Brands finding fans: Using social to engage with passionate supporters

Brands finding fans: Using social to engage with passionate supporters
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While sponsorships are built on mutual partnerships, we know that there’s always a hard battle between the corporate sponsorship manager and sports team as they try to find the right balance creating value for the team and corporate sponsor. And rightly so.  Australia’s sports sponsorship industry is pegged at $774 million according to a Sponsorship Today report.  It’s a highly lucrative market and when done well, provides marketers with a platform to not only attract ‘eye balls’ but tap into the rich and emotional relationships teams have with their loyal fans.

Nowhere is this more evident than on social media.  From live Twitter feeds to Facebook pages, there are an increasing number of ways marketers can fuel the passions of loyal sports fans.  To make their sponsorship dollars go further, marketers are tapping existing communities of sports fans to build relationships with far-flung fans. 

Of course, social media marketing is not a new concept in corporate sponsorships.  What is often undervalued however, are the valuable insights that can be drawn from social media conversations.   More than just monitoring the amount of Likes, Followers or Re-Tweets a brand might have on social media, marketers can tap into social media to extract valuable nuggets of information about their fans and their experiences with a brand – the good and the bad.

Similarly corporates can use social media strategies to measure the effectiveness of their sponsorship. I recently had a discussion with the naming rights sponsor of a large Australian sporting venue. I was surprised at how few metrics they collected to determine the effectiveness of their brand sponsorship. When we showed them the number of photos and social media posts that included their logo they were genuinely stunned by the social reach generated from the photos taken by fans on premises.

We know that people are willing to talk more honestly and openly about their experiences with a brand on social media, more so than any feedback they would give directly to brand in questions or even to their mate next to them.  Plus, fans are turning to social media even when they’re at a game to capture the moment, gain direct access to teams and enhance the overall experience.  Corporate sponsors and sporting organisations that have tools in place to actively listen and learn from these social media conversations stand to gain fundamental insights which can help both parties adjust and improve their service. 

Listening to social media conversations in real-time also ensures marketers can better mitigate risks and immediately deal with customer complaints.  For example, as marketers naturally try to outdo each other in an attempt to create the most creative and eye-catching campaign, social media can act as tough, yet crucial reality check.  A quick scan on social media will easily tell a marketer whether the campaign has hit its mark or has got fans rolling their eyes.

On a more basic level, real-time listening can also help brands quickly identify and react to any consumer pain points such as a clogged up bathroom or an unruly queue.  While these things may seem like the least of a marketer’s worries, it can really dampen a consumer’s experience and swiftly turn a magical event into a frustrating experience. 

We know that the key to building a successful sponsorship is matching the right brand with the right people who want to buy its goods or services, and sponsorship managers are always looking for ways to extend this audience.  Social media listening is an effective way for brands to not only identify influential fans, but engage with the people following these fans on social media as well. According to a Beevolve[1] study, the average Twitter user has 200 followers.  Even if we presume that some of these followers use Twitter infrequently, marketers can easily extend their audience by identifying and engaging with fans who carry a large social media following.  In my discussions with some of the top brands across the country, we’ve surprisingly found that the most influential social media users are not always the A-list celebrities.   They are everyday, ordinary people who can easily go unnoticed if marketers don’t have the proper social media tools in place to identify and engage with them.

Finally, actively listening to fans allows marketers to create compelling campaigns which capitalise on the hot trends and issues fans are currently talking about. There’s no better example of real-time marketing than Oreo’s timely tweet which capitalised on a blackout at America’s most televised sporting event, the Super Bowl.  When the lights went out at the stadium, Oreo had a well-oiled social media team in place to create one simple, smart tweet which was shared by fans more than 10,000 times over within the first hour.

But even without the backing of a multimillion dollar budget and a team of social media gurus, there are still many opportunities for marketers to create savvy campaigns which take advantage of trending topics.  At the end of the day, sporting events and social media go hand in hand; sports provide live thrills and social media lets fans share these moments to the world as it happens.  Smart marketers are making their sponsorship programs go further by utilising social media listening tools which enable them to create a healthy marriage between the two. 

Jonathan Barouch, Founder of Local Measure

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