Top Shifts In Sports Sponsorship For 2020 & Beyond

2020 may be one of the most vital years for sports sponsorship this century.

We are in the golden age of digital marketing and advertising….all while we have been slow to adopt digital into our sponsorship assets & packages.

2020 will be a defining year in the industry. We’ll look back at the winners and losers this year and see who made the adjustments to set themselves up for the next decade.

But there are some specific paths we can focus on in order to ensure we are shifting correctly with our sponsor’s needs and fan’s attention. A few places we can really focus on to build up a great foundation going into the next year, decade, and heck…why not…the next century.

I broke them down in the video below as well as more in-depth in the text below. I hope it brings you all some value going into this next planning year.

Teams begin to build their OWN distribution channels with digital

In the past, we have relied a lot on leagues to help distribute our content. In turn…we gave up a decent amount of value in commercial and broadcast sponsorship rights.

But with digital platforms like YouTube, Tik Tok, Facebook Live, and others there has never been more opportunity for teams to OWN their distribution network.

You don’t need anything like an MSG network with all the infrastructure. You don’t need a cable deal. All you need is a camera, a mic, and a person.

There is no reason your team can’t create a “Hard Knocks” type weekly show for Facebook Watch and IG TV and get HUGE views on it.

There is no reason you can’t do a pre-game show live on Facebook Live before each game.

There is no reason you can’t build up short-form content on Tik Tok and IG Stories to help drive people to your long-form content.

Other than league rules…there is no reason you can’t stream your games for free on Facebook Live for fans to consume.

You may be asking “but how does this lead to sponsorship? Well, you can sell ads, plugs, promos, and other assets on these programs and keep 100% of the revenue.

No cut to other distributors, almost like going from an Amazon shop to your own storefront.

We’ve seen platforms like House of Highlights help Bleacher Report overtake ESPN in views & engagement. Make no mistake, your team can do the same thing.

As we turn the page into 2020 the teams that will win over the next 10 years will be the ones who have built out their Youtube, IGTV, Facebook Live, Tik Tok channels and consistently create great content to post to them.

2020–2030 will be the decade that individual teams took back control of their distribution.

Text becomes a bigger part of outreach & connection

Many brands are utilizing text to connect with fans today. This will only become more prevalent in the next decade as a way to engage with your clients.

While in ticketing we’ve utilized this as a way to reach fans, I think there is a huge advantage we are missing in sponsorship to utilize.

We can create content with text for our fans. Think of it as an email list you need to build up. You have to give the fan a reason to sign up…and you then can’t spam them.

A great example I keep bringing up is creating a pre-game eating guide for fans to subscribe to via text.

Each game, home or away, you can text out options for fans to congregate and eat at to either watch the game or pre-game.

These restaurants will obviously come from your sponsor list…where you can have them offer game-day deals.

This is content that drives engagement, and will get really high open and engagement rates…text wins because of this.

I think the teams that take text and infuse sponsorship content into it will not only stand out…but also build a list which they can rely on for years to come with texting & re-targeting (more on that to come).

In-stadium signage 2.0 will evolve with digital engagement

Obviously, at SQWAD this is where we are making a big bet…we started a company around it.

In-stadium static signage is an old and fairly commoditized platform that brands will find less and less intriguing as an option to advertise on.

Is signage dead? NO. It is not. Brands will always look to it to drive awareness.

But we can’t kid ourselves in thinking that we can continue to charge a high price for these assets.

Why, well brands can get more trackable results in digital ads and huge reach. So when they decide whether to spend $1M on your signage or $1M on FB, Insta, or Content creation for social…they will pick the one that leads to trackable sales.

I’ve written about this HERE and I think it holds even more weight today than it did last time.

Our stadiums though have gold in them. We have a captivated audience that is looking to be engaged digitally. In the same way that streaming has shifted and dominated cable, Signage 2.0 will do the same in our stadiums.

Signage 2.0 is simple…it is adding a trackable & digital aspect to the signage you sell.

An example, at SQWAD we do a Dunkin’ Race with the Chicago Bulls & their great partner Dunkin’.

What was once done on paper cards is now done through the phone, collecting an email, and has the ability to track who has redeemed.

In other words, an in-stadium asset has the benefits that a digital ad would. This allows it to be as powerful as a digital ad.

Signage 2.0 is more investable from a brand perspective than Signage 1.0…which means that you will sell more of it.

In 2020, the teams that start to invest in bringing trackable assets to their signage will win more deals…and open up a brand new category in the industry.

Our stadiums are filled with gold, we just have to dig deep enough to find it.

Better & more refined segmentation of marketing messages

One thing I find really intriguing is how blanketed our sponsorship messaging is in sports.

We have segmented it down to only one group…our fans.

We hit them with only one overall message.

This is crazy to me because the amount of information we have on our fans is immense. We know where they live, what items they purchase (jersey of their favorite player, etc.), and which games they like to go to.

So why in sponsorship do we not send these groups more customized messaging?

In digital advertising segmenting your messaging based on the data you have is one of the most powerful and best-converting tactics you have in your arsenal.

Most of the time it is hard to get started because we have very little data on our customers…but this is not the case for sports teams.

Let’s take the example of a car dealership partner. Currently, we send out blanketed materials to have fans visit their local dealership to everyone on our list.

What if, instead, we sent messages to them from their local dealership GM that invited them to sit on the glass for the next home game as their guest?

What if the sponsorship content we sent to the fan was driven by the data point of how close they are to the dealership?

We’d see higher conversions, recall, and relationships built between sponsor and fan.

As we enter 2020 the teams that segment their audience and run content unique to them will win. You will be giving the partner what they need to justify a high spend with you and creating a more in-depth sponsorship package than the other ones out there.

Data & re-targeting will be the ultimate game-changer

For most of our assets, we rely on one at-bat for the connection with our sponsors. They see the sign or in-game event and we wait until the next time they come to the game to get it back in front of them.

In the past, this is the best we could do. if we lost them…we lost them. No chance at another at-bat if they didn’t interact with our team again.

Fast forward to today…we can re-target them via digital to earn that at-bat back.

As we earn data, understand how fans interact with the team we can plug this information into different platforms to create customized messaging and content to re-engage them.

It is as easy as setting up a pixel on your website, having contests that collect emails, creating text content that collects phone numbers, and even looking into your ticketing data.

Let’s say fans play a dealership branded trivia game that collects their emails, the first touch point is great, but with retargeting you can input those emails into Facebook ad tools to retarget them with more customized messaging from Toyota (as you can see this is where segmentation is so important).

Currently, re-targeting in digital advertising is one of the most powerful tools we have and one of the most profitable. The conversion rate is huge.

More importantly…brands are doing this already and know how powerful it is. If you build it into your sponsorship packages they will be pretty quick to buy.

In order to compete with digital ads, re-targeting is a must-add to our packages. It brings immense value and is now the baseline in advertising.

The key thing to all of this is you can…TODAY…build these into your packages no matter the size of your team.

This decade will be defined by teams’ ability to harness the above items and build them into their sponsorship assets.

What gets me excited is there is no gatekeeper any longer to stop you from doing the above. You can do all of these things on a dime and be successful.

The only thing stopping you is you.

We are entering a decade where it has never been easier to take control of your sponsorship assets, story, and value. There will be teams that take advantage and those that don’t.

It will be interesting to look back on this article 10 years from now (if LinkedIn is still around) and see which teams won on these by implementing and which ignored them….and which ones I was totally and ridiculously wrong on (that’s the real part that is fun right?)

Overall, enjoy the changes that this decade and year will throw at us.



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