Avoid Striking Out: 5 Sports Sponsorship Secrets

Fans see a great game; brands see a great opportunity. Thousands of color-coordinated fans file through turnstiles eager to eat, drink and root for the home team. Americans spend $56 billion each year on sporting events, and that doesn’t even include apparel. Brands develop partnerships with teams and their organizations to help increase awareness and promote products to thousands of cheering fans at a time. With every event comes a competition, one between teams and one between brands. With hundreds of logos and ads and freebies overloading these sports fan-atics, it’s easy to see how a seemingly lucrative sponsorship can instead result in ad blindness. Here are five ways to make your brand stand out with a marketing sponsorship.

1. Make Sure it Fits Like a Glove

Identifying a sponsorship opportunity that is right for your brand is the most crucial part of the process. The integration should feel like a partnership that promotes mutualism for both the event and the sponsoring brand. Think of it like dating. Your ideal suitor is someone with similar interests, right? Take our client The Wisconsin Lottery. Teaming up with the Milwaukee Brewers, The Wisconsin Lottery rebranded each home run as a Power Ball after the Lottery’s premier game. This term was echoed by the Milwaukee Brewers Powerball Home Run Leader Board, on Brewers.com and on infographics throughout Miller Park. The relationship benefits The Wisconsin Lottery by increasing brand awareness while it contributes to the experience for Brewer fans through exciting graphics and game-day fun for the family.

2. Swing for the Fences, Without Paying Top DollarGio Gonzalez Beard Sponsor

Great results don’t always require a big league budget. It doesn’t have to be a whole stadium, a whole event, a whole team or, hear us out, even a whole person.   

We helped Wahl, a leader in men’s grooming products, become the first-ever company to sponsor an athlete’s beard. Gio Gonzalez, known for his great facial hair and pitching acumen for the Washington Nationals, became a media sensation when his beard was honored at a D.C. press conference. The result was high-profile coverage in USA Today, Washington Post, Yahoo Sports and more. And it didn’t stop there. To tie into the world’s largest sporting event, Wahl got more (pig)skin in the game by partnering with Pro running back DeMarco Murray on Radio Row to promote his new-look beard for the new season, courtesy of Wahl.

3. Think Impress vs. Impressions

It’s simple to be slap-happy with a brand’s logo. Fans want to be closer, they want to be involved, see new things and gain new experiences. This generates an opportunity for sponsors to do more. It’s important for a brand to not just focus on impressions, but also on experiences and frequency. Research shows the average American is exposed to between 300 and 700 ads each day. This calls for a pitch of creativity and content or an experience that will matter to your audience.

Microsoft captured the attention and creativity of 20,000 football fans with the Microsoft Creator’s Lab. Packed with Surface products, fans were able to create 2D and 3D football-inspired artwork and projected the work onto a giant dome.

4. Team Up on Social Media

Every good sponsorship should include social media promotion, before, during and after the event. According to Nielsen, 5-20% of sponsorship-generated value for brands occurs from their social media activity. Entertain the audience with pre and post-game video interviews, produce hype videos, create experiences to interact with fans or offer incentives like free or discounted tickets. Fans want to be closer to the action and they want their content to feel authentic. For channels like Snapchat and Instagram, share raw, first-hand footage from the game or event allowing users to engage. This content should be of interest to both fans that are attending the event and ones who may be experiencing FOMO from home.

Take for example the Purina National Dog Show. This sponsor had their name, logo and product in front of millions of pet owners and pet lovers alike. Purina amplified this sponsorship by donating one dollar to GreaterGood.org for every use of the hashtag #DogThanking and tag @Purina for a donation totaling up to $50,000. GreaterGood.com utilized these funds to help bring food and supplies to people and pets displaced by the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

5. Don’t Strike Out

If a sponsor opportunity presents different levels such as gold, silver and bronze, it’s best to take the pitch. When seen as a one-size-fits-all scenario, sponsorships are often not effective. Again, the most important part of a sponsorship is finding a clear connection between the sponsor, the event, and their audience.

Is your brand ready to step up to the plate? Hoffman York has worked with brands like The Wisconsin Lottery and Wahl to identify sponsorship opportunities that raise brand awareness and brand engagement. Check out our work by visiting our Wisconsin Lottery case study or reach out to us at [email protected] to learn more.

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