Why Education > Awareness In Sponsorship

Awareness drives me insane in the sponsorship activation & advertising world. 

Logo placement obviously has its value, the more times the customers see the logo the more likely they are to recognize and purchase the product when they see it in the store.

The advertising industry has lived on this idea for centuries. Today, we see it come to fruition in our stadium naming rights, our jersey patches, and even that logo we battle with marketing to make bigger on our social media score posts.

But, there is a problem here. Our brains are programmed to categorize ads as we see them more and more. The more awareness placements we add, the more our brains categorize them as ads and ignore them.

When fans’ brains ignore our sponsor’s logo that they pay us millions of dollars to do the opposite, it creates a huge problem.

We can no longer solely rely on those logos and selling awareness. That is an archaic way to think about it in today’s age

There is a solution, matching awareness with education. We take our reach and instead of talking about eyeballs that see logos…we talk about fans that are educated while seeing the logo.

We can do this with creative content. Honestly, it is how most influencers grab dollars from brands.

Today I am going to dive into a process, with a few examples, of how you can evolve your awareness assets into education ones that will help your team drive more sponsorship revenue.

Introduce The Brand + Logo

In order to stand out in today’s advertising world, we must capture attention. The days of slapping logos on tweets, rink boards, and stadium scoreboards are gone simply because we as humans have categorized them as ads.

Think of it this way, can you name the brand logos on the scoreboard of your favorite team? Most cannot. In the same way, we can’t name the last 5 ads we saw on social media most of the time.

But we can recall the last 5 most compelling videos or stories we saw on social media. We can recall items that stand out and break the norm.

In essence, when we introduce a brand, we must violate our fans’ expectations in order to capture attention. 

By violating their expectation with something new, we don’t just gain awareness…we gain their memory. When asked the items they remember most after a game, our goal is to have our campaign be at the top of the game.

I posted this on social media, but one example is Toyota. The new Tundra truck coming out next season has 5 different grill models you can choose from.

Instead of simply having a Toyota logo posted, or an image of the truck, which is what 90% of teams will do… we can take this item and violate the fan’s expectations to grab their attention.

What if we instead did a video series that dove into why our players chose their facemasks to tie into the different grill styles of the Tundra? 

We can create a video series highlighting the story around each. Is it a 3-bar Dickerson mask? What did they choose during youth football? How did their choice evolve? Are there any good stories around it?

This is not normal content. It violates the expectations of our fans. It pulls them in. It is so much different than the other content out there. Who would think to dive into the stories of a player’s facemask?

As we introduce a brand, or are tasked with awareness, if we simply put logos up we will not achieve our goal. Instead, look for ways to violate expectations and grab attention to start.

If we have grabbed the attention of your fans…we can then add in product education (which as you will see below is vital for recall and purchase).

Tie in the product to educate

Let’s face it unless you geek out on a certain product…not many people like to be hit at first with education on it.

The best teachers in school that I had encouraged me to learn by tying it to something that I was passionate about. For me, it was sports. I had a math teacher that showed me how averages and standard deviations could be used to predict sports stats and immediately I went from hating math to liking it enough to learn for my love of sports.

This is the same for your fans. If you simply throw up a piece of educational content without context…your fans will most likely ignore it.

Going back to the Toyota example, we’ve pulled them in by violating their expectations. Once we have them hooked on the content, we can add the educational piece for the grills.

Let’s say at the end of every episode we have a local dealer salesperson dive into the specifics as to why the Tundra’s grill has different shapes. Maybe one has a certain pattern for more airflow intake because the model of Tundra has a larger engine for more towage.

This type of education builds context. With context, we can teach fans without it feeling like a classroom.

I want to pause here for a second and jump back to the impact that this has on the fan that is greater than simply slapping a logo on. 

If we just do a logo, you are aware of the company. If we build in the educational piece we get you immediately to the consideration stage.

If you watch a piece of content that tells you why a certain grill on a truck is designed so you can get more towage…you are considering that asset as you think about your next vehicle.

We have gone a layer deeper with our awareness and transformed it into consideration. This is what every brand wants to get to.

As we grab attention, use context to build in education and help get the fan from aware to considering.

Offer Participation

We could stop at just having the educational items built into the campaign…but our goal is to maximize the value and connection between the sponsor and fan. Participation is a way to put the icing on the cake.

Participation makes fans feel like they are a part of the action. It’s why sports betting is so popular. They have skin in the game. A sense of ownership.

When we invoke these feelings in fans…it increases recall and memory with the brand. 

Going back to the Toyota example above. If you added a way for fans to vote on their favorite facemask story, the fan has a vested interest in the video series.

Not only that, if we build in participation to the video series, a way to vote on their favorite story…the fan must watch all the videos. This means they will see ALL the different models of grills for each truck.

Last, if you have fans enter their email in order to vote…you are actively building an audience while you are educating them. This gives your team and the dealership another at-bat to turn them into a buyer.

Participation is the icing on the cake. It is how you back your education bet and ensure that this campaign and sponsor will stand out.

A More Educated Fan Turns Into A Buyer

As I mentioned before, a logo on a sign will get logo awareness…but our goal should be to get our fans as far down the marketing funnel as possible.

When we settle for just logo awareness…we commoditize ourselves as sports teams. Why wouldn’t the brand buy a billboard outside the stadium for a fraction of the cost? Wouldn’t that have the same awareness effect as a rink board in reaching fans?

When we build product education into our campaigns we do something a simple sign cannot. We authentically get our audience (our fans) to the consideration stage in the sales process. This is something that has more power than many other advertising vertices.

For example, let’s take Crypto.com. They are putting their logo EVERYWHERE in sports. On stadiums, billboards, and spending a fortune doing so.

But with such a new concept of crypto, the general population is not quite there in wide adoption. It will take a lot of sign views to get them to the consideration phase and actually purchase crypto…let alone on their platform.

What if we added a campaign that anytime on social media, in the stadium, anywhere the fan sees a dollar amount…we add the equivalent in Etherium or Bitcoin.

Here we are naturally introducing them, and educating them, on cryptocurrency…further than that, we are getting them in the habit of equating money to cryptocurrency.

The natural progression here? Make it so you can tap to pay with your Crypto.com app at games.

Again, if we can build a path from just awareness to consideration…we can make our assets more valuable to our sponsors. 

Education is the key to getting a fan from “I know your brand” to “I am considering buying from your brand”.

The Value To Your Team, Proving ROI and Longer-Term Deals

Some may think “This is a lot of work, brands are buying signs…why change it up?”

First I would argue that as an industry we should always be looking to evolve. Just because our sponsors are buying our assets today, does not mean they will buy them tomorrow.

Second, if you can build in items like education, you can increase your package deal size and length.

By showing a path & strategy to push fans to consideration, you are proving value. Most CMO’s see strategy in the form of a marketing funnel (or circle). If you can show assets that help them take your audience through the funnel…you will be able to command a higher price for your packages.

By also thinking about education, you can justify a longer package. Why? Context.

When a brand asks “Why would I buy a 3-year deal?” you have a great answer. It should be around education, tell a story that shows over 3 years your goal is to educate as many fans as possible and get them to the consideration stage of the funnel.

This is something a brand can get behind over multiple years. If the path

Education is a perfect strategy for renewals. Inevitably the question will be asked, “Why should buy more assets? Why buy another sign?”.

Education gives justification to the why. If you build an asset package that can move fans from aware to considering the brand, they will spend more with you.

If you aren’t convinced on the above…then there is an even simpler answer. Most teams will continue to just sell signage. 

In the same way we are trying to violate expectations with fans through our campaigns if our sponsors see the same old sign package over and over again…and you come in with an education piece…you will stand out.

Those that stand out win more deals.

As I wind this down, I hope I have convinced you that the next generation of sponsorship assets must include education. Not only will it grab the fan’s attention, but it will pull them further down the marketing funnel into the consideration phase.

All of the above means more value and success for our sponsors when they spend money with us. This leads to more trust, more value, and more revenue for our packages.

Gone are the days when we can simply throw logos up. We must do more to earn our sponsor’s revenue. Building education into our assets is key as we enter the new year for our teams.



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