Why we need to look at sponsorship as monetizing your influence.

Sports teams have been the pinnacle of influence in pop culture and our lives. We have pulled in fans, enthralled them with our stories, our wins, our losses, and made our brand a part of their lives.

We have amassed a huge following, but have we really done a good job at monetizing it? Many times I feel that we focus on real estate over where our influence lies with our fans.

Today, I want to dive into the idea of monetizing your influence. It’s a shift in mindset that ensures you are harnessing the influence you’ve built and monetizing it correctly.

Why we should be thinking about it as monetizing our influence.

First, I think we need to define our influence. The way I look at our influence is all of the following that our product (the team and games) captures.

Sometimes we only focus on OUR following from the team. But this is only a small fraction of the influence that we hold.

A key example of this idea can be found on YouTube. If you type in your team name on YouTube, are you the first video that pops up beyond the team account (Latest from [Team Name], etc.)?

If you aren’t, if your video is not the most viewed….you are missing out on monetizing your influence.

If a 13-year-old is putting out better content on YouTube and racking up more views…you are losing the opportunity to monetize your influence.

Worse, you are handing dollars over to them to do it.

This is why I think it is so important to think beyond the real estate you have and shift that into focusing on your influence. If you can understand where your influence is, you can monetize it better.

Now, are you monetizing your influence with in-stadium signage? Yes. Absolutely.

Your influence pulled in X fans to a central location (your game) and monetized with tickets and on-site activation.

But I think we need to understand that our influence outside our stadium is much higher (or it should be) than our in-stadium influence.

I dive into some stats on why below…

This idea is even more important with empty stadiums due to COVID.

Again if we shift our focus away from the real estate we have to influence, the hit of the pandemic would have been much softer of a landing.

A key stat that jumps out to me comes from Stellar Algo & FOS.

If this is the case, why are 90% of our assets physical signage?

If we understood this stat…we would understand that our influence is not in our stadiums. This is a HUGE issue within our industry.

This tells me, as an industry, we are over-leveraged.

Just as if you had your entire retirement portfolio in Oil…we saw a huge crash. We put too much into one type of asset class and didn’t diversify our offerings.

Now…did we think a pandemic would come and shut down games? No.

But if we would have understood where our influence was…we could have adjusted our assets easily to even deal with no games.

This is why it is so important to understand your influence. If most of our influence is outside of our stadium…why are we not focusing on monetizing that influence for our teams?

It leads to the answer to the question that many of us get of “Is it worth my time to build up my YouTube following & presence for my team?”

The answer, in my mind, is every out-of-stadium platform in which fans consume sports content should be looked at in-depth by our department and we should be pushing the ones we believe we have, or can build, massive influence.

Why? Because the majority of our fan influence is there. It lives online. It lives on digital platforms.

We, as an industry, would have been much better set up to succeed in the Pandemic shutdown if we would have noticed this.

We are over-leveraged with assets that only cater to 10% of our influence. The teams that flip this will win.

The key, it shouldn’t matter how big your influence is…it’s how you monetize it.

Notice that I didn’t remove this from the size of your influence. Size, in this case, should only matter in how large that monetization is (the amount you can charge).

What is the scale of that monetization?

If you know how to monetize your influence, it becomes a math problem. If we know we can monetize X followers to $Y, if we doubled our following how would that impact that equation?

Math problems are a machine. Our goal is to get this down to a math problem.

If you have a “small” influence, but can monetize it correctly, you are worth more than a HUGE team that can’t.

When we marry them both, scale and the ability to monetize….that’s when we unlock something special.

Let’s get tactical, step 1 is understanding where your influence is.

If we understand that only 10% of our following enters our stadium, we can start to see that our influence lies outside of our arenas.

The next question is, where? Where are fans consuming my influence? Do we know where our influence truly lies?

We can make assumptions. I would guess most would say Twitter is the top place where fans consume sports content like highlights. Instagram would probably be the second most answered among sports business people.

We need though to step outside of our internal assumptions and dive into the minds of our fans.

53% of sports fans watch highlights on YouTube….45% on Facebook.

Twitter is #6…Behind Tik Tok……..

Why do we in sports put such a HUGE emphasis on Twitter? Why do we choose a platform that isn’t in our top 5?

Again…a misunderstanding of where influence lives with our fans is where we fail as an industry. How can we monetize on these platforms if we are building in places that are opposite of where fans consume?

Let me show you who does understand this…The Hockey Guy

The Hockey Guy doesn’t have any fancy film sets.

He doesn’t have a team to edit the footage.

The Hockey Guy has a camera and content…which he has built to influence fans to watch.

The Hockey Guy has more of a following on YouTube than ANY OTHER TEAM IN THE NHL…

The video in the picture above has more views in 5 months than entire NHL teams have for subscribers on YouTube…

We are letting The Hockey Guy beat us, grab our influence, and monetize it. He is doing it better than EVERY NHL team.

How does he monetize? Affiliate links in the comments, YouTube Pre Rolls.

Who is running YouTube pre-roll ads on his page? Hilton….a brand on many of our sponsorship targets for prospecting.

Now as a brand… whom would you spend on?

Would you buy pre-roll ads for The Hockey Guy, who in one video reaches more hockey fans than you have in total subscribers…or would you buy a logo feature on a team curated content video…

The answer right now is The Hockey Guy. If I was a brand I would drop dollars on The Hockey Guy. I guarantee utilizing his influence is a more cost-efficient way to reach hockey fans.

My point here is as I stated before if you don’t know where your influence is…you will lose dollars. You have to know where your influence is before you can monetize it.

This isn’t just positioned to NHL teams. There are Youtube accounts right now that are utilizing the influence you build with your fans across all major & minor leagues.

This obviously is an overview, your fans may have different habits.

But overall, we can make a good bet that your sports fans consume much like the majority surveyed above.

My motto is always to challenge everything, but use data as a way to start that process. We can only start to challenge that YouTube is the best place to leverage our influence if we know where to start looking.

Step 2, how you monetize is the most important part.

Monetizing this has to be thought through further than slapping a logo on the content.

For one, slapping a logo on content is a bit lazy. Unless real-time impressions are your sponsor’s goals…it is taking something off the shelf and jamming it in.

Let’s say that sponsor wanted to sell more of their product. Would slapping a logo on a post-game tweet lead to trackable ROI? Probably not.

Now, what if every post-game your team tweeted a drop sale with the sponsor’s product? A link where for the next 5 hours a limited product would be available for purchase.

That is something that a sponsor will pay for. No matter the size of your influence (number of followers), if it brings a return to your sponsor…you can monetize this influence.

When we look to monetize our influence correctly, we have to look beyond what is industry standard and link it to what helps the sponsor to their goals.

Overall, we have to understand where our influence truly is in order to monetize it.

We can’t make decisions that move us forward without understanding our value. In sponsorship, we put an emphasis on physical assets for inventory when only 10% of our influence consumes in our stadiums.

In order to unlock our true potential as an industry, we must look beyond the stadium.

We need to understand where our influence is, how we are best equipped to monetize it, and execute to bring value to our sponsors.

If we can build this, we will be in the position to never let a stoppage in crash our teams.

If we can understand and build this, we can triple our revenues.

We can’t continue to ignore this…if we do, we will lose to The Hockey Guy. We’re better than that.



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