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How to Increase Fan Engagement in Sponsorship Activation through Social Media

Tom Hughes's picture

As brand marketers, we’re constantly being challenged with making sure our sponsorships strategically deliver results for the brand. One way to do that is by increasing the level of fan engagement.

Traditional sponsorship activation plans often centered on creating fan engagement via an on-site or in-game experience. Over the last several years, the emergence of social media has provided marketers with a great way to extend engagement beyond the face-to-face game experience.

Activation vs. Engagement

To better understand social media and fan engagement, let’s first define what we mean by Sponsorship Activation and Engagement.

Sponsorship Activation is the process of maximizing the utilization of sponsorship assets in a manner that generates awareness for your brand and engages with the target consumer. Activation takes the form of an integrated marketing plan that includes:

• Making sure your sponsorship branding and messaging is in place
• Appropriately targeting your ideal customer
• Figured out the best way to get them to interact or take a specific positive action.

Elements of an Ideal Activation Plan: As the sponsor activation wheel (right) shows, an ideal activation plan includes multiple marketing levers that target our message to the consumer.

Sponsorship Engagement happens when the target consumer takes note of or actively participates with a piece of a sponsor’s activation program. The engagement can be either passive or active in nature.

• Passive engagement could be as simple a fan noticing your brand while attending an event.
• Active engagement could be the fan interacting with your on-site display, text program, entering a sweeps online, or “liking” you on Facebook.
• Ideally, the engagement is active, two-way and is integrated into the overall experience.

Changing the Traditional Sponsorship Activation Dynamic

The downside to traditional sponsorship activation on-site is that the potential audience may be limited to only the fans attending the game or event. Let’s look at a couple of simple scenarios to illustrate the impact a social media component can have on your fan engagement.

For both scenarios, let’s assume you’ve developed a program targeted to fans of a football team. As part of your on-site activation, you’ve got one table at a football stadium with four main entrances. Let’s also assume each entrance draws the same percentage of fans entering the stadium.

On-Site Only: With a 60,000 seat stadium at capacity and activation site location at one gate brings visibility to approximately 15,000 people. Of those 15,000, assume 50% notice (passive engagement) and 10% visit (active engagement) your display. You’ve just engaged with 7,500 people passively, including 1,500 people actively. For most brands, the sponsor cares far more about active engagement.

Now consider if you develop a social media component to your program and use the team social media sites to promote it. You’re extending activation beyond the game experience to a much larger group of potential customers.

Leveraging Social Media: The average NFL team has roughly 630,000 Facebook followers. What if you were able to create a program that got those same percentages as the on-site scenario: 12.5% passive & 2.5% active engagement. You would have reached 78,000 fans passively (more than the number that attended the game) and more that 15,000 people actively.

In this simple example, leveraging social media resulted in a 10X increase in active engagements over the on-site only scenario.

An additional benefit of social media is fans can then re-post or re-tweet your activity to their friends and followers, allowing your program to grow exponentially. Recent research* shows that the audience of friends of fans is 34 times as large as the number of fans of a team. When fans post on Facebook their friends see the post in their newsfeed, far exceeding the initial reach. Ideally, you’d combine the on-site and social components to maximize your results.

The Big Brands are on Board

Many brands have noted this trend and taken action rolling out extensive campaigns either centered around social media or with social as a cornerstone of their activation.

Coca-Cola, Samsung and P&G all recently launched major social media campaigns leading up to the summer Olympics. Many of the other sponsors like AT&T, and Kellogg have plans that all include a social media component.

Social media has become an essential part of any sponsorship activation program. If it isn’t part of your plans, then you’re doing yourselves and your brand a disservice.

How are you using social media to improve your sponsorship activation results?

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*Bruich, Sean et al. (2012), “The power of ‘Like’: How brands reach (and influence) fans through social media marketing,” Journal of Advertising Research, 52 (May), 40-52.

Developed by Old Hat Creative