the physical process and preparation. Milklife connected its product to sport in a more tangential and lifestyle-based way. Brain food and superfood are hot topics, and the brand tapped into that feeling. Milklife used its partnership with the USOC and several athletes to promote what milk can help you accomplish mentally through the #MyFocus series.
Where Should The Social Media Spend Go?
When creating content and discussing promotion, it is important to evaluate where to put your spend. Both sponsors and rights holder should be cognizant of how the social media partnership can be mutually beneficial. By identifying social media goals, sponsors and rights holders can appropriately determine where is best to promote content. Should it be posted on the brand or rights holder channels? Find the best option for your partnership.
Content posted by rights holders may gain more traction than content posted by brands. Content is usually seen as more authentic and engaging when on rights holder channels. Not everyone will seek out a specific brand on their own time. Brands posting on the social media channel of a rights holder can reach much larger audiences. Even better, that rights holder audience will be less familiar and allow more room for growth in awareness than a brand's channel. That simple action can increase impressions in a more authentic and organic way.
Creating content collaboratively allows both parties in the partnership to stay true to their brand. They also have the opportunity to creatively come together to reach a broader audience. Wimbledon partnered with Evian to co-create the Wimbledon Watch series. Evian aims to be a lifestyle brand. In order to reach the audience already captured by Wimbledon, the spend was put behind the Wimbledon page to increase impressions and reach. By partnering with Wimbledon, Evian was able to reach and target specific Wimbledon attendees. Examples could be those who sit on Henman Hill or those who purchase certain types of tickets. Evian could then reach those attendees when promoting and boosting posts on Wimbledon channels. As a bonus, these followers will be more likely to post and become brand advocates. Evian’s partnership with Wimbledon was better highlighted and appreciated due to these actions.
What Can Make Sponsored Posts Successful?
Sponsors and rights holders have the option on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to boost their social media posts. “Boosted” or “sponsored” posts will reach a larger audience. The fee associated with boosting posts can be build directly into your sponsorship agreement. Your boosted post will show up in the News Feeds of your chosen audience or “look-alike audience.” This can be beneficial to the brand and to the rights holder by “boosting” on each others’ pages. Cross promotion may stretch brand and partnership awareness across an even wider market.
Sponsored posts are great for lifestyle brands who want to showcase their product and the influence it has on its consumers. The Milkbone and Team USA partnership is a great example of incorporating a brand in a sponsored post on the rights holder’s page.
Long Term Collaboration and Success
Consider how to interest your social media following on a long-term basis through sponsorship programming. An event or season may not last the entire year, but rights holders can offer followers and sponsors opportunities to engage year-round. Sponsors signing long-term deals should be involved in a property’s offseason programming.
Sponsors want social media inclusion. Just as a venue want to hear ideas for collaboration from a sponsor, brands want to hear a venue’s ideas for partnership promotion. Social media success year-round for a specialized event is possible, and combining resources, ideas and promotion will make success more likely.
Offer Unique Assets
Sponsors are looking for partners with tangible digital and social media benefits. Your property should be one that can fulfill that requirement easily. Sponsors can easily take their money and partnership opportunity elsewhere. Include social media benefits your property can offer in your initial proposal. Also be sure to share ideas and schedule brainstorming sessions for collaboration as you fine-tune the details.
- Will a sponsor that can produce a web series with each visiting artist, athlete or even visitors to your venue?
- What brand elements do your sponsors hold that align with the social media opportunities you currently, or could, offer?
The longer a contract, the more time partners have to make a mark with their social media content. On the flip side, the sponsor will likely have higher expectations regarding both return and the servicing of its account. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) runs a highly sought after (and expensive) sponsorship program: The Olympic Partner (TOP) Programme. Included in this exclusive group are brands like Coca-Cola, VISA, Toyota and Samsung. When launching the Olympic Channel in 2017, the IOC turned first to brands already part of the TOP program, including Toyota and Bridgestone, and brands looking to become more active, like Alibaba.
Scale to Fit
Your property or event may not be able to launch your own channel - that’s definitely okay. Consider how you may be able to scale ideas:
- Would you and a partner find mutual benefit in a Facebook Live series promoted in tandem?
- Is a year-end “Most Exciting Moments” series a good fit for a partner?
Opportunities like these are an excellent way to interact with sponsors on the things that matter most to both parties. On the rights holder side, you are able to promote all the exciting things that happen at your property or event. Sponsors are able to show engagement in an authentic way that is valuable to the brand, the rights holder, and most of all, the audience.