How brands use digital sponsorship to reach sports audience
While this change has benefited the consumer, it has made it much harder for brands to reach their audience. Brands used to have the certainty that buying a print or TV spot around a Monday night sports event would give them sufficient reach for nearly any campaign target. However, audience fragmentation across multiple device platforms and viewing times has meant that an individual sporting event (with the possible exception of the Super Bowl) no longer gives broad reach.
■ Digital as a solution
Extending sports sponsorship to digital is one solution to give brands a more direct relationship to an event. For example, Quicken Loans decided to become a team sponsor in NASCAR in 2012 to test the effectiveness of sponsorship marketing. The company quickly found the brand association justified, doubling down on its investment in the sport and now pulling all its digital content assets (videos, games and prize draws) to a dedicated destination site, Quicken Loans Racing. “We were not sure what to expect with the 2012 season being our first in the sport,” said Jay Farner, Quicken Loans president and chief marketing officer, speaking at a news conference announcing the company’s increased commitment. “What we quickly found was that NASCAR fans are tremendously passionate and loyal to the brands that help drive their sport. It was their commitment to our company that ultimately allowed us to significantly increase our involvement with the sport.”
|FMF Apparel used an online video featuring motocross athletes to drive marketing of its Octane Junkies line.
In conjunction with event-based digital sponsorship, many brands are now creating branded content experiences for their sponsored athletes or brand ambassadors. For example, in May, FMF Apparel created a video of its motocross brand ambassadors, Conner Mullennix and Troy Graffunder, which showed them wearing a new Octane Junkies T-shirt. The video was viewable on a Facebook app, and FMF drove its audience to watch the event with links to buy the product at the company’s e-commerce store.
■ Adding digital to the RFP
As digital sponsorship starts to become more prevalent, sports properties need to start thinking about adding digital as a separate line-item on their RFPs to brand sponsors. Currently, sponsorship RFP responses by sports properties are focused on in-venue benefits. For example, they include commitments around perimeter advertising placement, positioning of brand booths in-venue, guarantees on number of attendees, and their profile from previous events. Some digital elements are included, but they play mostly a minor role (e.g., inclusion of a sponsor’s logo on event print and digital marketing), are limited in scope (e.g., adding a brand campaign from the sponsor on the event home page) or are included as value-add (e.g., including the sponsor’s logo in an event video). Consequently, the value of digital is not realized.
Sports properties should treat digital as a standalone valuable element where, by using digital media tools like audience profiling/retargeting, sports properties can capture incremental sponsorship dollars.
The RFP package could include a mixture of fixed-number impressions, audience viewers and some form of exclusivity around the content for a set period of time. If the property already tracks usage across its other digital inventory (e.g., website, YouTube or social media), including the audience demographic and psychographic information is recommended. Pricing for the digital sponsorship should back into a cost per thousand impressions (CPM) price, which can be justified against other comparable digital advertising. For example, advertising on premium sports sites (e.g., ESPN) online range from $20 to $40 CPM, and adding audience segments can mean another $4 to $8 CPM.
Digital sponsorship is only likely to increase as brands are able to tap into these passionate audiences and obtain positive association.
Ian Foley (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a digital advertising executive who lives in Portola Valley, Calif.