How to successfully market your digital activations & contests with your fans (after launching…

If an activation is promoted, and no fan is there to hear it, does it even exist? Well…yes…but it wouldn’t be very successful.

Marketing your activations are a HUGE part of launching a new campaign with your fan base. At SQWAD we’ve helped launch activations for over 35 clients across sports and have seen what works & where activation marketing falls short.

We’ve compiled some of our key findings into a plan that you can follow to help drive success in launching your activations.

We always say you know your fans the best and how to market to them. These are simply foundations in a marketing plan that you can tweak based on your fan’s behaviors and habits.

Our goal is always to bring value to your team in the realm of sponsorship. Whether you are using SQWAD with your activation or another company, we hope this helps your team launch your most successful activation yet.

It’s a bit of a novel, but it is well worth the read. Power through.

The Foundations In Marketing Your Activation

As with anything in strategy, there are some foundational tactics you can follow for success in your activations. Here are the foundational steps we’ve found in launching a great campaign for your activation to drive users.

We’ll dive in deeper below, but these are the foundations you’ll want to follow.

1. Create an educational promotion video

The first step to a great campaign is creating a video that educated your fans about the activation and why they should play.

2. Send an announcement email to your season ticket holders

This is one of the most productive tactics we’ve seen across the board. You have a list of season ticket holders, why not send them an email to let them know about the new activation?

With one email send you can build a massive list of fans who play to create a great baseline of accounts created.

3. Post to ALL your social media accounts AND during commercial breaks in your stadium

Your fans follow you across multiple channels, posting to one channel means you risk not reaching your full potential on engagement. When teams have seen limited usage it has been because they only post to one channel.

4. Consistency builds habits

Your goal should be to build a habit game in & game out of engagement. If you can build a habit of playing this activation you can ensure usage numbers each week. To build a habit you have to be consistent with your marketing promotion each week. You can’t post once and expect fans to remember the next week. Consistency is the key.

Building Your Announcement Video

The first step of any successful activation is education. If your fans don’t get excited…or even know about your activation…how can you expect to drive large numbers of engagement?

As you start your marketing campaign for your activation, creating a video that educates the fan on what it is and why they should play is a must.

Here are the key components of this video:

Show don’t tell

While showing an image of the scratch & win screen is great, it’s our job to grab our fan’s attention. An image doesn’t do it justice.

When you create the video, actually show the activation. Take a screen recording of the activation (answering questions, scratching to win, confetti falling, etc.). This shows the fan what they will be missing out on if they don’t play. It gives them a preview of what they will experience.

Think of it as a movie trailer. Make it intriguing, show them what they will get experience-wise, and this will pull them in.

Promote the Prize

Look, when it comes down to it…fans like to win stuff. They are constantly engaging with our team, many times they want a reward. And really it comes down to what they get in return for the time they give you.

We’ve talked about this before, but implementing the Prizing Triangle is an absolute must for success. In short, the Prizing Triangle strategy is the idea that if you promote your largest prize you will drive more users…even if less than 1% of fans who play will win that prize.

In fact, it actually increases the redemption rates of the lower prizes and offers won.

A key example of this is lottery games. They never promote “You could win $3!” on their scratcher cards…that return is not worth the $1 and doesn’t sell the dream. The promotion is always “YOU COULD WIN $10,000!!” to sell the dream. If a user sees that much of a return, it is worth their time to play AND brings them back next time for another chance.

When you promote your prize in this video, make sure it is the grand prize. Make sure fans know exactly what they are playing for. Put it front & center to promote the dream.

A great in-stadium example with the OKC Dodgers

One of the best in-stadium examples of this video comes with the OKC Dodgers. When launching our scratch & win initiative they did an amazing job with their video to promote.

Notice a few things here that we touched on earlier. FIRST, they followed the Show, Don’t Tell with a screen recording of the activation on the left-hand side of the video.

You can see how this pulls fan’s attention IN with what they could be missing out on by showing the action of scratching the card. You can’t take your eyes off of it. It grabs your attention.

SECOND, it Promotes The Prize. Fans see the bobblehead and backpack fans could win if they play. One thing to note here, the sponsor prize was a percentage off heating & cooling services. They did not promote that prize, but many fans won it as an “auxiliary” prize.

We always want to promote the big prize, not many fans will play for the % off heating & cooling service…but when they do win it, we have seen an increase in redemption rates. I dive in deeper on this with our article on the Prizing Triangle.

A great social media promotion example with the Dallas Cowboys

Another great example comes with the Dallas Cowboys. As we can see they did a great job in both of the cornerstones with that promotional video…Show, Don’t Tell…and Promote the Prize.

I can’t stress enough how the Show, Don’t Tell side pulls fans in. It grabs your attention and promotes how great the experience is to build FOMO.

If you just post an image, it doesn’t sell that vision as well as a video.

Action Steps

  • Create your “education” video
  • Show, Don’t Tell & Promote The Prize

Pre-market via email to your most loyal fans

This is probably the most under-utilized, but highest returning platform of all. You’ve already built a following of fans and gained their emails, why not let them know about this new and great activation?

Create a promotional email to send them that announces the activation (with the activation video above) and let them know it will go live in the upcoming game. This builds anticipation, curiosity, and starts to build that familiarity with the activation.

It’s like a soft opening at a casino. You want to get your fans familiar with the game, but fans whom you know will play.

Why email? It has a longer shelf life than social media. Obviously how many opens you get with your email campaigns matter here, but that email can be opened 2 hours…heck even 2 days later and still interacted with. On social media, you have about an hour to capture the attention of your fans.

We’ve seen smaller teams get more sign-ups than teams 10X their size with this simple tactic. It is, again, the number one way to ensure the success of your campaign.

Sending an email should absolutely be in your marketing plan. Even if you’ve already launched your campaign, this is a perfect way to drive new life into it.

Action Steps

  • Put together your email list
  • Create a promotion email that announces your activation
  • Click send 5 days before your first campaign

Post on ALL your social media accounts

When you market your activations social media has to be a part of your marketing plan. You have built a HUGE amount of following on your social media platforms, why not leverage that following?

One common mistake we see with social media promotion is focusing on only one platform to post.

If you only post to one platform (say Twitter) you miss out on the opportunity of reaching fans who engage on the other platforms. Imagine if you only had billboard signs on one highway into town…would you expect the commuters who use the other 3 to see your sign?

Adapt to the different social media platforms

Luckily, we have our promotional video from above to make it easy to post on these platforms…but we need to make sure that we are matching the video to the correct platform.

For example, you will want to make sure that your video can be adapted to IG stories. Portrait vs. Landscape orientation plus the action is different. You want fans to “swipe up” to play…so make sure you are posting that CTA on IG Stories.

Your marketing team will know which tactics work best for your team at grabbing attention on these platforms, but be sure you are covering promotion across all your channels.

When creating a plan for promoting your activation, be sure that ALL of your social media platforms are being utilized to grab the attention of your fans.

Action Steps

  • Adjust your promotion video to match the specs of EACH social platform
  • Set up a plan to post across ALL your social channels

Timing is always key, whether on social media or in-stadium

This is really a make or break for many campaigns we see. The timing of WHEN you promote your activations is just as important as WHERE and HOW you promote them.

A common saying we use here at SQWAD is “If you promote an activation, and no one is on social media/ in your stadium to see it, does the activation even exist?”

It is vital that you think through the WHEN part of your marketing campaigns for your fans.

So, what is the best time? Well, it really comes down to cadence at key times. Here’s what we’ve found to be the best cadence for your activations (this is all AFTER you’ve emailed your loyal fans).

Pre-game

Pre-game is a perfect time to educate your fans about your activation. Before your game starts, there will be a flood of engagement on your social media channels and attention in your stadium. This is an absolute prime time to help educate your fans about your activation.

From what we’ve seen from other team’s success…

On social media, you should be looking to post 30 minutes before your game starts to promote.

This is a golden time when your fans are connected and engaged with your team accounts. You should absolutely take advantage of it to drive usage.

In your stadium, the best time to promote this pre-game is during warmups.

If you post earlier than this, you risk your fans being out of their seats and distracted. If they aren’t in a place where they see the promotion, how can you expect them to play?

Pre-game warmups are the prime time to post your educational promotion video to capture their attention. You’ll want to play the video with a scoreboard read to let them know about the activation when they are in their seats.

During The Game

During the game, the key breaks in your game will be VITAL to grabbing a fan’s attention. For most stoppages in our play fans will stay in their seats in the stadium AND jump on their social feeds.

Your halftime, breaks in quarters & periods, etc. are the best times to promote your activation once your game starts.

On both in-stadium social media, the best times to post are your “commercial” times. Any media timeout or break is the best time for you to post your promotional video.

From what we’ve seen from other teams, you will get the best results in driving users if you match your promotions with the TV breaks in the game. These breaks, for the most part, are when fans look to their devices and jump on their social media platforms.

This is also why it is so important to post to ALL your social media channels. Each fan will have different habits & favorite social media platforms they like to check. If you ONLY post to Twitter, you will lose the chance to grab fans who check Facebook more often.

As we look at our stadium promotion, the commercial break time holds true as the best time to reach fans just as it does with social media posts.

Fans during those shorter TV Timeouts (not your halftime or in-between quarter breaks) normally stay in their seats. This means that they will tune into your scoreboard when you promote the activation.

From what we’ve seen with successful launches, during the game, the best time to post on both social networks and in the stadium comes during those commercial breaks.

Should I do both on social media & in your stadium?

It depends largely on your campaign (does the partner want it done exclusively in-stadium?) but ultimately if you want the most reach…YES. Your fans in the stadium may be on their phones looking at their Twitter feed etc. The more places you post the promotion, the more you increase your chances of them seeing and engaging.

Should I post multiple times during a game?

In short, yes. As always the more promotion you give an activation the more likely you are to grab a fan’s attention and convince them to play.

This many times is not an option. If this is the case I would look at your breaks and think where the best one will be to post/ announce in the stadium.

For example, the Portland Winterhawks found that the 2nd media timeout of the 2nd Period was the best time to run their in-stadium promotion for Trivia. Conversely, for their social media post, they have it scheduled for the break before the 2nd Period starts.

As you look at your game day, I would set out a time to post on social media and a separate time to promote in the stadium. This tag-team tandem allows you to cover a lot of promotional ground.

BUT you should definitely promote in both channels during pregame AND during the game. How you space those out is up to you. And don’t forget on social media to post across ALL channels.

Action Steps

  • Set up a plan for when you post pre-game both in your stadium AND across ALL your social channels
  • Look for the commercial breaks during your games to promote after the game starts

Consistency builds habits

Probably the most important part of your plan in marketing your activation comes with consistency.

We as humans are creatures of habit. We like to get into routines with our gameday experience, things we do game in & game out for the entire season. If we can build these activations into the game-day habit of our fans, we can ensure engagement in each game.

The cornerstone of building a habit is consistency. If we only post the promotion for the activation for one game or sporadically change the timing of that promotion for each game, it will be hard to build a habit for their fans.

We’ve seen this tactic drive success with many of the teams we work with. As mentioned earlier, the Portland Winterhawks run their SQWAD Trivia activation each game during the 2nd media timeout of the 2nd Period of the game. Each game the promotion for the game is during pregame warmups and right before the 2nd period starts in the stadium AND on social media.

They run the same promotional game plan for each game. Game in game out. Their fans now know that the 2nd media timeout in the 2nd period is the time for Trivia.

This means they have to do less marketing each game as they build a fan habit with those promotions. It is now a part of their game day.

When you make your marketing plan, give it time, and be consistent with your postings. Obviously, you will have more success if you follow the advice above…but if you don’t build consistency in your promotion you will see users fall off rather than grow each game.

This may seem very simplistic…but it is one of the most important aspects of your success with your activations. Once you make your plan, be sure you are consistently posting them each game.

Action Steps

  • When you create your plan for promotion, ensure you are committing to a consistent posting each game

What about my app? You haven’t done a deep dive there?

Yes, you are right. we’ve left out how your team app plays a role in this. Let’s be clear here. Your mobile app is a key tool to drive usage if you have successfully built a following here.

So why haven’t we given it as much love? We’ve seen a lot of teams lean on it as a crutch and disregard the above tactics.

If you have built a huge following on the platform and your fans have a high engagement rate you should absolutely utilize it. Well-timed push notifications are key in leveraging this marketing platform. You can’t just put the activation in your app and expect fans to find it on their own.

This is the key problem we see with relying too heavily on your mobile app. You still have to do the marketing work to push fans to engage. Your mobile app will be somewhat of a pull on its own…fans will go on your homepage on their own and may see the button. But you absolutely still need to educate your fans on the activation.

The same with social media posts, timing is the key to push notifications. You’ll want to send them to the same cadence as your social media posts. Pre-game & commercial breaks will be the key times to grab the attention of your fans.

A great example is how the Chicago Bears promote the Dunkin’ Race. They have done an amazing job building a following on their mobile app and really get the timing perfect on the promotion.

The race goes live before the game, which they remind fans during pre-game with a push notification to choose their racer on the app. Then right before the race goes live they send another push to pull fans back in right before the end of the first quarter in the game.

Two very subtle push notifications at the right time that drive their app users to the activation are perfect for this implementation. This has worked extremely well for them.

Again, let me be clear here. Your mobile app is can be a VITAL part of your promotional process. BUT if you have not built the leverage there (most of your fan base is utilizing it) then it will not return the results you want.

My last point here is when you rely solely on your app as a way to promote your activations you are missing out on any of your fans who do not have it downloaded. Most of the time it is only our most avid fans who have downloaded your app. If you pigeonhole yourself to only promoting on your app, you miss out on a large portion of your fanbase.

If you have a large following on your mobile app, absolutely utilize it to drive users to the activation. BUT you should not solely rely on it. If you want to see total success, you have to have both.

But what about my website? You haven’t talked about that either?

Again, as with your app, the reason why we don’t have this in our plan fully is we see this be a crutch for many campaigns.

Should you post these activations on your website…yes. Sure. Why not have the ability to grab fans who are browsing your website.

But a common problem we see here is a reliance on this as the sole way to promote. Fans do come to your website, they do view your home page, BUT they usually are doing so to find specific information over browsing.

So you should absolutely post these activations on your website. I will drive traffic. BUT don’t think that you don’t have to promote in other ways.

Should I do a paid promotion for my activations?

My answer to this question is always that you should follow the above tactics above before doing that. You have already built your following and can reach them for FREE without spending on paid promotion (FB ads, etc.). Paid promotion should always be, in our opinion, and what you push on only AFTER you have exhausted the above tactics with not enough usage.

Paid promotion is a great way to boost usage, but it should only be a factor when you either don’t get the desired results with the above tactics OR you are plateauing on usage and need a boost.

Finally, be patient with your activations

As we’ve said multiple times here, humans are creatures of habit and slow to adopt new things. While the tips and structure above will massively increase your chances at more fans playing, you have to be patient with your tactics.

Sometimes we see teams that see a low user number in the first game and think that the activation is a dud, three games later they see a BOOM of users. Sometimes it takes 10 games.

We’ve seen teams give up after one implementation and it crushes us as we know that humans are slow to adopt new technologies and campaigns.

If you launch a campaign we highly recommend you stick with it for at least 3 months worth of activation. After 3 months if you’ve applied & exhausted the above tactics and still see a low usage that is the time to think about it whether it is a fit for your fan base.

When you launch these campaigns you have to have patience. Give it the marketing love it needs and follow the steps above. From what we’ve seen if you can do that, you will be successful.

You made it to the end!

Thanks for reading through this entire document. I know it was a bit of a marathon BUT these tactics will massively improve your usage.

As always at SQWAD, if you need help with ANY of the above or have questions please reach out to me, Nick Lawson, so we can help. Our goal is to be a part of a successful campaign for you AND your sponsors.

Here’s my email: nlawson@sqwadhq.com

Thank you for listening! Keep pushing those limits within sports sponsorship.

  • Nick Lawson. CEO at SQWAD
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