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Wedding Bells - The Marriage Between Social Media and Sponsorships

Darrin Gross's picture

There is much to be said about the marriage of social media and sponsorships today. Greater emphasis is now being placed on social media during our needs assessment discussions. Additionally, we understand that every day we are unable to provide a “digital solution” is a day and a dollar lost and potentially an unhappy client if their goals and objectives run towards the social side of things.

With that in mind I decided to turn this month’s column into an interview with two of the smartest social media mavens currently working in Major League Baseball; Amy MacEwen (@TweetAmyMac), Marketing and Advertising Manager and Stella Koh (@SK_408), Advertising Assistant. 2013 marks Amy’s ninth season with the Athletics and Stella’s second with the club. Aside from their social media duties Amy and Stella work on a broad range of projects for the A’s including our general marketing campaign, creation of our A’s Magazine and working with my department to help develop creative partnership assets.

During my interviews with Amy and Stella I posed the following questions and have provided their astute answers below.

Question #1: What is the driving force behind the Athletics’ social media campaign? What are your goals for the program?

(Amy) The driving force behind the A’s social media campaign is our fans/consumers. Social media provides us a unique channel to reach our fans quickly and most importantly directly. Yet it doesn’t end there. Unlike traditional marketing mediums where the message typically ends with the individual consumer seeing a billboard or listening to a radio ad, social media allows fans to take ownership and distribute the message to their own social circles. By empowering the fan with these tools, we are more likely to reach potential consumers that are essentially more open to our message because someone in their social circle has “endorsed” it by the simple action of sharing.

Thus our goals are three fold. (1) To spread our brand/message, (2 ) To engage/grow our fan base and then (3) To get fans out to the ballpark (sell tickets!).

Question #2: What are your thoughts about tying sponsors to social media campaigns?

(Amy) We are definitely open to it as sponsorship is one of the top ways we generate revenue and we want to develop unique campaigns to spread our sponsor’s messages. As I mentioned earlier, social media is different than traditional marketing channels as it allows us to reach a large—traditionally younger—audience very quickly and provides a platform for conversation between us and consumers. After accessing a sponsor’s goals, we can then assess if social media is the appropriate channel to meet those goals.

(Stella) Integrating sponsors with social media campaigns is beneficial because it expands our reach, adds incentives and improves fan engagement – which hopefully increases ticket sales. Expand reach: A’s can tap into sponsors’ audiences beyond their normal reach. Adding incentive: sponsors can provide prize incentives to drive traffic and engagement. Larger reach and fan engagement increase ticket sales which is one of the primary goals of social media marketing. However, sponsor tie-ins can be challenging if they are not creative or relevant to the A’s brand and audience. Successful tie-ins require creative thinking and research of the sponsors and audience.

Question #3: What issues arise when sponsors are involved with social media campaigns?

(Amy) Due to the organic nature of social media, we have to be careful that the social platform doesn’t become too commercialized. It’s our job to find the right balance between the message and our sponsor’s needs and then synergize the two. Many times it falls on simply how the message is articulated, or “the voice.” Regardless if the message’s goal is sponsorship, promotional, informative, etc., we always aim to have a consistent voice in order to establish that stronger connection with our fan base.

(Stella) One of the biggest issues we face is how to develop messaging without sounding like an advertisement. When we add sponsors to messaging, we aim to avoid the salesperson voice to keep audiences engaged while still providing the sponsor with an avenue to our customers.

Question #4: What is your favorite social media campaign the A’s have run that had a sponsor tie-in?

(Amy) A few years ago, we wanted to drive awareness to the Rickey Henderson Bobblehead Day, so in honor Henderson’s 130-stolen base season, we decided to hide 130 mini bases around the city for fans to find and redeem for a prize. Fans had to follow the A’s on social media in order to receive clues for the base locations. How did we decide on the locations? We opened it up to our sponsors. The campaign not only put the sponsor’s name out there, but it literally drove hundreds of fans/consumers to our sponsor’s retail outlets.

Question #5: What’s the next big social media trend you see on the horizon and do you see a potential sponsor tie-in?

(Amy) Vine, “the 6 second movie” as I call it, is gaining a lot of momentum these days because it literally adds another dimension for fans to share. We recently used the app to show fans how our upcoming Coco Crisp “Lean” Bobblehead actually bobbled and “leaned,” as a still image just wasn’t able to capture it. We found the post hugely successful and national media outlets picked up on it.

(Stella) BuzzFeed is a great example of how sponsors and social media integrate. Producing posts sponsored by relevant companies disguises the fact they are advertisements. Most people dislike online ads but creative tie-ins are often accepted and sometimes appreciated (the humorous ones at least). Tumblr, the blogging platform, is starting work on sponsor tie-ins. Adding sponsors to the blogs can reach audiences who are avid users and read more than 140 characters at a time. Sponsors can also analyze audiences through comments sections on Tumblr and BuzzFeed. More people are starting to replace the radio with Spotify, the new MySpace and SoundCloud. The new radio replacements are beneficial because they are also social networks and mobile apps. More tracking and analysis are available to improve strategy and marketing.

Question #6: What measurements are viable with regard to social media to show value to the team as well as the sponsor?

(Amy) This is still under construction. Engagement metrics are hard to measure and I don’t think there really is a perfect formula to measure the success of a social campaign. Retweets and favorites are the most obvious, but we tend to value reach and click-thru rates more, as impression data aligns more with how our sponsorship team values assets in client packages. In addition, when a social campaign gets picked up by other forms of media (TV, radio, websites), it’s invaluable to the team and the associated sponsor, as our message is not only reaching a new audience but we are driving awareness, showcasing substance, and optimistically driving future followers to our social platforms.
A big thank you to Amy and Stella for contributing to this month’s column. It is a real benefit to my department and our organization as a whole to have these creative minds at work on our behalf. We truly look to them to guide us through the social media landscape and thus far our partners have been thrilled.

Now, as always, go sell something!

Check out past Sales Management articles in The Migala Report.

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