The world is beginning to reopen, and with this gradual transition comes a shift in brand messaging. Rather than focusing solely on relief efforts, brands are looking towards what’s to come. Sports like MLB, MLS, PGA and NASCAR are starting back up and brands are leaning into new opportunities to drive visibility and value. With fan attendance at sporting events in question, sponsors are moving away from the field and onto the screen.
The way to interact with live sports is shifting, and sponsors are tapping into innovative ways to keep fans connected and engaged. Athletes and entertainers are taking over the social media airwaves to generate buzz about their upcoming races, matches and seasons. From participating in social media challenges that spread like wildfires to throwing around the idea of holding games with limits on fan attendance, sports and sponsors are finding new ways to keep fans involved and engaged.
NFL’s Schedule Release
The league and its 32 teams took a different route with releasing schedules for the upcoming season. This year, the unveiling was done on Network TV with special guests and performers. Similar to the NFL Draft, teams held their own live streams to connect directly with their fans in a dedicated way, while also providing in-depth analysis and breakdowns of each matchup. As the presenting sponsor of the Washington Redskins 2020 Schedule Release Live Event, the Pepsi Co. brand received a lot of screentime with visible logos on both broadcast and social media.
The team shared graphics of their 2020 schedule across social, featuring the brand’s logo in 10 of the Redskins social shares. The team’s schedule-related content posted throughout release day brought in a total of $16,900 in brand value for Pepsi Co.
Many teams, including the Cincinnati Bengals, shared schedule release videos across their social channels. The Bengals leaned heavily on the likeness of their No. 1 overall pick at the 2020 NFL Draft — Joe Burrow. The video showcased the team’s week-by-week matchups by sliding cigar bands with the opposing team’s logos onto cigars. The team shared this video on its Facebook and Twitter accounts, generating $9,800 in social value for the Bengals.
It’s safe to say that TikTok has dominated social media throughout the course of the worldwide coronavirus lockdown. As isolation became the new norm, fans and athletes alike had an increase of time on their hands, leading the way to a new opportunity of engagement on TikTok. Compared to February, the platform had 6.2 million downloads in the first 23 days of March, a 27% increase from the previous month. With TikTok’s quick rise in popularity, brands flocked to the platform to find new ways to interact with fans.
On March 23, TikTok launched its #HappyAtHome campaign, created for sharing ideas on how to pass the time calling on athletes and entertainers to share tips from quarantine. From trainer workouts to piano lessons, users could find endless amounts of content with tips on how to stay #HappyAtHome. TikTok is now shifting their messaging towards rebuilding with the launch of its “Small Gestures” campaign. Teaming up with brand partners like Pandora, Adobe and DoorDash, TikTok is allowing users to send each other a virtual gift through the platform, such as free trials, monthly subscriptions and discount codes.
Social Media Challenges Meet Sponsorship
A charity golf event without fans or partners in attendance will definitely be a change for the world of golf. However, for athletes and spectators of the sport, a live match without fans beats the alternative of a canceled event. This week, the PGA Tour announced Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Charity event, which is set to take place on May 24th and will pit Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady.
The Tour’s announcement of these pairings sparked conversation across social media, with their Instagram shares bringing in $37,800 in post value with a 1.67% engagement rate.
In partnership with the ALL IN Challenge — an initiative designed to raise money for charities through the donation of custom experiences by athletes and entertainers, including the four participating athletes — viewers will be able to enter a live raffle throughout the telecast to win a custom experience from Woods and Mickelson.
While the event’s landscape may be different, it didn’t stop brands from flocking to the opportunity to participate as a sponsor. Turner Sports, who will be simulcasting the event on TNT, TBS, truTV and HLN on May 24th, starting at 3 p.m. EST. sold all the sponsorship packages for the event with the likes of Audi, Michelob and DraftKings signing up. In addition to the simulcast, all players will be equipped with open mics throughout the competition, giving fans unprecedented access to player commentary and another reason to tune in to the event live.
With the sports world beginning to reopen, brands, teams and leagues are finding ways to keep fans engaged without them physically in-venue. Sponsors are shifting their efforts towards broadcast and social media, providing unprecedented access to athletes through tactics such as open mics, fan giveaways and social media challenges. As we move forward, new trends are likely to emerge and continue to change the playing field of sponsorship — keeping brands hungry and on their toes as we move forward into an unfamiliar world.