Companies large and small spent more than $20 billion on sponsorships in 2014 in the U.S. alone, with global figures surpassing $55 billion. The majority of sponsorships come from sports, where athletes team up with brands to turn an athlete’s followers onto the brand and expand visibility. Other sponsorship categories include: high-end electronics, television brands, entertainment, arts, social causes, festivals and international events.
Establishing a sponsorship is only the first step though. You need to know how to leverage that sponsorship and market it to get a boost in visibility online as well as through traditional marketing channels.
Here are five ways to leverage sponsorships to drive your brand’s visibility.
1. Social account takeovers and shout-outs.
One way brands leverage sponsorships is by initiating takeovers of their social accounts by the influencers they partner with. The influencer gains access to the sponsor’s social account and encourages their followers to check out the brand through a series of shout-outs so they can witness what gets shared during the takeover.
Johnnie Walker has positioned their brand to be all about experiencing life as it happens. They often partner with influencers on Instagram to build reach and share content that supports their message. Their influencers have traveled around the world, snapping and sharing photos that tell stories and speak to the heritage of the company.
2. Branded content on Facebook.
Branded content on Facebook has made it easier for influencers and brands to come together and mutually benefit from heightened visibility. Influencers can share and promote content related to the interests of their audience and tag the sponsored brand in that post. The post displays the name of the influencer followed by “with” and the name of the brand.
Through this tagging method, content gets seen by followers of both parties. When those posts are promoted to a targeted audience using Facebook’s Ad platform, which reach grows exponentially with a chance at much higher engagement, given the brand and influencer affiliation.
3. Getting the audience right.
In order for corporate sponsorships to be effective, the audience needs to match on both sides of the arrangement. A great example of this is Under Armour's recent sponsorship of Michael Phelps.
Phelps underwent rigorous training for the Olympics, and there are a lot of athletes who aspire to train like him, practice his routines, and use the products he enjoys. That includes activewear and sports apparel from Under Armour.
What wouldn’t be ideal? Michael Phelps promoting a furniture brand. The audience segments don’t really mesh well, and the reach of any campaigns would be hindered as a result.
4. Sponsored brand storytelling.
Stories connect us on personal and emotional levels. A good story mesmerizes an audience on a subconscious level and triggers emotions that grab our attention and even inspires us to take action. A lot of brands leverage storytelling with their sponsorships, but few do it as well as Nike or P&G.
The “Thank You, Mom” campaigns, produced by P&G around their sponsorship of the Olympics, have attained the highest number of social shares out of any content involving the Olympics. The profound emotional aspects of their ads led to that tremendous volume of shares, putting their Olympics sponsorship in front of millions of consumers.
Find a way to tell a compelling story, and your followers will proceed to retell that story again and again.
5. Event sponsorship.
Companies are always looking to improve how their audience perceives them. Another way you can leverage corporate sponsorship is through event promotions. Whether it’s a consumer event or a promotion of non-profit events, sponsoring events can shape the buying attitudes of your audience, and generate positive word-of-mouth recommendations.
Red Bull often sponsors events and teams, specifically choosing events that put them in front of their target audience to effectively expand their reach. In one case, they partnered with an influencer - Felix Baumgartner -- and sponsored his daring jump from the edge of the stratosphere. The Red Bull Stratos Jump, from the edge of space, was broadcasted in 50 countries and racked up 52 million views.
Another example is Hisense and their sponsorship of the UEFA Euro 2016 international soccer tournament.
If you can’t find any relevant corporate sponsorship opportunities for existing events - not necessarily as large as the Olympics or UEFA Euro -- you could always try to create your own. That approach created out-of-this-world results for Red Bull’s marketing department.
Companies are getting more competitive in both traditional and digital channels when it comes to promoting corporate sponsorships. Arranging these sponsorships can boost your brand’s visibility, but you’ll need to find new and creative ways to capture the attention of your audience in order to maximize your returns on this investment.