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What is Sports Promotion?

sports promotion stadium photo

The power and emotion of sports are powerful tools. Our teams have created fan bases with similar characteristics, and followings that rival some religions.

Fans want to be part of something, it is a human need that lives deep in our brains. Sports teams fill that need with the ups and downs of each season.

If we can harness this need and emotion, we can use it to direct fans to action. This is why sports promotion is such a powerful tool for both brands and sports teams.

Sports promotion involves authentically infusing a message into the power and emotion of sports. It is the act of piggybacking our message into that fanaticism. Usually, this maximizes our sports sponsorships.

In this article, we will dive into the dos and don’ts of sports marketing & promotion, and how you can successfully launch campaigns to reach fans.

What Are The Best Sports Promotions?

The best sports promotions tap into the excitement of the game, while authentically adding in a message or goal (usually for your sponsors). Below are a few that are easy to launch and great for capturing fan attention.

Mascot Race- A Time Honored Tradition in Minor League Baseball and the Big Leagues

Nothing grabs attention during breaks in the game like a good old-fashioned mascot race. The same way fans start to build loyalty to their favorite players… they can also build that same connection with your mascots.

The best ones tie into the culture of the city. For example, the Seattle Mariners run a Hydro Race that shows boats crisscrossing through the waters on the Puget Sound. Fans can choose which boat they think will win on their phones, creating even more buy-in from the fans.

Tie in a sponsor to this experience, and you can authentically create a connection between that brand and the fans.

Prediction Games at Major League Baseball Stadiums

Fans love to predict the outcome of the game…or even the outcome of an at-bat or drive-in football. There is a rush that we feel when we can actually feel like we are part of the game.

That rush can easily be transferred into an affinity for a brand sponsor with a sports prediction promotion.

It doesn’t have to be one that focuses on gaining money for the outcome, like betting. You can easily add in different incentives that help drive foot traffic for a brand. The Pittsburgh Pirates launched a 4th 5th 6th Inning prediction with their tavern sponsor to help connect that excitement with their restaurant sponsor. One lucky fan who was correct won a free steak dinner.

Predictions games can be a great sports promotion to help your sponsors reach their goals.

Trigger Promotion- Sports Events With Local Flavor

Trigger promotions are a great way to help fans feel like they are affecting the game. A trigger promotion is one where the entire stadium wins a prize if a milestone is reached in a game.

For example, a hockey team can tie a free oil change for all fans to the team’s ability to score a goal in the first 2 minutes. Maybe if a baseball team hits 4 home runs, they can win a free doughnut from the team’s pastry partner.

The best part of a trigger promotion is that it raises the intensity of the crowd. They roar even louder as the milestone gets closer, making it impossible for the opposing team to communicate or play defense.

The Chicago Bulls run a great trigger promotion with their hot dog sponsor called Portillo’s 4th Quarter Franks.

It’s a simple activation. If the opposing player misses 2 consecutive free throws in the 4th quarter of a home game, each fan goes home with a free hot dog at Portillo’s.

As you can imagine, in the 4th quarter…when free throws matter the most… the crowd is screaming at the top of their lungs to try and make the opposing player miss. They want their free hot dog…but more importantly, they want to be the reason they earned it.

To make it even easier, SQWAD has digitized the experience to ensure every fan can easily redeem their hot dog…but more importantly, the sponsor can track their promotion to see how many fans played and won the offer.

They simply scan a QR code on the scoreboard and enter their email address to register. No more missed hot dogs for fans.

Find a good stat or milestone in your gameday and match a sponsor prize with a trigger promotion.


Scratch & Win- Engage the Larger Audience

Fans love to win things. But sometimes if you have multiple promotions to win, you cancel their attention. With multiple options to play & win… you divide where fans will end up engaging.

The result is that certain sponsors don’t get the same attention as others, which doesn’t bode well for getting them to continue to invest in your sports promotions.

With East Tennessee State University, they wanted to tie in multiple brand sponsors to one central promotion to help send coupons to fans. What better way to do so than with a digital scratch & win. Raise awareness to a target audience at a sporting event is good business.

During home basketball & football games, the ETSU scratch & win is posted for fans to play. It is loaded with offers of over 17 unique sponsors. Fans scratch digital cards to win prizes right on their phones. It could be a free burger from their local restaurant or a tank of gas from a car dealership looking to build trust and connection with future car buyers.

By creating a central sports promotion, you don’t cannibalize attention. A scratch & win is the perfect activation to help focus fan attention in one place…maximizing the results of the campaign. Easy access to resources with budget friendly features means clients and potential customers get the best result possible. Online contests are a fun marketing strategy for sports fans.

QR code on a scratch and win game

How Do You Promote A Sport With Digital?

Understanding where humans focus is the easiest way to devise a strategy to reach them. In the past, attention was put on print & radio…followed by television.

Today, our fans’ attention comes on their phones. It is a magnet when the game action stops in our arenas.

Our job is to redirect that attention back to campaigns that help connect our fans with our sponsors. The easiest way to do that is with digital campaigns that allow them to participate in the campaign.

Luckily, our fans have their phones inside of our stadiums.

Putting a QR code on your scoreboard that links to a digital game is an easy way to grab that attention back. From there, they can participate and have some skin in the game with the promotion.

This is far more beneficial than simply running a commercial on your scoreboard. It pulls the fan in while creating an asset that is more trackable for results.

Utilize your scoreboards to channel the fan attention and pull in their phones to help drive participation.

Benefits Of Sports Marketing

So what are the key benefits of sports marketing? Why would a company want to use our audience of fans to promote their products?

The greatest asset we have is the affinity our fans have for our team. We as teams (for the most part) have built this affinity over decades…. Some over centuries.

Teams are almost that friend who sets you up on your first date. Why would you go on a date with a perfect stranger? Well, usually it is because you trust your friend.

The same goes for sports marketing. The affinity and trust we have built with our fans can be transferred to trust in brands through our campaigns & promotions. As we make the introduction…the fan assumes it is a good brand if they support their favorite team.

That trust needs to be nurtured over time. After the first date (sports promotion or campaign in a stadium), we want to continue to find ways to keep the fan connected. This is where sports marketing comes into effect.

Game after game, year after year, if we are consistent with our campaigns, eventually we build brand loyalty for the fan.

This is the key to why brands love sports marketing and spend over $56Bn per year globally on them.

Challenges For Sports Marketing

The two biggest challenges for sports marketing come with authenticity and attention.

To capture a fan’s attention and tap into their affinity for a team, we have to authentically link our sports promotions into that experience. Anything else will feel forced or inauthentic. Today, fans can sniff out when you are simply trying to sell them something.

Your campaigns must center around authenticity. Looking back at the Mascot Race example with the Seattle Mariners, if that race simply was the sponsor’s logos running around a race track…it wouldn’t have captured the fan’s attention. They would feel the inauthenticity.

Instead, they made the focal point a hydro boat race around the Puget Sound, something that everyone in Seattle appreciates and loves. Making it the focal point of this sports promotion helped make it feel authentic.

In addition, you have to do something that will grab fans’ attention in the stadium. You have to violate their expectations with something unique. If you don’t, the promotion will go over the fan’s head.

Think about all the distractions fans see in the stadium during breaks in the game. If you aren’t doing something to snap their attention back to your promotion, you will get low participation, which means low results for your fans.

So what can you do to grab their attention? A few items include:

  • Utilizing a big, amazing prize they can win
  • Making the characters unique and interesting
  • Tying it in with team nostalgia or history

These are just a few items to keep in mind when crafting your sports campaigns.

Why It’s Important To Build Relationships

Today, sales & marketing aren’t transactional. Customers want the brand to build a relationship with them before they go for the sale.

This changes the entire strategy of marketing and advertising, and pushes it in favor of sports promotions. We have fans who have built a relationship with our team. All we need to do is transfer that relationship to the businesses that sponsor us.

Sports promotions are a great way to ease businesses into that relationship. With each game they interact with our promotions, fans will become familiar with the company sponsors.

For example, if you can run a fun scratch & win each game where fans participate to try and win a jersey. They will become familiar with the brand sponsoring it. Each time they play, they build loyalty.

If you can add prizes (like a free coffee), you build that connection and relationship even more with the brand. Compare this to just handing out a paper coupon after the game, and it pales compared to the relationships it builds.

Advertising without relationship building is a losing strategy in today’s marketing world. Sports promotions are a great way to build a relationship with sports team fans.

Digital Promotions in MLB

We dove into the importance of digital sports promotions & marketing in the world of baseball in a previous article. Digital marketing has given us the tools to accelerate the power of sports promotions in our stadiums.

Whether you are crafting sports promotions for a baseball team or another sport, digital sports promotions should be the key distribution method to reach fans. It is usually more scalable, trackable, and easier to grab their attention.

Sports Promotions are a powerful marketing tool

Today, it is essential for businesses to build relationships with their customers. Normally this is a heavy lift for them, it’s hard to connect with a logo.

Sports promotions and marketing are a great way to help sponsors piggyback off the affinity and fanaticism that we have built over decades of games and exciting moments.

At SQWAD, we can help you harness that affinity and authentically connect your brand partners with fans through our easy-to-launch digital activations. We’ve done so for over 60 sports organizations across the globe.

Click here to get in touch.

10 Digital Baseball In Game Promotions That Engage Fans

Digital baseball in-game promotions are taking ball games for a turn. Upping the game.

A summer day of baseball at the ballpark is one of the most coveted American pastimes. Generations have been raised on hot dogs, peanuts, and home runs.

But it’s not just what happens on the field that makes the experience. There are always fun and engaging experiences in-between the pitches and hits that can help your team drive participation and excitement with fans.

Today, we will dive into a few ideas to help your team capture fan attention during breaks in the action to drive more engagement and even more sponsorship revenue on game day in your ballparks.

Gone are the days of only having bobblehead giveaway items, autographs, and other free merchandise. If the past few years have taught us anything in regard to baseball, it’s that digital makes fan engagement easier.

What Are Digital In-Game Promotions In Baseball?

Digital in-game promotions in baseball help take what we’ve seen in ballparks for years and allow fans to fully participate with them through their smartphones. They have opened up a new experience allowing every fan to join in a feel a part of the action.

It follows the shift that we see today between digital marketing vs. traditional marketing, especially when you are tying a corporate sponsor to the promotion.

Usually, they are presented during breaks in the action (in between innings, etc.) to keep the excitement of the games flowing and make sure that fans don’t flock to their social media feeds as they sit and wait for play to resume.

Baseball In-Game Promotions That Work for Major or Minor League Baseball Teams

We’ve put together a diverse list of in-game baseball promotions below that not only will keep your fans engaged, but also can help you drive more digital sponsorship revenue in the process. These between-inning contests are a surefire way to raise engagement while opening new revenue streams through sponsorships.

Let’s dive in.

4th, 5th, 6th Inning Win

Nothing better than tying a team or sponsor offer to an outcome in the game. Fans will feed off the excitement of each inning as they watch in hopes that their prediction is correct.

You can harness this excitement with a promotion like SQWAD’s 4th 5th 6th inning win. Fans simply on their phones try and predict which inning your team will score a run in; the 4th inning, 5th inning, or 6th inning.

sports sponsorship pick the inning game

As they watch the game, they sit on the edge of their seats when their inning comes up. The excitement grows when a player gets to 3rd base. Will he make it home so I can win my prize?

When your team scores in the inning they picked, elation ensues. That score which may be meaningless in a blowout is the most important moment in the game for them. Win or lose, they are tied to it every game.

Through our system, fans receive their sponsor offer via email for easy redemption in the stadium or at home to make the experience even sweeter. This activation is a must-have in your ballpark.

Make the Call Ticket Promotion

It’s always great to get your ticket staff involved on game day to help build relationships and sell more tickets.

Have fans call into a ticket salesperson’s direct line to make the call on a certain stat in the game. Have the ticket salesperson take down the pick, name, & phone number.

If correct, the ticket salesperson can call or email the fan directly to get them their prize, creating a great moment for them to upsell tickets to future games and build a relationship with the fans.

Scoreboard Trivia

Fans love to put their team knowledge to the test. We constantly are to prove that we in fact are the most knowledgeable fan in the stadium.

Scoreboard trivia allows them to do just that during the long breaks in the action for your team.

During a break in the 4th inning, fans see the question and possible answers pop onto the scoreboard. They scan a QR code to answer for themselves on their phone.

During the game, they can see where others have answered to contemplate their decision.

scoreboard trivia sports activation

At a moment’s notice, the answers are revealed. If the fan is correct, they win a prize sent to them directly via email for easy redemption.

Trivia is a perfect way to keep fans engaged during a long inning swap or pitching changes.

Check out our scoreboard trivia activation for more details.

Bongo Cam

Fans LOVE to get on the scoreboard. It’s their 3 seconds of fame. It can make their entire game day experience.

But we can push them to do more than just wave at the camera or give a thumbs up. We can make it even more memorable for them.

Enter the Bongo Cam.

bongo cam sports sponsorship activation

It’s a simple but effective way to get fans out of their seats and engage with your scoreboard. As fans see the bongos they try and play to the beat. It’s best to add some great music as you run this promotion that has a funky bongo groove to it.

On the team side, all you have to do is add an overlay to your scoreboard video, and BOOM! You have an engagement that will be memorable long after fan embarrassment fades off.

Add a sponsor to the experience (logo on the bongos, etc.) and you’ll be able to tie their brand with the fun and unique experience.

Hat Shuffle

Nothing beats a good hat shuffle. Reminiscent of the hidden ball games we sometimes see from street performers, fans watch as a baseball is hidden underneath a cap.

The hats start in a flurry of moves. The fan struggles to follow which hat has the ball underneath it. In an instant

In the past, fans only yelled out the answer with no reward if they were correct. But today, you can digitize the experience on the fan’s phone.

With SQWAD’s Hat Shuffle digital activation, we give fans the power to guess right on their phone which hat the ball is under. If they are correct, they win a prize that is sent right to their email.

The best part is the cheers, and groans, as the answer is revealed. Don’t worry, you can send a prize home with fans who aren’t correct as well to keep everyone happy.

A Hat Shuffle is a perfect activation to play in between your innings while keeping them engaged and focused on your sponsor.

Bark in the Park is Popular for Minor League Teams

Most sports fans LOVE their four-legged companions. Many will dress them in team attire to mesh the passions of the team and the fan’s furry, four-legged companion.

This leaves the perfect opportunity for a great promotional night for sports teams.

Simply make one of your game days a Bark in the Park themed game where fans can bring their dogs to enjoy the park.

To digitize the experience and get maximum reach, have fans post a photo of their dog on social media with a hashtag around the event. This is a great way to pull engagement and create some FOMO for the fans at home.

Scratch & Win

Let’s face it, fans LOVE to win things in your stadium. Nothing beats a baseball giveaway in your ballpark.

You can hand them sponsor offers on game day, but a prize won feels so much better than a prize given.

Enter Scratch & Win. A simple but exciting game that turns coupons into excitement much like a lottery scratch-off does.

scratch and win sports activation

Fans open their digital scratch & win and receive digital cards to, yep you guessed it, scratch with their fingers to reveal team and sponsor prizes.

You can add in bobbleheads, signed apparel, cash to use in the stadium, and sponsor offers for them to redeem as they head home. Each fan receives their offer via email for easy redemption in the ballpark or at your sponsor’s location.

Have an opening in the 4th inning that you need to fill? Put a QR code up on your scoreboard and watch as fans rush to scratch their way to great prizes.

Moment of the Game Photo Challenge

Sometimes the best content comes directly from the fans on game day.

Have fans take photos throughout the night on their phones of their angle of the field, a play, and even the food they have. Add a social media tag of #[teamname]momentofthegame.

At the end of the night, have your sponsor pick one of the photos to feature in-stadium and on social media post-game. Add a sponsor prize to the winners to make it even more valuable.

Mascot Race

Maybe it’s a hot dog, or a baseball, or even some delicious pierogies! Mascot races have been around since the inception of baseball.

Fans watch as mascots (really your interns in mascot suits) race around your warning track as fans cheer on their favorite character. Mascot Races help build a connection with your team, sometimes it is the thing that keeps them coming back each game.

When you digitize this experience, you can 10x the value of the in-game promotion. As with the hat shuffle, when you give fans the ability to choose which character will win before the race you bring participation into the experience which bonds them closer to the promotion.

When fans can pick their favorite character you set up a situation where they start to fall in love with a particular one. They are more bought into whether they win or lose.

With our Race activation, fans can select the character they think will win before the race begins right on their phone. From there, they watch on and cheer with more conviction than ever.

mascot race sports activation

If their pick is correct, they can win a sponsor or team prize that is sent right to their email for easy redemption.

This is a fan favorite for both major and minor league baseball promotions and a must if you want to electrify your crowd on game day.

Foul Pole

A great way to keep fans engaged throughout the game comes with those yellow poles that decide if there is a home run celebration or a groan from the crowd.

Before the game starts have fans comment on a social media post with #RightPole or #LeftPole. If in the game a baseball hits the foul pole, one lucky fan will go home with a great prize.

Tag the sponsor on the post for even more sponsor value.

Digital In-Game Promotions Help You Close More Sponsorships

Not only are these activations great for engaging fans, but they are also great for upselling sponsors.

Today, sponsors don’t want to just “be seen” by fans. They want to connect with them in meaningful and measurable ways. No longer is an outfield sign sufficient enough to close the big sponsorship deals.

Digital In-Game Promotions help your sponsors do more than being seen. They drive fan participation, which in turn increases recall, builds brand affinity, and can show measurable returns far better than your sign and scoreboard reads.

If you have a sponsor on the fence, look to add more digital in-game promotions like the above into their packages and watch as they increase their investment and spending with your team.


5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Do a Sports Sponsorship Pitch

You’ve done it. You got the meeting for that perfect sports sponsorship prospect. The meeting is set. You and your team are prepping for the pitch and have the format ready to go.

But you ask yourself: Is this what they want to see? Is this the pitch that will seal the deal?

How can I know this will land us the deal?

This week, Rich & I dove into 5 questions you should ask yourself before you make a sports sponsorship pitch.

You can listen to the full episode HERE, but I dive into the key takeaways below.

The 5 Questions You Need to Answer Before Pitching

  1. Do you know the wants/needs of the sponsor?
  2. Does my proposal meet my client’s needs?
  3. Am I presenting to the right people?
  4. Is the price appropriate?
  5. If I were them, would I buy?

Respect in business is a two way street. You need a clear picture of the company’s wants and needs when creating a proposal. Don’t go straight for the gold package if you know the sponsor won’t respond positively. You will work with many possible sponsors and companies that respond best to an audience who listens and is interested in partnering with them to further both businesses.

Avoid wasting time, and form a partnership built on trust and understanding. When you address your sponsor’s needs and support their wants, if everything else lines up, they will figure out the funding for sponsoring events.

Potential Sponsor: Do You Know Their Wants or Needs?

As we’ve always been taught in sales. If there is no need, there will be no sale. Our packages always should have a foundation around what the prospect’s needs are.

But there is an important distinction here that Rich brings up, is what you are solving a need or a want?

A want is something that is nice to have. It isn’t vital to their direct company goals at the moment, but it will be nice to have.

A need is something that ties into their most burning business goal. This directly affects the success of the company that year.

An example here comes with hospitality assets. Our tickets, our suites, etc. Hospitality is perfect for company morale and desired workplace when it comes to employees.

sponsorship banners on a blue screen

Hospitality sponsorships would be perfect if a sponsor stated they were looking to expand their workforce in the city. Or maybe a sponsor who wanted to uphold the morale of their employees.

If they came to you and said instead that promoting their community campaigns was important. Now hospitality takes a whole new meaning. You could take the suite and show how they can offer it as a raffle for each fan that donates to the charity.

If you came to the company pitching hospitality as a company morale aspect to the sponsor looking to increase their community campaigns…you are fitting a want, not a need. There is the wrong fit and therefore no urgency to purchase.

Knowing the difference between the sponsor’s wants and needs is vital. It comes with asking questions and digging deep into what they need and what their goals are for this year.

This means getting a bit uncomfortable with them. You have to ask a bit more revealing questions.

My go-to question is “What are your company’s biggest and most important goals this year?”. If we ask this question over our usual “What are you looking to accomplish with our sponsorship?”, we get down to the bottom of their company’s needs.

From there, we can truly understand what assets will lead us to a YES.

So the first question you should ask yourself when reviewing your sports sponsorship pitch is, do we even know what their wants or needs are, and can we focus on the needs?

When you look over your pitch, be sure to look at each aspect and ask yourself “Is this a want or need for the sponsor?”. The more assets solve a need, the more likely you are to close the sale. It’s also a sign of professional respect that you value their time and listen to their needs.

Pinpoint this and you will win.

Do My Sports Sponsorship Proposals Meet My Client’s Needs?

Now that you can pinpoint the needs, the next question may be obvious. But it is important.

Sometimes once we know those needs, we still build sponsorship packages that fit our needs as an organization. I see it too often in sports.

Maybe we have a new LED sign, and our team has a mandate to sell inventory on it. We can’t add unless it helps solve the sponsor’s needs.

Why? Because for every item in your sponsorship proposal letter that doesn’t fit their needs, you bring down the certainty that this will help them be successful as a company.

As you give your pitch, each asset should bring a head nod and “yes” from your prospect. This is a straight line between certainty and a purchase. The more certainty you build, the more likely you are to get to a YES.

When you add in auxiliary items that don’t fit those needs, you start to bring down certainty. You start to bring the question into your prospect’s mind: “Are they selling me something that can help my company, or are they just looking for revenue and a commission?”

As soon as this happens, you start to lose the sale. 

So when looking over your sports sponsorship pitch, you have to think to yourself, “Does this help the sponsor need?”. If it doesn’t, cut it.

Be brutally honest here. Don’t look at the short-term revenue here, look at the needs of your sponsors. If you can do that, you will open even more revenue in the long run (and short term).

Am I Presenting to the Right People? This Matters.

Who you are presenting to is just as important as what you are presenting.

Why? Because if you pitch hospitality benefits and how it helps employees to the marketing manager…your fit will be off.

Each person in an organization has motivations when it comes to what they invest in. The marketing manager likely cares about getting in front of fans to drive awareness and purchases.

They care about this because it is what they are in charge of. It is how they are judged from a work perspective.

man and woman looking over a sports sponsorship plan at a stadium

If the need comes out of employee growth, you have to have the HR manager there for the pitch. If you don’t, your pitch won’t land as well. In a world crammed with advertising outlets vying for that marketing investment, we want to ensure that we are setting ourselves up for the best possible outcome.

This also helps us build champions within the organization. If you get the marketing manager and the HR manager excited about the deal…you have 2 champions pitching now instead of just one. The more champions you have, the more buy-in (and access to budget) you will have.

When looking over your sports sponsorship pitch, ask yourself…do you have the right people in the room for the assets you are pitching? If not, ask if a representative from another department can join.

Am I Pricing This Opportunity Appropriately Given the Value I Am Providing?

This is a vital part of this review process that gets overlooked.You likely already have a price point in mind.

Is that price appropriate, given the value you are providing?

Why must you do this? Well, your sponsor is doing this calculation in their head as you pitch. If your number is too high, you are losing certainty with the prospect.

So how can you get a gauge on what is too high? There are many ways to do this, but my favorite is to look at the current market in digital advertising.

Based on industry, you can find the cost per click, cost per view, and cost per lead averages. This is what a company would spend on average to gain views, clicks, or leads if they spent on say Google or Facebook ads.

If you are pretty sure that an entry-to-win campaign will get around 2,000 sign-ups based on past results, your sponsor will instantly put the average cost per lead calculation into their heads when evaluating your proposal. They will compare it to other forms of advertising and evaluate whether the higher cost is worth it.

Does this mean you should only go off that number? No. What this means is that if you charge a higher rate than the industry standard, you better communicate why your proposal will pull in that high of an investment.

In your pitch, you have to show, for example, why your leads are more powerful than those collected from Facebook ads. Why a view in your stadium is worth more than one on social media.

We dove into a few reasons why sports are more valuable than other forms of advertising. This is a great starting point to prove the value.

On the reverse side, you also don’t want to underestimate the price. I see this happen a lot with teams where they underprice their assets, especially with digital ads.

To help on this front, we’ve created a Sports Sponsorship Calculator for teams to use to see if they are underpricing their digital assets. These numbers are directly pulled from averages that influencers pull in per post. If a 17-year-old influencer can command that price…your sports team can as well.

There is a goldilocks type happy medium here with this step in the process. If you charge over industry standards and don’t give a good reason, you will lose the certainty in your proposal. 

If you charge too little, you will leave dollars on the table, and worse, devalue your assets.

This is a vital step in understanding if your sports sponsorship pitch will land. It always comes down to the dollars. The more you can make the numbers make sense, the better chance you have to land the deal.

If I Was in Their Position, Would I Buy This?

This is the last test. You’ve looked at price, needs, who is in the meeting, etc. It then comes down to the last question.

Would I buy this if I was in their position?

digital advertising in an indoor stadium

How to Formulate a Successful Sports Sponsorship Proposal

It’s good to have confidence in your proposals, but you’ll need to dive deeper into your sponsor’s mindset. You have to actually get into their shoes.

When I sold restaurant ads for a travel company, this was the biggest shift in how I sold. At first, I would look at the number of travelers they would reach and think “Of course! Yes, it is the best proposal for them!” It was my job to have confidence in my product.

But then I had someone who owned a restaurant look at my proposal. This was a friend of mine, so there was no pressure to sell, as she had her restaurant outside the state I was selling in.

The way she put it changed the way I look at selling. She brought empathy into my selling. She understood how the restaurant views it.

When I sold, I focused on the number of views. The number of travelers who would see the ads.

Restaurants don’t care about views for the most part. For the most part, restaurants care about purchases. They ask “how many meals will this help me sell?” 

Why are these sales most important? Well, as my friend put it:

“When a restaurant buys a $5,000 ad package that comes out of their kid’s soccer cleats fund, it may be a whole year of daycare or car insurance. The money we put into this is money we can’t put elsewhere, many times with smaller restaurants it affects our personal lives.”

“So if you are pitching me on a $5,000 package, you better show me that I won’t regret this when it comes time for me to pay my kid’s daycare bill.”

This totally changed how I looked at the proposals I sold and how I sold them. It turned it into a focus on sales. Did I know the best tactics to ensure that this proposal leads to sales?

This empathy led me to find that if we put the food item in a picture over the “ambiance” of the place, it tripled visits. It led me to do the calculation for them. Based on the average price of their food items on their menu, it would only take 3 visits a month to cover the cost of the ad.

I answered their biggest fears with the closest I could get to certainty. I was able to do this because I started asking myself, “If I was at a restaurant, would I buy this?”. Is the pitch I am giving addressing their biggest fears about signing on with our ad inventory?

This empathy is powerful and forces us to truly understand our customers so we can serve them better.

So when you look over your package and sports sponsorship pitch, ask yourself…would I buy this? Given the business I run and the needs conveyed…would I buy this package?

Build These 5 Questions Into Your Sponsorship Opportunities Review Process 

You have your 5 questions, now it is time to build this into your pitch review process. Before any pitch goes out, you should look at these 5 and answer them all.

This is your fail-safe for missing something. Sometimes we get so caught up in building the pitch and assets that we get too close to the solution, not our customer’s problem.

This will help you break through that, take a step back, and refine it into the best pitch.

You have to become unromantic about what is on your pitch and what your team needs in terms of revenue. If you go in with that mindset, you lose the ability to close the deal.

These five questions put your client’s needs first, and ensure your sports sponsorship pitch does as well. Build it into your process, and you will close more sponsorship sales.


Gaining Interest from Brands That Don’t Spend on Sports Sponsorship

Some brands just don’t spend on sports sponsorships. Never have…some say they never will. There are categories that we can usually count on to spend on sports sponsorships. Auto, Banks, Insurance, etc. Most of the time they are already spending there.

Conventional wisdom says go after the brands that have already invested in these partnerships. If you know they are spending there…you know that they most likely will be interested in the package that you offer.

But should we just write off the brands that have never invested in sports partnerships? 

No. These are opportunities for new revenue at very little competition. We should always be looking for areas of growth in our industry.

The next question becomes, how can we convince them that investing in sports partnerships is worth their advertising dollars?

In this episode of The Inches Podcast, we dive into how you can convince a brand or company that has never spent a dime in sports partnerships to spend with your team.

You can listen to the whole episode HERE, but as always I dive into the key points below.

First, understand what they currently spend on

Before we look at what we pitch to brands, it is always important to understand what they currently spend on. This will let us know vital information before we go in.

First, where they spend their money tells us a lot about the mediums they are comfortable with. For example, if we see they are spending their advertising money on newspaper or radio ads…we can understand that our radio broadcast ads for game time will be a great fit for them.

If they spend on Facebook ads, we can know that they will want to see digital options like promoted Facebook posts.

If we can understand the medium in which they are most comfortable…we make it easier for them to say yes by adding assets that they have already said yes to on other mediums.

The second part of this research comes with looking at the content of the ads they produce. What is the messaging? What call to action do they make?

This step will help us understand their most important goals. Brands tell us what they are looking to achieve through the ads they run.

Maybe there is a bank that has never spent within sports sponsorships that are running radio ads with messaging around setting your kids up with a college savings account. This tells us that reaching families is important to them.

When we create our pitch, we should be adding options around how they can reach our fans that have kids.

What a brand is currently running tells us a lot about its goals & company. Once we have that foundation, we can start to look at ways we can offer a more effective option through our sports sponsorship assets.

Push the passion that fans have and how sports sponsorship assets grab that passion

Now that we know what a brand is spending on, we can start to weave in our superpowers in sports to start to convince them that our option is better.

The first superpower we have in sports is the passion we can leverage from our fans. We must ask our new potential sponsors what they are currently doing to tap into people’s passion.

You see, a newspaper ad is informative. A radio ad is the same way. Even digital ads make it hard to tap into a consumer’s passion.

But our assets bring exciting stories, nostalgia, and pull-out passion from our fans.

When we look to answer the question “why should I spend my dollars with your team”, fan passion should be the unique selling point we bring out.

You see, passion moves people to purchase. A win puts them into a passionate high of euphoria, which also leads to more sales.

Humans are ​​driven by feelings. Emotions are what lead to sales and brand loyalty. The easiest way to tie your brand with these emotions is through advertising that drives passion.

Sports are the quickest way to drive into a passion.

Focusing on this and comparing it to the current ads they spend on, you will be able to show a more efficient and powerful tool they can invest in…your sports sponsorship assets.

Showcase the power live sports has on our attention

Once you’ve shown the passion, the next step is to dive into the power that live sports has on attention.

In today’s world, it is hard to capture attention. We see around 10,000 ads per day as humans. This causes us to tune most of them out, making most vessels of advertising ineffective.

Ineffective advertising leads to the need to spend more dollars with half the results. Brands go crazy trying to solve this problem.

This is where the power of live sports comes in. There are few areas today that capture human attention like live games.

For example, streaming and TV ads on non-sports programming today are easy to skip over or ignore. Some platforms even allow for adblocking.

But with sports, our audience is captivated. Few will change the channel, most are zoned into the game…not wanting to miss a second of the action.

Fans won’t change the channel for 3 hours in most cases.

But this isn’t just earmarked for streaming…most of the time on the radio when ads come on the user switches the channel. But for sports, they won’t. They’ll listen to every radio ad until the game is over.

This is powerful because it brings efficiency. The format of our live games holds attention longer than other ad platforms.

When getting a brand to spend on sports sponsorship for the first time…this will be a powerful point to touch on when convincing them to spend dollars with our team.

Dive into the power of fan loyalty in sports sponsorship

Last but not least, fans are loyal to the brands that sponsor their favorite sports team.

Sports fans are 80% more likely to buy brand products that sponsor their favorite sports teams.

Read that stat again. Fan passion is an insanely powerful tool to drive sales and loyalty. This is probably our biggest value add as a sports team. 

What this statistic is really pushing is efficiency. As I spoke about before, brands are looking for the most efficient way to reach their consumers. They are looking for ways to drive sales and build loyalty in the most efficient way possible.

Our fan loyalty brings them that efficiency. This should be the icing on the cake when it comes to convincing brands who have never spent with sports partnerships to spend with your team.

Compare the above sports sponsorship attributes to the current advertising they spend on

The key to convincing anyone to switch what they have done comes with breaking a habit. Most of the time, brands get into a habit of spending on a certain advertising medium.

As I said above, we have to convince them that spending on our package will be better than what they have done for years. 

When you do, focus on the efficiency that your packages bring to their brand compared to the past spending habits. The three items above are key in showing our efficiency.

Build outreach to new brands into your sales strategy

How much time and effort should you be spending on prospects that have never spent with sports teams?

It’s more than you think. Rich builds in about 20% of his new prospect efforts into these brands.

The biggest thing here comes with opportunity. Most teams will see them as prospects that aren’t worth their time. If they haven’t spent on sports sponsorships…why would they try now?

When most pass up the opportunity, we can benefit from it.

Should you be spending most of your time there for new business? No. As Rich says, why did the robber rob the bank? It’s because that’s where the money is.

But you also don’t want to just focus on the money everyone is going after either. If you do, you risk being the last dog at the food bowl.

Look for new opportunities and businesses to go after who have never spent on sports sponsorships. It may take a bit more convincing…but if you focus on the above tactics you should be able to get the meeting.

Using Digital Scratch-Off Games In Sports To Increase Sponsorship Revenue 

Digital scratch-off games in sports are becoming more popular. It’s not surprising, because we are entering the participation age of sports sponsorships. Sponsors no longer want to just “Be Seen” by your fans. 

The odd inventory that included stadium signs and scoreboard reads won’t cut it today if your sports team wants to drive new revenue from sponsors.

Today, sponsors want to connect with your fans in meaningful and memorable ways. With this need, it’s vital to have an arsenal of digital activations that can help your sponsors complete this goal.

Digital scratch-off games are the perfect tool to reach this goal for sponsors. The excitement of revealing your prize or sponsor coupon with the swipe of a finger brings instant engagement with fans and measurability to your sponsors.

I’ll dive in below on what a digital scratch-off game is all about and how you can leverage it to drive more sponsorship revenue for your sports team.

What is a digital scratch-off game?

We’ve all seen or played the lottery version of a scratch-off. There is mystery, excitement, and fun in every card that you buy.

Traditionally, paper scratch-off cards have prizes or money amounts printed on cards with scratchable material on top. Players can use their fingers, a coin, or other sturdy objects to scratch the top material off to reveal what they have won.

Every card purchased is an exciting mystery. You buy them in hopes that you’ve won the big money or a prize.

Digital scratch-off games bring the same excitement of a paper scratch card right to the fan’s phone and tie it to your team or sponsor prizes. Instead of cash, they can win a big sponsor discount, a player meet & greet, or even a signed jersey.

With the addition of smartphones and the ability to track where your finger “taps” the phone, we are able to digitize the scratch-off experience. No more cards to throw away…no more scratching material that gets all over your clothes or under your fingernails.

How they work

With the digital version of scratch-off cards, fans easily access it by clicking a link they see on a website or social media or scanning a QR code on a scoreboard or printed item.

Fans register by simply entering their email address (and other information if needed). Once registered, they receive a digital card that pops on the screen.

From there, they gently swipe their finger across the digital card to wipe away the top layer and reveal their prize.

scratch and win digital game

Euphoria sets in, confetti falls, and the fan has turned mystery into elation as they confirm their email and watch as the offer is sent directly to their email inbox for easy redemption at the sponsor’s location.


Outside of the fact that attention is glued to fans’ phones today, below are a few key benefits to digitizing your scratch-off campaigns.

  • An exciting alternative to handing out paper coupons – Winning your coupon is a much better experience than handing out paper ones to fans. It brings more engagement & excitement. Digital scratch-offs are a perfect alternative to jazz up your coupon campaigns.
  • They’re measurable for sponsors – Measurability is key to driving more sponsorship revenue for your team. By digitizing your scratch-off experience you can show sponsors how many fans played, won, and even provide emails to retarget for more business, all in real-time.
  • Reduce waste & cost by eliminating paper cards – Printing paper scratch-off cards for fans to throw out (or even toss on the floor of your arena) is costly to the environment and your team/sponsor. By digitizing the experience you can save money on printing costs and make sure that prizes end up in the fan’s email inbox…not the landfill.

How digital scratch offs are used at sporting events

At SQWAD, we’ve launched digital scratch-offs with over 30 teams of all sizes ranging from Minor League Baseball to NFL teams. They are a great way to bring new and exciting inventory to your game day to drive participation.

The first focus is the excitement it creates with fans. Much like a lottery scratch-off, there is a thrill right before you scratch the card. Could I be the one to win the grand prize?! When you compare this to handing out paper coupons, there is a huge benefit to bringing excitement into the experience.

Even if a fan doesn’t win the grand prize, they can still win a sponsor offer. We’ve found that this actually drives up the redemption rate of these sponsor offers by 4X through digitizing the experience. It brings the idea that the fan won the sponsor offer or coupon rather than was given it. Psychologically, it ties us to that offer and brings a need to use it and benefit.

But how can I make sure my fans will play online scratch offs? 

Well, with the emergence of QR codes, we’ve seen the most success with putting a QR code right on the scoreboard for fans to simply scan and watch as the scratch-off website appears on their phone. It’s the simplest way to make sure fans are ready and playing.

QR code on a scratch and win game

The best times to run a digital scratch-off promotion (also known as online scratch offs) are the breaks in your game. Say a TV time out, or in between quarters. This is when fans do one very vital thing…they pull out their phones and play the online scratch cards.

With a virtual scratch-off, you can grab that attention back and channel it to your team promotion and sponsor. 

Not looking to promote it in your stadium? Not a problem. Only 10% of your total social following will ever walk through your stadium anyways. To reach your full fanbase with this exciting promotion you can simply post the digital scratch-off on your various social media outlets for fans to play.

This opens the exciting experience up to ALL your fans and not just the select few that walk through your doors.

How they have the potential to increase sponsorship revenue if used correctly

Anytime you can grab fan attention, connect it to your sponsor, and steer them to purchase with your sponsor…it will be something that every one of your corporate sponsors will want to take advantage of and purchase.

When your sponsors come to you with goals of driving traffic to their store and building an audience, a digital scratch-off game is a perfect vessel to help them reach both.

Use opt in form template to capture audience

Traditionally, handing out coupons was the number one way to go to try and drive value. This meant having to print thousands of paper coupons that eventually ended up on the floor of your stadium.

The consequence of this is you have fewer sponsor coupons & offers coming through the door to drive value and revenue.

Having a digital scratch-off game changes all of that. Fans play on their phone and when they win the offer or coupon is sent directly to their email inbox for email redemption.

What this means for your sponsor are more redemptions and sales. In turn, the more value you bring them, the more they are willing to spend as they are seeing the return on investment walk through their doors.

In short, having a digital scratch-off game helps your sponsor reach their goal (more traffic to their store) efficiently. This is why sponsors love digital promotions.

How SQWAD can help sponsors use scratch off games to increase revenue

At SQWAD, we’ve mastered the digital scratch-off games experience to ensure that your team and sponsors reach their goals of driving foot traffic while creating a great connection with your fans.

3 phones with digital scratch off activations

Our digital game is fully customizable so you can brand it around your team and sponsor for a fully immersive experience. Easily add prizes and you can even set up unique coupon codes to make tracking a breeze. Customize your digital scratch card games online.

The best part, you can set up scratch card games in less than a day.

With our digital scratch-off game, we can help your sponsors get your fans from the stadium seats to their storefront with the scratch of a finger. Transfer audience engagement into loyal customers with popular games and personalized content.

Our digital scratch-off game has a 74% email open rate on the offers sent with 56% of them being redeemed in the store. This equates to new customers enjoying customer rewards from online scratch games.

Better yet, it can help your team & sponsor build their audience. Of the fans who play our basic scratch-off game, 63% of them will opt-in to receive more promotional information from the sponsor & team, allowing you to reach the fan long after the game ends.

We’ve helped dozens of sports teams reach this goal for their sponsors, sending out over 2.8 million sponsor offers last year alone.

That added value has helped our clients as much as 3X their sponsorship revenue with a client. This shows the huge value of virtual scratch off tickets. A win-win for everyone involved.

Online scratch games reap rewards

Gone are the days of paper coupons. They’re costly to print, are a hassle to house, and when it comes to the redemption rates you can pretty much throw them in the garbage.

By digitizing players’ experience you bring value and efficiency to the main goal of sending out offers, getting them to drive fans to your sponsor’s storefront (or website).

More than the efficiency, it brings new excitement to your fans. The thrill of winning a big prize will only bring your fans closer to your team and sponsor…creating a bond that will help drive relationships and purchases, like with the fan below.

scratch and win winner with tshirt

If you’re still handing out those pesky paper coupons & offers that end up littering the floor of your stadiums, take a look at how a digital scratch-off games (like we provide at SQWAD) can help you save money, enthrall fans, and drive more sponsorship revenue all at the same time.

Let SQWAD show you how your team can maximize your sponsorship revenue with our digital scratch-off activation.

Contact us for a free demo.


The Difference Between Sports Sponsorship and Advertising

his is a debate that comes up constantly if you are in the sports sponsorship industry. 

Sports teams will share how sponsorship is more than advertising. They will push the fanatical fans that the brand should want to get in front of and how the environment of their stadium on game day is unbeatable.

But I think there is a misunderstanding in how we think about each. We tend to separate them. 

We try our hardest in sponsorship to push away from being labeled as an “advertising platform”. Many times it is because we feel like we are competing with the others out there like Google or Facebook ads.

But in reality, both have the same goal. To help our partners reach their goals (usually to sell more products or earn more customers).

Today, I want to dive into both and show you how your team can take a different approach to close more deals with your brand sponsors.

To do that, let’s look at the superpowers of each platform.

Sports sponsorship, or partnerships, has a superpower of Goodwill.

As I mentioned before, the big advantage we have in sports is the excitement we create through our games and the loyalty it builds with fans.

There are some fanbases that have a following that rivals religions. The wins (and losses) affect most fans’ moods the next day. It affects the type of week we have as diehard fans.

This is taken all the way to the point of detriment to our society. A study showed that in Philadelphia judges gave out harsher sentences on the days after the local sports team loses. 

Could you imagine getting an extra 2 years on your sentence because the Eagles lost?

This fanaticism is our superpower. It is our unique selling point. When you compare it to other ways of reaching customers, it is what makes our assets so popular with brands.

As the CEO of IPG360 Matt Wiener so beautifully put it “The essence of a partnership is that you are able to borrow equity, awareness, or the power of a brand to attach to your brand”

This is what we are selling. The ability to put a partner’s brand next to ours and let them borrow some of that goodwill. That excitement. 

Many times, though, it can also be our downfall. If we live and die with the goodwill of the team, we can watch it fall as losing seasons come upon us. Sometimes in sponsorship, I think we rely too heavily on this goodwill. 

It also causes us to be lazy in our creativity of assets. Many times because we push the goodwill point so much, we actually end up selling signage to a local pizza joint that has a goal of driving traffic. 

That sign is not the best use of their advertising dollars, but we are good at convincing them that just the presence of that sign with our fans will help sell more pizzas.

And maybe it will, but most of the time we don’t back that with efficiency & ROI. 

We lean so heavily into the sales pitch of goodwill we have many times forgotten that the real goal of any partnership is to help them drive sales in the most efficient way possible.

This is where advertising has an edge on us.

Advertising puts a focus on efficiency

Advertising over the last 200 years really has focused on one thing; efficiency.

Think back to newspaper advertising. The ability to reach everyone in the community with your message on a Sunday morning.

Then, there were national newspapers. You as a brand could more efficiently reach millions of people across the country.

Then came the radio. No need to print something out, you could now actually talk to your audience. They couldn’t really gloss over it any longer…it was a part of the radio broadcast.

Then TV, we could visually show our products. More efficiently telling our product story in between our favorite movies & shows.

Last, the internet came. Through Google ads, we could reach a person as they were searching for a product. On social media, you could reach specific people based on their interests and actions.

What advertising has a leg up on sports sponsorship is efficiency. The majority of our most expensive assets are signage. Literally, a sign in our stadium is no more efficient than what you see on the side of the highway and ignore.

Signage is a massively inefficient form of advertising. We can’t track it. Our only hope is that the fan remembers the brand sign when they are at the supermarket and pick that product. We can maybe track that a few years later…but in today’s age of real-time analytics that won’t fly.

To make things worse, we litter our game day with these signs and inefficient messages. In fact, a study we did last year found that on average fans will see over 3,000 sponsor messages from the time they walk into the building to the time they walk out.

So even if that sign did grab their attention, it is competing with 3,000 other messages in the fan’s brain. The efficiency here is close to nothing.

When I used to sell sports sponsorships, this drove me absolutely crazy. I was being met with the objection that a sponsor could reach the same fans I was pushing with a $50,000 sign with just $5,000 in Facebook ad spending. 

To a point, they weren’t wrong. The argument back was they couldn’t use our IP. I’ll dive in more on this later, but what they were really asking for was an efficiency that rivaled the other options they had.

The winning hybrid: Influencers

I’ve written before on this, but influencers are where we want to be as a team. They have mastered goodwill and efficiency in advertising.

Yup, I said it. We should look to 15-year-olds on Tik Tok for inspiration.

If you look at influencers they have built up a lot of the same goodwill we have. Maybe not on the same scale we have…but they have built up a large following of people passionate about their lives or content in their audience.

The difference, they have figured out a way to efficiently prove ROI for brands that spend on them.

For example, many times they add an affiliate link into their posting about buying a product that they promote. Instantly brands can see the sales come in. At the very least they can track the traffic it drives to their store.

And as we talk about efficiency, think about the path to purchase compared to our signs. With an affiliate link, it’s one click right on the phones that they are viewing the content. 

With a sign, we are banking on the fan remembering a brand message sometimes days after they see it when they walk into the store.

There are many more ways for a fan to drop off before they buy with our signs. There is little chance with a link click that takes you right to the product’s page.

The value of this efficiency has never been clearer to me than when I created our Sponsorship Price Calculator and shared it with teams.

On the calculator, you can type in your social media following as a team and it will show you how much you should be charging per post. I’ve based the rate on what current influencers make per post on average (an average from micro-influencers to major ones).

Teams would see the number the calculator generated and hit me with the same response. “There is no way I can charge this much for a Facebook post. No brand would pay that much.”

This response startled me for one major reason. The calculator isn’t spitting out a number for what brands SHOULD be paying you…it shows what brands, on average, ARE paying influencers for the same following.

So why won’t brands pay this much to teams and they will for influencers? We have a history of being inefficient with our assets.

When a brand looks at $5,000 per Facebook post on your package, they think back to how efficient it could be and think back to how efficient the sign they bought last season was.

Those numbers were probably low…so they equate that efficiency with your Facebook post. You have set a low anchor that you won’t be able to dig out of.

Unless you can show some real efficiency numbers to counteract the results with your signs.

This is the moment that I realized we in sports sponsorship do not have the problem of living and dying by the value that goodwill brings. 

We have an efficiency problem.

No matter the goodwill we’ve built up, we’ve sold inefficient advertising products for so long that the stench of it was bleeding into the assets that actually would bring efficiency to the plate.

So, here is how we break through this.

Today, we must fuse the goodwill of sports sponsorship with the efficiency of advertising.

I mentioned above my struggle when I sold sports sponsorships. I was asked many times how the $50,000 sign would ever outperform a $5,000 Facebook ad targeted at my fans.

As I mentioned, my response always came back to IP. Without our team logo, you wouldn’t be able to reach that fan as well as we could.

This point was true, but the desired outcome was off. My desired outcome was to sell the $50,000 despite the objection. Sometimes I did…many times I couldn’t.

But what I missed, and what I think many of us miss in sports sponsorships, is I wasn’t listening to what my customer wanted.

Of course, they believed in the goodwill the team had. They wouldn’t have taken the call or met otherwise. What I failed to deliver was convincing them that my sports sponsorship package would help them reach their goals the most efficiently.

The sign was not the most efficient way to drive traffic to their store. Despite the big draw we had with our IP & logo, they still felt they had a better shot at reaching customers without it.

What they were really asking for was an option that melded the draw of our IP with the efficiency of Facebook ads.

The holy grail in sponsorship today is fusing the goodwill that our teams have built WITH the efficiency of modern-day advertising.

The conversation that I had almost 8 years ago trying to sell that package still goes on today in sponsorship.

We want to sell a rink board-based package for $250K, but we don’t have the rest of the story for how that asset will efficiently be better than them running social media ads.

The industry has failed on the efficiency side of sports sponsorship, but we can make a change now. We can restructure our assets to make sure it has both efficiency and goodwill.

But what about signs?

I’m not saying get rid of signs.

You can add them to your packages and they will bring value. I always think back to the Duke’s Mayo campaigns in college football. I had never heard of the mayo until I saw the bowl.

But, there has to be a large part of the package where you will prove that you can help reach a fan more efficiently than a social media or Google ad will. If you cannot prove this, you will see a lot of dollars walk out the door.

15-year-olds on Tik Tok have figured this out and are printing money with 1/10th of the resources we have as sports teams.

Our goodwill in this industry has allowed us to innovate slowly. We’ve used it as a crutch to delay the work it takes to stand toe to toe with social media ads and influencers.

At SQWAD, our activations have brought a lot of efficiency and ROI to sponsor packages. Activations like our Portillo’s 4Q Franks with the Chicago Bulls help send over 70,000 hot dog coupons a night to fans via email. 

The results from our activations prove this. Our digital activations have sent over 2.8M sponsor offers in the past year alone, with a 74% open rate on offer emails and an average 56% in-store redemption rate.

When you mix the above with a strong signage package, you are bringing the efficiency that the brand will see if they had taken the money and put it solely into Facebook ads. 

You are giving them a package that is ultimately better than any social media ad campaign they could run. This is because it fuses your team’s goodwill with efficiency.

Over the next decade, it will be the teams that dive fully into fusing their goodwill with an efficiency that will win. It is how the sponsorship industry goes from a $56Bn one to double that over that same time period.

I’m excited about where our industry can go once we do this.

Technology and The Future Of Stadium Advertising

digital advertising in an indoor stadium

Technology is the pinnacle of the advancement and growth of sports. From the first patents of a football to the invention of instant replay, we’ve seen technology catapult sports to be a frenzy of fan entertainment.

While most people focus on the technological developments of items on the field or court…some of the biggest developments in sports have come in the hallowed grounds we visit on game days. The home stadiums that we visit each game day to cheer on our favorite teams.

$64Bn is spent each year by brands to sponsor their local teams, most of these dollars are investments in reaching fans inside the stadium to try and capture some of the magic of gameday and channel it toward brand loyalty.

Today, I’m diving into the advancement of stadium advertisement and how technology has helped evolve it from stadium advertising boards into an immersive brand experience and captive audience.

What is stadium advertising?

Stadium advertising, simply put, is the action of investing in advertising assets at sports stadiums. I know, a pretty boring assessment. Think stairway ads, concourse signage, arena advertisements…all to use a venue to showcase branding in arenas.

Let’s dive deeper into the crux of why brands invest so much money into our stadiums. Sports have the innate ability to tap into our passions as humans. Much like religions, our favorite sports teams become a community that we cannot live without. We live by the wins, the moments, and the people involved in the history of the teams we choose.

The community that sports creates brings immense value to sponsorships associated with it. When they advertise their company or businesses at the event, they reach potential customers through repetitive advertising.

Teams become influencers to fans. If the proper community is created by the team there is the ability for the brand to piggyback off that trust to help drive sales from those consumers.

stadium advertising


The largest benefit of advertising inside stadiums is that you become a part of that gameday entertainment as a brand. The stadium is ground zero for fandom. It is where the games are played, the fans cheer, and we as fans build our fandom.

Many times as well, a stadium is at the heart of a community. It is downtown many times, centrally placed for easy access.

This from a geographic standpoint helps us target the fans we want to reach. If 30,000 – 100,000 football fans all make the weekly pilgrimage to a football stadium, we can reach a large, captivated audience all at once with a high amount of relevance in one day with a stadium ad.

So why buy stadium advertising at sporting events? Well, it’s an efficient & easy way to reach a target audience and build brand exposure. This is why businesses spend so much money each year on stadium advertising boards.

Brief history

Really to understand the future of stadium advertising, we have to look back at where sports stadium advertising began.

Early stadium advertising can be seen at parks like Ebbets Field in Brooklyn in the early 1900s. In 1930, a scoreboard was added to the stadium, which opened a new opportunity for the team to sell advertising in this space.

Even back then, companies understood how powerful that space was in the stadium to add their advertising. They knew fan eyeballs would gravitate there throughout the game driving awareness & connection with the brand.

As time went on, our scoreboards got larger and more digital. Videoboards replaced the static scoreboards to draw fan eyeballs to the space.

As the saying goes, brand dollars follow fan eyeballs. Where there were replays, stats, and information…that is where businesses wanted to invest their advertising dollars over the entire season.

Companies or industries that benefit the most from advertising in stadiums

Currently, there are 63,000+ brands across 32 industry verticals that spend money on in-stadium advertising. Professional and college football, basketball, and hockey games.

As I stated before the biggest benefit to in-stadium advertising comes with tapping into the community that the team has built. But really, it is about tapping into the trust that the team has built with their fans.

With this, the industries that benefit the most from in-stadium advertising are the ones that benefit the most from building trust. 

Now you could argue that ALL businesses benefit from building trust with their customers. And you would be correct. This is why over 63,000 brands invest their dollars into stadium advertising.

BUT, the labels that benefit the most are the ones that have longer sales cycles in their industry. These are the ones that don’t expect an instant sale, ones that either has a high price or high switching costs in their industry.

With the above, you would imagine that banks, healthcare, and car dealerships would be the top spenders in-stadium advertising.

And you would be correct, In the NFL those categories spend over $50 Million each to reach fans on game day and help build that trust.

So ALL brands benefit from investing in-stadium advertising, but the categories that benefit the most are ones that rely heavily on trust to get sales.

advertising in baseball stadium

How technology has changed arena advertising for sports fans

Technology has affected stadium advertising in the same way that technology has affected the advertising industry in general. It has shifted it to be more trackable, measurable, and interactive.

Gone are the days in advertising where “being seen” is enough. Today businesses are looking to invest in advertising outlets that drive participation. Ways that allow them to connect with fans in measurable & meaningful ways. Technology offers a great opportunity to broadcast a marketing message to audiences. There are many options and millions of dollars at play for advertisers.

As advertising technology has shifted, stadium advertising has been slow to tag along with it.

How SQWAD is using technology for stadium advertising

SQWAD is helping teams create more valuable stadium advertising assets through our engaging digital activations. We help brands drive participation with the fans to make sure they stand out on game day and are remembered long after the fan has left the stadium.

By replacing static scoreboard logos with promotions like scoreboard trivia, virtual races, and other advertising that pull in the crowd you can create stadium advertising assets that are more valuable than static signage.

For example, with our prediction activation, our clients have been able to grab fans’ attention while sending over 2.3 Million sponsor offers out to fans via email for easy redemption.

These offers lead directly to sales, with 74% of the email sent being opened by fans and 56% used in the sponsor’s store or online.

With this new technology captivating fans’ phones, you can bring exciting new inventory to your sponsors and a brand new experience to your game day.

At SQWAD, we have activations for every sponsor category, auto, banks, you name it. We can help your team drive more sponsorship revenue.

Final thoughts about stadium ads

When you break it all down, stadium advertising’s value focuses on the trust your team has built with your fans.

The advertising assets are just the vessel in which the brands you sell to are able to tap into the trust you have built. 

Technology, through assets like SQWAD, helps your team create a more efficient vessel. One that is more measurable and more engaging in its path to harness that trust and transfer a part of it to your brands.

In stadium advertising technology at its core is on a never-ending mission to create more efficiency in that transfer. The more efficient it is, the more valuable your stadium advertising assets become to brands.

Push for efficiency, you will win.

Reap Rewards With Effective Sports Fan Engagement 

fans engaging at a sports game

We as humans are hard-wired for engagement. We crave the ability to connect, feel, and vibe with others. It is how we become a part of a community.

The same applies to the sports fans that walk through our stadium doors each game. We can’t expect the action on the field, court, or ice to fulfill their need for connection. If we do, we live and die by those game results.

It is vital for each team to have an effective fan interaction strategy  within your organization. Different ways in which we can help fans connect together and feel like they are a part of the team. Fan engagement is the surefire way to not only build a fan, but make sure they come back each game, whether your team is having a winning or losing season.

Today, we’ll dive into how you can build fan engagement in sports and reap the rewards when you do. There are many new ways you can keep fans engaged for years to come. 

How Do You Increase Fan Engagement in Sports?

Before we get into the tactics of increasing fan engagement, I think it is important to understand the foundations first. If we can focus on these, we can begin to create a successful engagement strategy. This is an important factor in your club’s stadium experience and in connecting sports brands with real time user engagement.

Get your fans talking about their favorite sports organizations. There is no bigger tool for sports marketers than loyal fans. For many fans this goes beyond the sporting venue and sporting events and carries over into daily life and social media platforms.

fans engaging at a sports game

Engage Fans and Build Culture

When we think about our gameday culture, the first thing that comes to mind is authenticity. How can we morph our gameday into something that fits our city, fan, and sports culture? And really this is a focus on what makes us as a team unique?

There is a big tendency in sports clubs to ‘steal’ other teams’ engagement tactics. While they may work in the short term, you constantly need to think about “does this fit my team’s uniqueness?” It’s important for sports leagues to be aware of providing a unique fan experience. Fans’ thirst needs to be quenched.

I would urge you to have this discussion in line with a group of your most loyal fans. There have been cases where teams have tried to build new cultural identities without consulting the soul of the organization, the fans. It almost has never turned out well.

In order to build your team culture, you need to define what makes your fanbase unique. This is the first step toward redefining or building your fan engagement strategy. Before you think about tactics, you need to build & define your team culture on game day.

Capture New Sports Fans

Once you’ve identified your team’s uniqueness or culture, the next step is to think about your newer fans.

Did I throw you off here? You may be thinking about the loyal fans that come to games each and every time the team hits the field? 

First, based on building the culture above, hopefully  you have them bought in already and an active part of your plan. They don’t need to be educated on your team’s culture.

But fans who walk into your stadium for the first time are a blank page. Many times they enter and have no idea what to expect. This can cause them to feel out of place. Have you ever been to a party where everyone else knows a particular dance (like the wobble) and you don’t? Ya, it gets awkward. You want to be a part of the cool kids…you just don’t know how.

Now think about when that has happened and a friend helped you learn it. Now all of the sudden, you are a part of the group. You feel comfortable, but more importantly,  you now become in the know. You literally join the tribe. Next time you see someone confused, you can help them join.

Fan engagement is a kind of two-way relationship. Whether working with large fan bases or smaller fan bases, season ticket holders or different audiences, the significance of fan engagement results in transactional behavior fueled by fan loyalty.

When you build your fan engagement plan, the most important item comes with easily educating NEW fans on the culture you’ve built. Think about the key moments in your game when you can help fellow fans learn the culture and key tactics.

Answer the question “How will future fans react to this fan engagement tactic? Will they easily know what to do?”.

Sports Team Loyalty

We talk a lot about loyalty in sports, but many times it’s in terms of our current loyalty from fans. We piggyback off the loyalty our fans have had for decades.

But what about the next generation? How do we make sure that we are building team loyalty with them?

Sports fan engagement builds team loyalty. As I mentioned above, once you join that group, once you know that dance, you now have joined the group. You are a part of something.

The same goes with sports teams. The way you build loyalty is by engaging fans at the game consistently, giving them reasons to fall in love with the team and game-day atmosphere.

When you think about building your fan engagement strategy, your goal should be “how do we turn newer fans into loyal fans?” and “How do we have our current loyal fans help shape the culture and engagement so they won’t be put off by sports  fan engagement tactics?”.

What Is Digital Fan Engagement in Sports Marketing? 

Adding digital to your fan engagement tactics maximizes the results.

As with most things, digitizing your consumer marketing  helps you reach more fans while making it more efficient to connect. The next stage where fans interact  lives firmly in the digital version.

fans engaging on digital on mobile phones

And most fans want to engage digitally. Today everyone has a phone, which opens up multiple channels and opportunities to connect with your team and gameday.

Here are a few digital ways you can maximize your sports fan engagement with technology.


Team apps are a powerful tool to help your loyal fans stay connected with your team on game day & beyond. It can become the central control center where your team can push news, 

More importantly, though, you can help maximize the number of campaigns that engage fans by adding them to your apps. Many of the clients we work with at SQWAD put their activation  games like our Trivia or Scratch & Win in their app.

Why? It is the easiest way to connect with current loyal fans WHILE incentivizing newer fans to download the app and become a part of the team tribe. Apps are a great sports marketing platform to help reach your fans, new & old.

Social media

Your social media channels become a window into your team. They are a way for current fans to stay connected….but maybe more importantly a great way to communicate your fan engagement campaigns with fans.

The ability to reach a large number of fans with one post makes it a valuable channel to entice fans to connect with your team and give them a glimpse into why they should connect with and follow you.

Authenticity is key with your social media channels, but this allows you to reach your entire city with just a few posts if done correctly.


I love when your brand partners get involved with sports fan engagement campaigns for two reasons. First, many times it is a great way to finance your fan engagement campaign (think about the rally towels at playoffs, if you can place a logo on the towel you can cover the cost for that fan engagement campaign).

Second, it helps transfer some of the goodwill that the brand has built over to your team. Adding in sponsorship activation is the most efficient way to grab that affinity and piggyback off of it.

For example, if your fans love a brand like Dunkin’, and you launch a Dunkin’ Race campaign, the fans will connect with it more due to their affinity for Dunkin’.

Overall, it’s a win-win to add brand engagement to your consumer marketing…but be sure to make it feel authentic.


As with brands, influencers are a great way to help build authentic value with your fan engagement campaigns. You are using their goodwill and affinity to transfer over to the thing you want fans to connect with.

Influencers can come in the form of players, coaches, mascots, and even famous superfans. All of these people carry influence and by having a human face (unlike many brands) it is easier for fans to connect with.

Don’t forget influencers when building your campaign strategies.  Their unique platforms work great to increase the fan base through video content, live stream posting and social media platforms.

Digital contests

Digital contests are a perfect way to jumpstart your sports fan engagement strategy. Fans love to compete and more importantly win things.

When we see a digital contest, it instantly pulls us in as fans. It grabs our attention. It pulls at our want to compete and win.

They are also a great way to pull in your sponsors and add them to your fan engagement campaign. You can add in branding and sponsor coupons to create an authentic sync with your fans.

If you want a great way to jumpstart a fan engagement campaign, digital contests are a great way to start with this form of fan engagement technology.

Effective Sports Engagement Strategies 

We’ve gone over the foundations and digital channels that are best for your fan engagement campaigns. It’s time to start crafting ideas.

As you start to craft them, there are a few key strategies to help make sure they are successful with fans.

Make an emotional connection

Sometimes we get bogged down in the details of a strategy and focus on the tactics. Before you do, you need to ask yourself “is this campaign building a connection with fans?”

Connecting emotionally helps fans buy in. It helps them get attached. It helps them remember and look forward to the campaign each game.

For example, with the Dunkin’ Race launched through SQWAD at every Chicago Bulls game fans select the characters they think will win, Cuppy Coffee, Biggie Bagel, and Dashing Donut.

As fans choose the characters they begin to have favorites, ones they find themselves cheering for each game. They start to connect with the characters and outcomes. They are ecstatic when their favorite character crosses the finish line.

Not only do more fans participate, this connection with the campaign gets fans talking, and fans interact with each other ahead of each game. This connection becomes a staple with loyal fans.

When you build your fan engagement strategy, think about items that will help fans make an emotional connection with.

Get fans involved in the game

Getting fans involved in your game is key to capturing new fans and building loyalty. If you can connect them with the action with in game promotions…your fan engagement will return 2x.

A great example of this comes with tying a stat in the game to a reward. With the Chicago Bulls SQWAD launched a digitized version of their 4th Quarter Franks in game sports promotion.

If the opposing player misses two consecutive free throws at a home game, every fan that registers wins a free hot dog. The fan’s receive the offer in their email inbox instantly to redeem on the way home.

Now in the 4th quarter, a key moment in the game most of the time, fans are cheering even louder than before to throw the player at the line off. They are involved in the result by making it harder than ever for the opposing player to miss.

If you can get the fan involved, it will enhance your fan engagement campaign and pull them closer to your team.

Offer prizes

At SQWAD we run a lot of digital campaigns to boost fan engagement. We’ve found that no matter how engaging an activation is…prizing helps take fan engagement campaigns to the next level.

It doesn’t have to be a huge prize, while fans would love to win a signed jersey they are just as pleased to head home with a free hot dog.

Many people are motivated by rewards, offering prizes for your fan’s fan engagement efforts is a great way to reach more fans and boost the success of your campaigns.

Coupon codes

Piggybacking off the above, sponsor prizes are a great way to reward thousands of fans for engaging with your campaigns. Whether it’s a free hot dog or a percentage off their next purchase, sponsor prizes can help drive fan engagement.

With those sponsor prizes comes coupon codes. Most partners want to track how many were redeemed on a given night. Most of the time you want to track that as well so you can prove value for them partnering with you on the activation.

At SQWAD, our contests can take over 1 million unique sponsor coupon codes and easily send them to fans to redeem at the sponsor’s location.

With coupon codes comes the ability to measure results. Be sure to consider these when adding prizes to your campaign.

Create memories

Lasting memories is the ultimate goal with any fan engagement campaign. If we can cause fans to think back on a fan engagement campaign they’ve interacted with it will build loyalty and repeat interaction.

As you create your campaigns and strategies, what are some key ways that you can make the campaign last in the fan’s memory? What will cause them to go home from the game and remember the interaction the next day?

Creating memories is vital for a fan engagement strategy that will last for multiple seasons.


Fan engagement is vital for your sports team. Finding key moments outside of the action on the field to help fans connect more with your team is how you take a new fan to a loyal fan.

As you think through these moments be sure they are authentic, build culture, and are remembered by fans.

To drive more revenue for your team, add in your sponsors.

At SQWAD, we can help. Our suite of digital activations easily connects with your fans, are measurable, and help you close more sponsorship revenue. We’ve launched with over 49 sports teams and logged over 123,000 hours of fan engagement screen time.

Learn more about fan engagement and how SQWAD can help your sports organization by scheduling a demo.

So You’re In a Brand New Market…Here’s How to Kickstart Your Sponsorship Sales

Let’s face it…if you work in the sports industry you are bound to move a ton. Many of us have racked up the miles as we grow in the industry, especially in the sponsorship sales realm.

But in the sponsorship industry, which is heavily relationship-based, sometimes it can be tricky when you jump from one geographic market to another. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to get grounded in the business community of a new city.

How can we jumpstart our sponsorship sales as we land in a new area?

Well luckily for us, Rich Franklin just went through this process and has a game plan to share.

This week on The Inches podcast we’re diving into starting in a new market as a sponsorship salesperson and how you can hit the ground running.

You can listen to the full episode HERE, but as always I dive into a few key points below.

A quick background on Rich’s recent experience changing markets.

Rich, who I am lucky enough to host The Inches podcast with, recently made the shift from 10+ years in the Portland Oregon market working with the Winterhawks to taking a position at the newly formed Coachella Valley Firebirds in the AHL.

Trading clouds and rain for 80 degrees and sunny was one shift, but the other one was landing in a brand new city & environment. While he had spent time in the area on vacations, he was fairly new to the market.

Not only was he new to the market, but the team also didn’t even have a name at that point. They had just announced the arena and AHL team in the area.

Talk about starting from scratch.

In this process, Rich shared his key points below for how to dive into a new market.

Before you arrive, know the market

No matter where you land, demographics are the first key thing to understand as you dive into a new market. Luckily this is something that you can find out before you arrive in your new city.

What is the population? What are the demographics like age and gender?

What population are veterans? What is the median mortgage compared to the median household income?

These may seem like weird items to know…but it tells us a lot about which sponsorship messages fans in these communities might react best to.

It also arms you to understand how different your fan base is to the general population. With this information when you see the team report of fan demographics, you can see if say the median income is higher for your fans compared to the general population. This is valuable information before you dive into the market to have.

Where can you find this information? There are many different sources…but I love leaning on Uncle Sam here and using Census data. You can find this information at www.census.gov.

You can filter information for most cities, I love the Quick Facts sections they have to scroll through.

Overall, your first step in moving fast in a new market is getting a baseline for what the market and population look like. If you have this information before you step into the office for the first time, you have better context for the information the team has on hand.

Know your organization

The next step is to learn & know your organization. This seems like a no-brainer, but often we skimp on this step and want to get right into the action.

What are your fans like? What are some key “game culture” items? What inventory has worked in the past? What inventory has never worked?

This step needs to come with a bit of help from the staff that is currently working there. You can watch game videos all you want, but the best information comes from the people who have worked there the longest.

Hopefully, you have an onboarding meeting set aside for exactly this to ramp up your knowledge before you talk to a single sponsor, but if you don’t have this there is always the lunch model.

Find the employees that have been with the team the longest and offer to take them out to lunch. It’s a great way to 1. Connect with them & 2. dive into the ins & outs of the fan base.

Obviously, you’ll want to do this with the sponsorship staff, but don’t forget the ticketing & marketing staff. These two departments are two of the most fan-facing ones on the teams. They are having conversations with fans each day, which makes them great resources.

Once you get that done, you’ll want to understand the deals your team has done in the past.

Looking at inventory and deals your team has done in the past with sponsors is a great insight into what your sponsors see as most valuable and where there may be openings.

Has your team sold a ton of boothing and tabling at games? Diving into why local sponsors have loved that inventory can tell you a ton as you get started.

Have sponsors shied away from Facebook promotion or posts? If so, thinking into why this may be the case can give you a lot of information on the market OR insights on how you can boost this.

Getting an understanding of your fanbase and inventory from the people already on the ground is vital once you get to the new market. I would advise this honestly before you jump in with too many sponsors. 

Know the business climate

After getting a feel for the city demographics and team & fan culture, the last step comes with understanding the business climate of your new market.

What does this entail? Diving deep into the businesses that employ & sell in the city.

A few questions you will want to ask and find answers to:

  1. Who are the biggest employers in the city? (great for understanding to sell hospitality assets).
  2. What are the biggest industries in the city?
  3. Where are the hot spots in the city?
  4. Which companies are buying sports sponsorships?

If you can understand who the big players are and who are the “small” but powerful ones in the city you can really create a business strategy around that landscape.

For example here in Portland, Oregon we have the big five companies that employ most of the city; Nike, Columbia, Intel, Adidas, and Daimler. They are the big players in this market and should be big targets for your sponsorship sales.

BUT there are certain smaller businesses that hold arguably just as much cultural power in the city. There are bars, restaurants, and small businesses that on paper may look like it is not worth contacting, but a partnership with them can do wonders for your portfolio and reach in the city.

It is also vital to understand which businesses are spending on sponsorship in your city and which are not. This will help you shift your strategy and adapt to each. 

For example, someone who already spends in partnership with other events and teams in the area you… you don’t have to explain why sponsorship is valuable. They already know as they are spending there and those types of sponsorship sales should be easier.

You will however need to pitch why your team’s demographics and assets are worth them opening their sponsorship budget up for.

On the other end, if a brand in the city has never spent on sponsorship…you will need to spend a decent amount of time convincing them of the benefits of investing in sponsorship of a team as they have never done it before.

Understanding these elements can be the difference between a closed sale and a closed-door in sponsorship sales.

A great tool for this is SponsorUnited. On the platform, you can see on a per sponsor basis which teams and events they are sponsoring along with the exact assets they are purchasing. It is an outstanding tool to do research as you land in a new territory and look to jumpstart your sponsorship sales

Overall, make sure you take the time to understand the business climate of the city. The easiest way to do this is when you land, get out into downtown and meet people and businesses. You’ll get a good idea of who employs most of the city and most of the hot spots that should be on your radar (also a great way to meet new people personally!).

Last, what are the other big events & teams in your city?

In all of the above processes, you will probably start to see which events are the big ones in your city. Other than the other sports teams, there are bound to be events that are a big magnet for sponsorship money.

It is vital to understand where your assets fit and differentiate from these other competitors, especially if you are a smaller team.

As Rich and I have dove into before, sometimes a head-to-head battle with another competitor is the worst thing you can do. Touting your attendance compared to theirs can be a killer if your numbers are much lower.

A big example of this came with the success of the Toyota Trivia & the Portland Winterhawks. By understanding their needs as a sponsor, he was able to reframe and offer a great activation that fit their goals to get the sponsorship sale. This would have fallen flat had he gone head to head with the other teams in the area and had a package full of signage.

The key is always to frame the value of your assets to make the head-to-head comparison irrelevant. You want them to look at your assets as a new value, not comparing to others.

In order to understand how to frame this, you need to know the value and assets that the other events are pushing.

There are a couple of ways to do this:

  1. Talk to businesses in the community about the event or team. You can get a sense of their overall feeling about advertising with them. For example they might say something like “you get a lot of reach…but it is expensive.” This gives you vital information on how they frame the partnership.
  2. Go to the event. Yup…head there and see how brands are activating. You can really understand how attendees are engaging with the sponsorship inventory and see firsthand what the benefits are for the brand.
  3. Use SponsorUnited. Again can’t say enough about the platform. You can see all the assets that the team offers and which sponsors are buying them.

An example with Rich is when he headed to the Coachella Valley, the big two events are the music festivals with Coachella and Stage Coach.

Should he compete head to head with them in sponsorship sales? No.

That would be foolish as an AHL team. You won’t be able to beat the Buzz of Kanye West gracing the stage and people coming in from around the country and world.

But what those concerts don’t have is year-round reach. It’s one shot then you have to wait for next year. This is something his team and arena have over that event in selling. 

By understanding small items like this, you take the comparison away and create a new conversation. “I’m not trying to say don’t spend at Coachella, but if you want to reach residents year-round, you want to look at our assets. We are the best way to do that in town.

Again, this is not a recon mission to see how you can win head to head…it is one to understand their value and how to frame your assets so the competing options aren’t an option. They are making the purchase for a whole other reason.

Overall, have fun when looking at a new market.

It is a right of passage in sports to move to a completely different city with a new team. Most of us in the industry go through it. Sometimes it can be a scary voyage.

BUT, it can also be extremely rewarding and fun. New challenges, new opportunities, and a whole set of new relationships to build in a new city with your sponsorship sales.

Don’t just stay in the office when you get to the new city. Head out, meet people & fans, and get a good pulse of the culture. It will help you immensely when you get into your first pitches with sponsors.

Good luck!

Fans see over 3,000 sponsorship ads on game day. Here’s why that is a problem.

Close your eyes and think back to the last sports game you attended as a fan. What is the first thing you see?

Maybe it is the field/court/ice? Maybe the concession stand of your favorite food item? Or the players looking to win the game?

Now, how many times did a brand logo from a sign come into your memory?

As we all know, sports sponsorships are a pivotal pillar of revenue for sports teams. They literally pay for you to remember their brand from the game.

Well, we are seeing an overwhelming amount of sponsorship ads at sports games. It led me to start to think “How many ads do we get exposed to at a sporting event?”

Well, luckily at SQWAD we work with 49 sports teams and sponsors. We go to A LOT of sporting events. So we decided to run a small study.

The results…a fan is exposed to over 3,000 sponsorship ads every time they walk into our stadiums & arenas.

Today I’ll run through our methods, results, and the impacts it has on sponsorship.

We attended 45 sports games over the last 6 months to count the ads.

When we started this study we knew that we wanted a large array of games to visit. It had to be a mix of minor league and major league games to really get a good average.

So we headed to what would end up being 45 sports games over the last 5 months.

Here is a breakdown of the league games we attended:

NBA – 12

WHL – 10

NCAA Football – 3

NCAA Basketball – 3

NFL – 2

NHL – 7

MLS – 4

MLB – 3

USL – 1

Some of these were repeat games with the same team. For example, for NBA the 12 games were broken down across 3 NBA teams. We did this to ensure that we could take into account any variation that may happen game to game (more sponsorship promotion for a throwback game, etc.).

At each game, with a counter, we would count the number of ads we were exposed to throughout our journey in the stadium.

We had a process that we followed pretty religiously across all the games:

  • We would count the same ad twice if it came into our eye line. For example, if a replay caused me to look at the scoreboard, the scoreboard brands would be counted. Each time I looked back at the scoreboard they would be counted again as we were looking to the total number of ads as opposed to the unique ads. This obviously is the goal of a sponsor who puts their ad on the scoreboard, they are looking for maximum exposure as they know fans will look multiple times at the board throughout the game.
  • We also tried to emulate the journey as a fan as much as possible. Concourse ads were only counted through my normal walks to my seats, to the restroom, and for buying food. We tried very hard not to overthink your fan journey, but we came as close as possible to matching what we would normally do on game day.
  • One caveat, we did not count the number of ads exposed when on our phones. As I checked social media feeds throughout the game some branded sponsorship items popped up on the team accounts of the game we were attending. We wanted to really stick with the physical ads in the stadium as we went through the game.

The Results: on average, we see over 3,000 ads throughout the game at sporting events.

Ya, this number surprised me a bit when doing the final calculation at each game. How could it be this high? How could I have never noticed this onslaught of ads while I enjoyed the beautiful events of sports?

Well, we do. We averaged the results from all 45 games and we saw 3,007 sponsorship ads per game.

I will dive into the specifics of why this seems so high to us later. But first, let’s look at the breakdown of where most of the ads were placed.

To clarify what each category consisted of, here is a breakdown:

  1. Stadium Signage: the signs in the stadium that were not associated with the scoreboard reads or concourse signs. Think rink boards, dasher boards, scoreboard static signs, on-field signs, etc.
  2. Concourse signs: The promotions seen while walking through the concourse. These were ones seen while on the way to my seats, restroom, and for food.
  3. Scoreboard Promotion: The promotions seen on the actual scoreboard that were active. This would be your scoreboard reads, commercial videos played, etc.
  4. Participation Assets: The promotional activities that pulled the fan in to participate. Your halfcourt shot contests, Dunkin’ Race, etc.

I think it is important to understand where these ads came from so we can really understand where the overcrowding comes from. Sometimes we sell an asset as a line item but don’t realize how we are diversifying them on gameday.

As we can see in the breakdown, stadium signage was the number one ad exposure vessel at these games. On average 78% of the 3,000 ads we were exposed to came from the stadium signage.

You may think, how can this be so high!?! Surely there are not over 1,500 ads that come in the form of stadium signage. We would notice this and be overwhelmed.

I thought the same thing until I ran this study and saw the #1 & #2 culprits in this section.

The #1 was the rotating boards that litter our stadiums today.

For one pregame in our study, the team was rotating 3 sponsor promotions at 5-second intervals for over an hour on the tunnel LED boards. That rotation continued throughout the game.

The other culprit came with the rink and dasher boards during live play. As I watched the hockey game, my eye was exposed multiple times to the rink board ads while watching the back & forth of the players flying down the ice.

These ads made up the majority of the sponsorship promotion during the game. And it makes sense. 

During a sporting event, we spend the majority of the game in a place where we are watching the plays. This is where we are exposed to the majority of the stadium signage in the arena.

The other two segments of concourse and scoreboard promotions came at very specific times in the game. Concourse signs obviously came into play as I was walking through and navigating the stadium.

Scoreboard promotions came during breaks in the game normally with a quick scoreboard read. The same with participation assets, they were built into key moments during breaks in the game.

Overall, most of the assets that fans see when they visit a stadium are focused on just “being seen”. Most of them come with a brand logo put on a sign that rotates throughout the game.

This seems high because our brains block out most ads due to pattern-matching.

When I was done with the study I shared the with a fellow sports fan who is not in the sponsorship or sports industry to test the reaction.

Her initial reaction: disbelief.

While she admitted that there were a lot of ad promotions in stadiums, how could it be 3,007 per game on average?

Honestly, I thought the same thing at first. How could I have not noticed the overwhelming amounts of ad promotions being hurled at me on game day? How has this not become bothersome to my gameday experience?

As with most things in advertising, a big part of understanding why things happen the way they do comes back to human psychology and this is the result of our brain’s pattern matching.

Human brains are pattern-seeking machines. Most of the time we don’t notice it, but our brains are automatically seeking patterns in our world as we navigate through it.

It comes from our primal instincts to be able to quickly identify danger and safety.

Let’s take for example the trees that line your walk to work. You rarely are taken aback by a normal tree on your walk. If asked, you couldn’t describe, say, the 7th tree you saw in detail.

Why? It’s because our brains have pattern-matched a tree planted on a sidewalk to be safe.

This phenomenon is called anchoring. Patterns create expectations, which act as anchors. As we begin to see enough trees without risk, we begin to anchor a tree as safe.

Learning these patterns helps save us time and energy as humans…but it wreaks havoc on our efforts to advertise.

We do the same thing with ads. Our brains start to pattern-match the signage we see in the stadium as an advertisement.

Normally, we don’t like ads…so our brains literally start to book them as patterns of something we don’t care about to save time & energy.

This is why it seems so high. When we go to a game, we (or really our brain) ignore most of the stadium ads we see without us noticing.

Before I go any further, this is not just a problem in sports sponsorship. Humans see around 10,000 ads PER DAY. Most of these ads we as humans categorize as an ad and ignore.

Now, going back to the tree analogy… what if that tree is cracked and falling down?

This would instantly break the pattern-matching in our brains and forces us to focus on whether to identify it as a threat to us or not.

This snaps our pattern-seeking. It forces us to pay attention.

This is the same in sponsorship, our goal should be to create broken trees

Once we understand the above phenomenon of our brain’s pattern-matching effect on sponsorship ads, it starts to show us which ones will be the most effective and valuable to brands.

The sponsorship ads we remember after a game are the ones that break this pattern-seeking behavior of our brains.

Fans will remember the ads and activations that break the patterns of traditional sponsorship ads. No matter how many ads we see in the stadium or arena through signs & scoreboard reads, they will be anchored by our brains and ignored.

If we want fans to remember our sponsors, we have to think of ways that violate expectations and break these patterns.

For example, an engaging activation like our 4Q Franks we launched with the Chicago Bulls that helps turn 2 missed free throws into over 100,000 hot dog offers sent to fans. An active engagement that breaks the pattern-seeking behavior of our brains.

If the sponsor just threw up their logo, it would be pattern-matched.

We as fans remember the half-court shots. We remember the car races. We remember the campaigns that don’t look or feel like ads because ….well…they don’t look or feel like ads for our brains to pattern-match them.

What does this mean for sponsorship?

It means that brands are paying us to reach fans with signage that most of the time our fan’s brains will ignore.

We have littered our stadiums with assets that are being ignored.

This is why we are seeing brands looking for more engagement. This is why they are gravitating away from signs and toward assets that break that pattern. This is why you are hearing words like ‘engagement’ more & more in your sponsorship meetings with brands.

As brands realize this, they will look to invest in less signage and more assets that break the pattern. The dollars will start to shift there.

With this, we are entering an age of participation sponsorship. The team that offers these items that grab attention and break patterns will win more deals.

We at SQWAD build assets to help break that pattern-seeking with digital activations that fans engage and participate with. It helps the brand stand out so they can see more value and ROI on their ad spend.

We ran this study because we wanted to understand the extent of the sponsorship clutter and what levels the ads that we saw had the properties and utility of just “being seen”.

We wanted to understand how many would fall into those pattern-seeking asset classes (signs etc.) that lead to fans totally tuning them out.

Overall…it is high. We are overleveraged in our arenas with assets that fans will subconsciously ignore. When partners start to realize this…they will shift their dollars.

Honestly, some already have.

The next step is understanding and shaping what the age of participation sponsorship looks like. But that is for another article. Today is for understanding where we are currently.

Fans see over 3,000 sponsorship ads every time they walk into a stadium. This is the start of understanding the problem that will come to light over the next decade in sports sponsorship…and really all of advertising.

The teams that realize this and adjust their assets and ad products accordingly will win more business and drive more revenue.