Covid-19 has had a massive impact on the sporting landscape. Around the world, leagues, teams, federations, and all types of sporting events have been brought to a standstill, and television broadcasts have been put on hold. The silver lining is that social media consumption is doing the opposite, with average time spent on Facebook having increased by 70% and Twitter has reported that daily usage has jumped by 23%, meaning fans are engaging with social content now more than ever!

Despite the fact that people are spending more time on social media, there has been a huge drop-off in the quantity of sports content being shared by rightsholders. At the beginning of stay-at-home orders, GumGum Sports saw a 45% decrease in social images and 50% decrease in social videos posted across global sports since major competitions came to an abrupt pause in mid-March. However, teams have since taken advantage of the opportunities that Branded Content campaigns have to offer in order to drive value for their partners while also engaging with new and existing fans.

Outlined below are five of the best practices we have seen from major leagues and teams around the world.

1) ENGAGE PARTNERS TO CREATE COMPELLING CONTENT THAT REINFORCE BRAND VALUES

Teams are finding unique ways to stay connected while practicing social distancing and promoting responsible actions. The Boston Bruins and TD Bank launched the #StayingConnected campaign across their social media channels, which feature videos of their players detailing the ways they are staying connected with each other while isolating. In just two weeks, the Bruins have shared more than 30 posts for this specific campaign across various platforms and generated over 200K in initial engagements from this content. In Italy, AS Roma and their charity partner have set up the Roma Cares ‘Together’ Campaign. This has led to the opening of a call center to help season ticket holders find medical supplies, donations for doctors and nurses in the region, and spotlighting the names and faces of medical staff as Heroes on their social media channels. There has been much fanfare around this campaign, which has driven over 350K engagements for their charity partner across all platforms over the past few weeks.

These examples highlight the engagement that sponsors and teams can jointly create by combining their assets to promote authentic and socially relevant messages at a time when fans are craving sports content.

2) EXPLORE CREATIVE OPPORTUNITIES TO INTEGRATE EXISTING BRAND PARTNERS INTO ARCHIVED CONTENT

Broadcast footage is increasingly being used to recap great moments, such as full replays of important matches, goal of the season videos with voting options for fans, or memorable moments with ‘on this day’ taglines. Valencia CF has partnered with key sponsors to bring replays of iconic matches to their fans in the absence of regular broadcasts. In this example, a clash with FC Barcelona is sponsored by Libertex, however Valencia rotate between brands on different Matchday posts to cleverly incorporate all of their partners. Looking to the NBA, the Portland Trailblazers have partnered with McDonald’s to deliver their fans a ‘classic game’ for each remaining night on their 2019-20 NBA season schedule.

In addition to driving exposure and media value for key sponsors, these posts help drive tune-in for broadcast re-airs. Valencia and Trailblazers have both utilized a clear and contrasting color background to maximize the clarity and visibility of the sponsor logo, which is a recommended best practice for these types of posts.

3) UTILIZE NEW FORMATS TO ENGAGE WITH FANS

Now is the time for experimentation, and teams are utilizing new formats and platforms to engage with existing fans and those that extend beyond their core audience. One major trend the industry is seeing is the growth in teams augmenting their paused seasons with their virtual equivalents on esports platforms. Over the past few weeks, GumGum Sports has seen half of the NBA’s 30 teams share Twitch or esports related content, and more than half of these teams have begun branding these posts to generate media value for sponsors. The Washington Wizards exemplify this with their recent NBA 2K game adoption and the sharing of highlights from these virtual games. An Instagram post presented by GEICO has generated nearly 250K impressions and 26K engagements over the past two weeks, showing the power of these types of posts. With virtual games, comes virtual press conferences, and Inter Milan has done a fantastic job of recreating a press backdrop showcasing all of their key partners during Q&A sessions with their star players. This interview was shared as a Facebook Live post initially, and has now generated more than 80K impressions and 6K engagements in less than three weeks, while forming part of a series which has so far seen 10 different players interviewed.

Branching out into new platforms allows teams to engage existing fans with alternate content while capturing new audiences and showcasing their creativity to the fans.

4) IDENTIFY OPPORTUNITIES TO BRING FANS INTO THE GAME

Examples are popping up across social media of teams bringing fans closer to the action than ever before, by removing the boundaries between players and spectators and allowing them to get involved. EF Pro Cycling has done a wonderful job of bringing fans together in partnership with the Zwift platform, which offers a full schedule of ride-alongs that take cycling-enthusiasts on interesting local courses or even to the Tour de France. In the spirit of March Madness, the Atlanta Hawks have created the Peachtree Bracket Challenge presented by Georgia’s Own Credit Union. Fans are given an insight into Hawks’ players Trae Young and Kevin Huerter, as they fill out their own bracket and vote alongside the stars to determine Atlanta’s favorite hip-hop artist and what the city is best known for.

When GumGum Sports analyzed these posts using our MVP methodology, we uncovered above average sponsor media values due to the fact that both teams maximized the size and placement of their sponsor logos near the center of the image/video, which are best practices that we counsel our clients on.

5) COLLABORATE WITH OTHER TEAMS TO EXPAND REACH AND VALUE

With the world banding together to fight a common cause, we have seen different teams and even leagues also come together to engage their fans. What started out as a simple tweet by Leyton Orient, has now turned into a 128 team esports tournament, raising funds for football clubs that are struggling without their matchday income. The original tweet has achieved 18K likes and 4K retweets, with the likes of footballing giants Manchester City, SL Benfica and AS Roma all re-sharing and participating in support. For context, Leyton’s most recent matchday full-time posts drove an average of only 400 likes and 40 retweets. If Leyton Orient had a ‘Just Giving’ logo or another brand partner present on the original tweet, they would have generated over £7,000 in Sponsorship Media Value from a single tweet. Similarly, the Phoenix Suns have shown the power of collaboration by incorporating another NBA team as well as NFL athletes into their promotion of an esports game presented by one of their brand partners.

Working with other teams is a great strategy to increase reach and grow an audience beyond your core set of fans.

Summary

The pause on live sporting events has led to a decrease in the amount of content being shared by rightsholders at a time when overall social media consumption is showing major growth. Fans are craving sports content and have shown that they are open to exploring new formats, engaging with their favorite athletes and brands, and even rewatching classic games and moments. The more innovative teams and leagues are identifying opportune ways to simultaneously deliver value to their brand partners and fans on social media. While we all look forward to the full return of live sports, this is a perfect time to explore and test new strategies, platforms, and campaigns that will ultimately strengthen the relationship between rights holders, brand partners, and fans.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about GumGum’s sponsorship analytics capabilities, visit gumgum.com/sports and download The Brand Guide to Optimizing Sponsorship Performance.

Written by Chris Tran and Harshad Kale