How sponsorships can add to the fan experience

How sponsorships can add to the fan experience
by Lynda Carrier-Metz – December 2015

What is the first sponsorship question?

The first question we ask as we develop each partnership with a sports team is: How can our involvement benefit our customers? The second question quickly follows: Will this partnership ultimately drive sales for our company?

When I was in college (quite a while ago), the athletic director needed to ramp things up. He brought in camels to race during the half-time entertainment.  I don’t recall a sponsor. It was a desperate act to get fans in the stands.  It was high on the shock-level, but not very interactive.

That was then…

When we signed our first sports contract a couple of decades ago, stadiums had limited sponsor signage. Game time sponsor entertainment was sparse. Sponsors were less sophisticated about how to leverage opportunities with sports teams.

Fast forward to 2016: Schools push back on sports management companies. They say there are:

  1. Too many signs,
  2. Too many (2-3) promotions in each break, and
  3. Too many spectators numbed to the exposure overload.

How can a sponsorship add to the fan experience?

What can we do? How can we add to the fan experience–rather than add to the over-commercialization of sports? Both seller and sponsor are responsible for assuring they enhance the overall event.  Otherwise, everyone loses.  Fans stop paying attention. Sponsor messages don’t cut through the clutter. Contracts aren’t renewed.

This situation happened to us with a long term partnership. We nearly walked away from future sponsorship. The cost was high. We didn’t believe the impact was what we once had.  Both parties reviewed what we were doing. We saw what was working and what wasn’t.  After months of discussing solutions, we found new events fans would enjoy with ways to focus our media to cut through. How?

  1. Own the opening game segment. Own the beginning of the game, both on TV and in-stadium.  During our post season review we determined the in-stadium activation was a really fun promotion. The kid-fans experience was great. But, awareness was low.  The promotion ran prior to the game before many spectators were in the stands to see it.  Rather than ditching a good idea the kids enjoyed, we did the promotion and ran a recorded “recap” immediately prior to the game.  Fans now in their seats see kids having a great time. Our brand is associated with that fun fan experience that can only occur by attending the game.
  2. Activate post-game purchases by tying it to the results of the game.  While supporting their team, fans know if the team wins. When they do, they win a way to buy our product for less.  We increased views and received only favorable comments on Facebook throughout the football season. We used social media and traditional media to promote. The sales results are great. (We lucked out with a near perfect season. If the team isn’t expected to win many games, make the tie-in connected to points scored or some other favorable outcome.)

These kinds of approaches work because we connected the promotion with (a) a clearly identifiable event that happens every game and (b) an enjoyable consumer (re)action. As a sponsor, align your brand with the team to offer a better product by focusing on how to make the fan experience more enjoyable.


Cover photo courtesy of Dustin Holmes.

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