Social media is changing the way people and companies communicate, collaborate and conduct business. If you’re a brand, sports team, athlete or event, there’s a great chance people are talking about you online (if they’re not, you may be in trouble).
Sponsorship is an important part of sports. Brands focus on aligning themselves with a team, property or athlete and hoping that fans’ loyalty to that team/property/athlete translates into additional exposure and business for the brand.
Without the right plan for activating a sponsorship and making sure you’re reaching people, a sponsorship can be worthless. Engagement has measurement are more important than ever, and this is where social media can really help. Here are five ways social media can be utilized to engage fans and extend the reach of sponsorships.
1) Tap into fan communities and reach out to fans and bloggers
There are communities (official and unofficial) for people who are fans of specific teams, sports and athletes all over the Internet. These may be in the form of actual communities with Facebook-like features, groups or pages within Facebook, message boards, blogs and other fan websites.
You can also identify fans of a team and/or of your own brand through Twitter. Do a search for your brand terms or just reach out to your followers if you have a Twitter account.
Many of these fans online would love to hear about what cool things come with your sponsorship of their favorite team, and you can use these fan communities to promote what you’re doing with the team. You could hold specific community “events” online or even identify a few key influencers to do something special with.
2) Create content around the sponsorship and make it shareable
Being a sponsor has its perks—access to exclusive team events or practices, tickets and great seats at games and charity functions, access to players and coaches, etc.
It’s great to have these benefits for executives and/or customers to utilize. But don’t forget about the rest of your audience. You can extend the reach of your presence at real-world events or your promotions by creating content around it and putting it online.
I love what Kodak has done with the Kodak Challenge. They’ve created a website with links to pictures and videos and they also have a specific Twitter account, and Facebook page for the Kodak Challenge. While they may not have millions of followers on Twitter, it’s still a low-cost way to spread the word about what they’re doing.
This content can be real-time or after the event/promotion has taken place. A March Madness sponsor could have someone live-tweet or live-blog what it’s like at each of the games he/she attends. A marketing person could do live interviews with fans or team personnel using a platform like Livestream or uStream. The possibilities are endless-sports fans crave access to interesting content.
The key to this is to make it as easy as possible for people to share your content. On-site, use buttons to allow people to easily email or share content with their friends on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t forget email – if you’re emailing people about specific promotions, include share-to-social functionality so they can easily share the content in these emails with their network.
3) Encourage/reward people for sharing information about your promotion
While some people may want to share information about your sponsorships or promotions, it never hurts to offer a little incentive. It’s not enough just to be on Twitter or Facebook. You have to give people a reason to take the time to engage with you. It also helps to use hashtags for specific promotions or events as a unique identifier and way to track what people are saying.
Why not offer fans rewards for sharing content or information about your sponsorship with their friends? These rewards could be things like discounts or downloads. For example, you can use Twitter’s API and oAuth functionality to have people post a tweet and then get access to a coupon code or exclusive download.
You could also reward people by recognizing them. If someone blogs about your promotion, take the time to leave a comment and thank them. If someone tweets about it, thank them on Twitter, and maybe feature them on your website.
If your brand has a community manager who is monitoring Twitter and other areas online for mentions of your brand, make sure they know about what teams/properties you sponsor so they can keep an eye out for people talking about them as well.
4) Create an interesting app or mashup
There are so many possibilities when it comes to sports and social media. Creating a cool app or mashup of technology and sports can be a great way to get people talking about you. I love what Mullen and Radian6 have done for the Super Bowl. BrandBowl 2010 is a website that lets people see, in real-time, what people are saying about the Super Bowl ads on Twitter. Using Radian6’s technology, people can see which ads get the most positive response, and they don’t have to wait to see what the traditional media says to find out.
There is never any shortage of data in sports or conversations around teams or athletes. Finding an interesting way to present this data can be a way to add value to how fans experience the game, and increase the reach of your sponsorship.
5) Implement a contest around user generated content
Contests are a great way to get talked about online and on social networking websites. If you have a decent prize (and encourage people to share the contest with their friends on social networking sites), contests can spread quickly.
Instead of just asking people to put their name and email address in a form to enter to win, why not have them create a video or write a blog post to enter? This is a great way to get links back to your website and people talking about you. And it’s a lot more fun.
Some ideas for fan contests include:
• Craziest fan challenge
• Best tailgater
• Tell us your favorite player and why
These are just a few ideas. You can probably get a LOT more creative with these names if you spend some solid time thinking about your audience and what people would want.
Social media should definitely be part of the planning process when thinking about how to activate your sponsorships. What do you think about these ideas? What ideas do you have? I’d love to hear them.
Jason Peck is a sports and social media follower, entreprenuer (founder of Highway 24, Media, LLC, and Northern Hills Buzz), project manager (social media/community at eWayDirect), consultant and blogger. To gain some additional thoughts on the intersection of sports business and social media, check out his blog at: Take A Peck.