Why deadtime in your stadium is the most valuable sponsorship inventory you have

There is a misconception that I hear a lot from teams I speak with as far as why digital is not for them.

I hear it constantly “I want my fans focused on the game, not on their phones.”

Well first off I’d argue that this is a losing battle. Phones are a part of every aspect of our lives. Whether you like it or not, phones will be out in your stadium.

But there is a more logical reason for why this argument holds no weight and understanding this vital point will open your sponsorship value.

And it all starts with a graph:

You shouldn’t be worried about phones infiltrating the game time. They aren’t. The fact is most of our game time isn’t filled with our game action…most of the time spent in our stadium isn’t actually watching the game.

When we look at the real estate we need to fill we can look at the grey and teal in the above graph.

Those are the points when the phones come out. And as I always say…if you aren’t capturing their attention..someone else is and cashing in on your attention. Literally, dollars are evaporating from your arena if they aren’t engaging with your sponsor or team.

In the new world of in-arena sponsorship, this is our new inventory. How can we ensure total engagement to keep them focused on us?

Shifting from looking at inventory as physical space and looking it as time in your game day

In television, you don’t sell on billboard space or program pages for sellable inventory. You sell

When we think about how phones are infiltrating our stadiums we need to understand that most of the time they come out during breaks in the action during the game.

As we think about selling in this new world we need to think about activations in those breaks and the minutes they take up. We should be selling 30-second slots that pull fans in.

This means something that will convince them to interact with you and not something else. And brands are looking at this in the same way.

At a client game, I witnessed as a sponsor watched eagerly for their game break promotion. As their commercial played, a smile quickly turned to concern…They watched in the crowd as people stared at their phones…paying no attention to their promotion. Much like how we do to T.V. commercials today.

At the next meeting, they were rethinking the assets they spent on for the next season.

Brands now know that these commercials in our stadiums don’t hold the same weight because the phone is so prevalent.

You should be looking to make Super Bowl type engagement with this time

I like to think of this time the same way you would think about making a Super Bowl Ad. Not necessarily to create an ad, but thinking of it as creating something that captures our attention.

When you create a Super Bowl commercial, you are bringing out the big guns.

You want a commercial that someone will remember, talk about, and buy into. Why? Because it is your shot. All eyes are on the commercials and game.

On game day, we have the same attention in our stadiums. We have a captivated audience, at a smaller scale, but captivated nonetheless.

Our goal with this time should be shock and awe. It should be to create activations that have such a strong pull we can’t ignore them.

Much like a Super Bowl commercial, we shouldn’t look for a sales message. The best commercials are pieces of art. They tell stories and make us laugh, cry, and yell with excitement.

If we can fill this time with active assets that pull people in we can create unheard-of value for our sponsors and by affiliation, our teams.

Chicago Bulls and the Dunkin Race

One of the best I’ve seen is how the Chicago Bulls have engrained the Dunkin Race into their dead time. Fans love it and wait for it. It is a staple at the game.

This asset was perfect for keeping attention on the team and away from the phone. At SQWAD we helped them add another aspect to it and build off this time & real estate.

Now fans can choose which character they think will win on their phones and receive a Dunkin coupon when they win.

This next stage in deadtime engagement. Instead of fighting the phone, integrate it into the experience. Make it so when the fan pulls out their phone, they are engaging with your team and sponsor….not ESPN or B/R.

Check out the breakdown from Front Office Sports on the activation HERE.

And this works. If you remember back to our chat with Tyler, the 17 y/o sports fan, he could only name 2 sponsors for his team. One was because they sponsored a half-court shot, the other a coupon for free food if the team scored a certain amount of points.

How we capture the attention of our captivated fans in these moments is vital. Active assets in these minutes can open a connection between fans and sponsors that is unforgettable.

We need more of this, every minute should be filled with assets that are active in our game days.

Phones in our stadiums are not the issue. A misunderstanding of where our fan attention is and where our value today is structured.

The non-game minutes are where we can make the most impact. Utilizing our fan’s phones in these minutes is where sports sponsorship really brings value to our stadiums.

Don’t fight the phone…adapt and utilize it for more value, revenue, and trust in our teams.



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