And we’re back…
Things are getting better as more people are vaccinated and restrictions are lifted. New seasons are starting with a full schedule and the latter half of 2021 looks promising. However, we are not back to “normal” yet. We are quickly moving from a virtual world to some form of a hybrid model. Most venues will be at 20 to 25% capacity with a few exceptions. There is pent up demand, but still hesitancy from others. For some of us it feels like our lives went from zero to a hundred overnight with our kids going back to school and youth sports returning. It’s almost as jarring as when things came to a screeching halt a year ago.
When it comes to sponsorship, what worked before may not work now. There will be a learning curve, experimentation, and adjustments needed. Sponsors and properties will be pushed more than ever. Creativity is essential. Last year was filled with makegoods and lost value. While some of this may still apply, the focus now should be on creative ways for sponsors to help be part of the recovery and fanfare.
Many properties are looking for ways to support families, local businesses, health care, and frontline workers. Your company may not be ready to entertain or host clients at games, but the tickets can be donated to local organizations as a thank you. Utilize your in-game feature to recognize a local hero from the community and share on social platforms. Offer incentives to patronize local business like receiving free tickets or a premium item when you purchase XYX or wear your (fill in team name) gear and receive a discount. Krispy Kreme recently announced a national campaign where customers will receive a free donut with proof of a vaccination for the rest of this year. Replace the donut with something team related.
As venues move to entirely mobile with contactless payment, ticketing, food ordering, etc., look for ways to integrate within the team app. Utilize these apps to deliver special offers to drive retail traffic or virtual sales. Look at trigger promotions tied to an event to unlock an offer like when the home team scores a goal, fans receive an offer within the app. This could occur via social as well for fans not in attendance.
Collaborating on compelling content is more important than ever. Depending on the sponsor, there is a good chance they will need to lean on the property to provide this service to help deliver value. Teams need to act more like marketing agencies with in-house creative directors, producers and account management. Some are already doing this like the Philadelphia Flyers in-house production shop named ‘On the Fly Production’. This is not just set up for internal support, but there to assist sponsors who are seeking non-traditional assets beyond hospitality and signage. Helping with production, execution and most importantly measurement will be key to partners’ success.
This is also a great time to really lean into community programs with partners. See if your company’s internal initiatives line up with your property partners and vice versa. Whether it’s diversity and inclusion, food insecurity, LGBTQ rights, gender equality, etc., there are so many impactful ways to support the community with sponsorships. T-Mobile’s Little League Call Up Grant program is a perfect example where league registration fees are covered for families in need. This past year we have seen stadiums and arenas throughout the country serve first as COVID testing sites, then shift to polling places for the November election, and now vaccination sites. Sports organizations have helped weather this storm in so many ways and there is no reason sponsors can’t be part of this comeback story.