This past year in the world of sports has been full of new advancements, conversations, and controversies on social media.
Through social sponsorship, brands moved into the forefront and commanded the narrative on social media during major moments, from Bud Light’s Victory Fridges opening in Cleveland to Nike tabbing Colin Kaepernick for the “Just Do It” campaign’s 30th anniversary. Data privacy became an everyday conversation topic, as the Cambridge Analytica story brought the topic to the front page. Esports continued to emerge as a powerful new vertical for branded activation, with new streaming stars and grander arenas for competitions seemingly popping up overnight. And that’s just scratching the surface.
As social media and the way we use it continues to evolve, it’s important to stay on the pulse of what’s to come and prepare for the trends that will define the next year. Reading the tea leaves based on conversations we’ve heard this year with key decision makers in sports and entertainment, here are our predictions for sports marketing and sponsorship on social media in 2019:
More brands will incentivize teams and leagues for high-engagement activations.
Brands and properties are quickly realizing that the old ways of measuring their sponsorship investments (i.e. impressions and logo placements) simply don’t add up in a digital-first world. That’s why more brands will adopt incentive-based sponsorship models much like Anheuser -Busch InBev did this past summer. These deals will include a base compensation package for the team or league paired with different tiers of rewards that are triggered by activation performance metrics. Properties can no longer simply slap their partners’ logo on social posts in order to fulfill their sponsorship requirement; this new model encourages creativity and requires verified measurement to ensure activations drive meaningful results for all involved.
Social media will move into the forefront of sponsorship deals.
As a far more impactful way to generate value for a brand outside of an event, social media will move into focus for all sponsorship deals. With the leagues’ vast social footprints and the cost to boost a sponsored social campaign being widely underpriced, there’s plenty of valuable opportunities to create a successful branded social campaign. Since the start of 2017, entities from the “Big 5” U.S. sports leagues (MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, and NHL) and NASCAR have posted more than 6.3 million social posts, resulting in 16.7 billion engagements. Brands realized the opportunity before them and are now more involved than ever. In the last two years, 19% of those 6.3 million posts were branded posts, resulting in $2.1+ billion in attributed value generated for the brands featured in the content.
Facebook and Instagram will continue to emphasize data security.
After Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s late September 2018 security breach, social media giants will continue to place an importance on elevating data security. This means that they will be scrutinizing and evaluating third-party data providers on a stricter scale, tightening their grip on their users’ data to distance themselves from privacy concerns. Only a small handful of trusted partners will be approved to weed out players that abuse and misuse the data. The barrier for entry for leveraging Facebook’s and other social platforms’ data will only increase, leaving behind an elevated group of vetted and approved third-party data providers. We’ve already seen this level of increased scrutiny impact companies like Deep Social, who shut down in August after Facebook and Instagram rescinded their access to the platform.
Brands will focus on creating “intentional posts” in social campaigns.
While some traditional sponsorship activations can often be seen in the background of social posts, brands are beginning to seek more strategic, intentional logo placements and mentions in social campaigns. There is a huge difference in the amount of value generated for a brand when a logo is picked up in the background of a social post compared to a creative campaign that drives fan engagement around the brand. Brands value this incidental pick up of their logo in a social post far less than intentional branded posts with meaningful engagement. Different campaign types leveraging the “moments in sports”, including branded game score posts, starting line-up announcements, and play-of-the-game highlights will become more prevalent in 2019 and rate cards will reflect a higher price for such highly engaging content as Properties (Teams & Leagues) explore new ways to drive value for brands in an authentic way.
TV viewership will continue to decline and leagues will leverage OTT media services to stream exclusive content.
In recent years, sports media has seen a decline in viewership on television and other traditional viewing channels. As a result, OTT has moved into the forefront as teams and leagues search for new ways to distribute existing and new content directly to their audiences. Look for Properties to shift their focus to releasing exclusive, long-form content on these channels—including social media—as the Properties become much more “content centric” in 2019. They will heavily invest in content producers to create original content for these channels and leverage their reach to attract new audiences for their brands.
Esports will continue to grow as more brands invest in sponsorship deals.
The esports industry has evolved with a lot of curiosity and skepticism from major brands in its infancy, but the time has come for brands to fully capitalize on this highly engaged audience. In 2017-18, many brands were testing the waters—trying to find out how to work with esports gamers & streamers, publishers and events. Now, it’s time for brands to dive fully in and take advantage of the sky-high levels of engagement in the space, following suit of others like Nike, who reportedly will sign a $144M deal with Chinese League of Legends Pro League before the end of the year. Streaming stars, as well as esports leagues and teams, will see more of these eye-popping numbers through sponsorships in the year to come as the industry leverages 3rd-Party measurement to highlight the attention they have captured from their audience. In several cases, this level of attention is overshadowing the engagements other sports are seeing across social media platforms.
As the year progresses, we’ll see which of these predictions come true. One thing is certain, though—the brands and properties that are most prepared to adapt to these trends and the evolving social media landscape will be the ones that win in the upcoming year.
This article was originally published on AdWeek by MVPindex Co-Founder and CMO, Kyle Nelson.