While social media began as an “add-in” to partnerships, it’s become a must-have for any sponsorship strategy. And sponsors aren’t just asking to throw some social media posts into their contracts — they increasingly need proof of ROI and ROO.
We’ve not only seen what sponsors are asking for, but we’re helping prove out that very value (and help identify new valuable sponsors they’re not working with… yet). Whether it’s through our efforts with AB In-Bev and Nike, as well as with properties like the Dallas Stars, we’ve developed insights for properties to prove out—and increase—the value of their social content.
When you’re reporting on a brand-backed social campaign (also known as an activation), here is what the sponsor is going to want to see:
Overall social metrics
Start with the basics: Impressions, reach, and engagement (e.g., comments, clicks, likes/favorites). While your team should be tracking those for overall performance, sponsors want to see how sponsored content performs. To that end, report metrics for specific sponsored hashtags and activations (e.g., post-game sponsored recaps) on all the channels where you activate, as well as the overall performance of the sponsorship on social.
Make sure to put this into context: Are these metrics tracking with your other social content? Your other sponsors? Depending on the type of sponsorship, you can even directly tie social media to revenue. For example, track referrals from social media through a point of purchase online or share a dedicated coupon code on social media for a sponsor’s product.
Logo presence on your content
Whether it’s a final score image sponsored by a brand or dasher boards in the background of a replay video, sponsors aren’t always tagged in the content of a post. Solely relying on tracking keywords or hashtags in your branded content then isn’t always a comprehensive view of your activations. But image recognition technology now allows for any logo or other branding (e.g., hashtags in an image) to be captured and reflected in the recap of your full social activations.
Of course, not all logo sizes and placements capture attention in the same way, so take that into account when reporting back how a sponsor’s logos featured. For example, you wouldn’t value a split-second logo in the background of an athlete interview the same as a prominent watermark for a replay.
Monetary value from your social posts for those brands
Engagement is great, but how does that translate into true ROI for a sponsor? To that end, we developed the Engagement Value Assessment™ (EVA). This calculation combines published and proprietary statistical measures of social reach, incorporating engagement, potential reach, and virality to arrive at a standard measure to provide sponsors for how much your content was worth, using sampled CPC/CPM estimates.
Like mentioned above, images and videos are an indispensable part of a social activation. When we calculate brand value, value gets assigned based on the size of a logo, its position in an image, and the device it’s likely to be viewed on (e.g., desktop use on Facebook is more likely than on Instagram, so logos would be seen as larger overall). This type of measurement can help show value for in-venue logos, particularly valuable for NASCAR and sports with jersey sponsors such as the NBA.
Audience insights (and how they compare to competitors)
Beyond how your campaigns perform, take the opportunity to show whether your fans have gone beyond your social accounts to follow your sponsor’s:
Using your overlapping followers, you can also show demographics (e.g., age and gender) of that fanbase, how they compare to your respective fanbases, and finally, social fans in general.
If fans choose to share social data with you (for example, log in to an app with Facebook), you can even share what other brands your fans (or fans of both you and your sponsors) like to understand them better, or demonstrate to sponsors that your audience fits the demographic they’re looking to reach when renewal time rolls around.
Major influencers that engaged with your campaigns
While every share, retweet or like can be a boon to your reach, when one of those comes from an influencer or celebrity with potentially millions of new fans to reach, it can be the equivalent of thousands of fans engaging.
Identify who these influencers are and whether they took your posts to the stratosphere. This does a few things: First, it tells a story of why certain posts performed so well. Also, it helps develop a list of relationships that you and/or your sponsors can cultivate to continue to expand your reach (and thus engage more fans).
Put your performance in context
The reality is that not all teams are going to be number one. That’s true in nearly every field, including social media. Sponsors don’t expect you to have the most followers, the most impressions, or the most watched video of all time. But they do expect you to perform.
So, if you don’t have the largest fanbase or the most retweets, show the results you are getting and put them in context. You could be 10th in the league in total engagements, but you might also have the highest engagement rate in the league, meaning you’re engaging your target audience in spades. Based on logo measurement, you could also show that you generated the most value for your sponsor, even if you were sixth in impressions.
Teams and sponsoring brands we work with look to benchmark not just to other teams in the league, but other teams in their market or comparable markets (such as markets with large transient audiences or similar population sizes). This work helps not only contextualize your performance for your sponsors, but it also helps you uncover what competitors are doing that you should “borrow” for your own fanbase.
New opportunities and areas of improvement for your activations together
Finally, don’t just deliver the numbers. While some sponsors may be content with numbers (particularly if they’re always high), others expect to hear how you’ll increase those numbers. As you gather metrics, you’ll uncover social content that performs well (and not necessarily on your own channels). Be proactive in identifying the elements of a good post or campaign, and how to apply those best practices to improve your activations.
Here is an example of a recommendation from our analysis of NBA teams in the 2017-18 season: “More sponsored campaigns could be posted on Facebook. Right now, a very small percentage of Facebook posts feature brands compared to other social networks and other sports.” If you see a social trend that you missed in your activation this time around,, mention the burgeoning trend and say how you’ll take advantage of it next time to hit other benchmarks.
As you gather and deliver these insights, don’t forget this one thing: Listen to your audience. Report comment counts to your sponsor, but make your audience’s comments count when considering the best way to approach your next activation. They’re the ones who will make or break your recap numbers and keep sponsors renewing season after season.