Sports and the Value of Digital Sponsorship: More Than an Add-on


When you offer ad packages to potential sports brand partners, where does digital advertising fit in? Is it at the top of the list? Or is it a footnote on page five?

Most sports brands offer promotional partnerships and ad packages that have digital marketing components such as social media mentions, digital advertising space, and the like. These are typically considered to be just “sweeteners” appended to a traditional ad package and are rarely given the spotlight. But even selling online advertising that prioritizes digital and social tends not to be as popular as plain-jane billboards.

However, recent market trends — the rise of social, online viewing habits, and the like — show that digital marketing is quickly becoming the first thing people bring up when discussing cross-promotion ideas.

Smart sports brands are now offering advertisers the opportunity to capitalize on the strength of their brand and leverage the power of digital marketing at the same time.

The challenge is now proving that digital value to advertisers in the first place. Despite the clear benefits of digital marketing for the entertainment industry, many advertising partners still don’t fully appreciate what it can do for them. You now have to demonstrate the value of your digital brand and its appeal as an advertising platform.

Fortunately, this just so happens to be one of the many areas where digital marketing shines.

Advertising’s digital component

There are many opportunities for advertising partners to cooperate with sports brands on the digital space. You have methods similar to traditional advertising, such as including partner logos on highlight reels and ad banners on the team website. Then you have the social component, where partner brands are given attention on social media such as Twitter and Instagram. And lastly you have special cases, such as sponsoring online-exclusive fan events.

Each method has their own characteristics that make them suitable for one partner brand or another, but all take advantage of the digital medium’s unique strengths.

The value of digital advertising

Digital marketing holds several distinct advantages over traditional mediums like print and television advertising. Sports marketers should always make sure that advertisers fully understand these advantages when deciding which ad package to sign up for.

Thanks to the nature of the medium, advertising partners can get visibility into how their sponsored posts, banner ads, and logo placements will be received. Solutions like TrackMaven, which record and analyze every interaction a given piece of content receives across multiple digital channels, ensure sports brands have no trouble proving the success of an online brand awareness campaign—or in determining whether a sports brand is fit to offer advertising in the first place.


Digital advertising can reach a far greater number of people than traditional advertising because it’s not limited to a physical location. Even ostensibly static digital ads, such as website banner ads, can still be viewed by audiences from the other side of the world with practically no effort. Contrast this with stadium advertising, which can only be viewed by arena goers and maybe television audiences if the camera happens to pan in the ad’s direction.

Even network television ads are primarily limited to people watching the game at that time from a particular geographic location. The only way the television ad would be seen by more people is if the ad were either shown on cable or being streamed online—assuming the feed did not cut out the actual ad in the first place.

And then you have social media. This, by far, is one of the methods for partner brands to reach as many people as possible for relatively little investment.

Sponsored social media posts can expand far beyond the original audience courtesy of shares, retweets, and forwards. In addition, these posts can be cross-promoted between different brands or even social media channels. For instance, the same sponsored message can be posted across the team Instagram page, the arena Facebook page, and a player’s Twitter account. Each of those accounts will have their own audiences, with their own networks.

Sports brands can communicate this value to advertisers by sharing metrics on their current follower count and the number of impressions the brand receives, both on a per-post basis and overall. If desired, in-depth analytics tools can provide extra insight such as sub-categorizing the data and showing growth over time. Such sponsored content can also be tagged to make it easier for potential ad partners to see how other partners are benefiting from the relationship.


Let’s say you bought a ten by three-foot space on a courtside banner display. It’s big, it’s flashy, and it costs a lot of money. But what are audiences supposed to do with it? They glimpse it, and it’s out of mind until the next time the ad cycles. It’s passive.

Digital and social media marketing, on the other hand, allow the viewer to take an active role in the advertising process. Even one of the most passive forms of digital advertising—the website banner ad—invites users to click through to a landing page and engage a partner brand further.

But social is where audience engagement can truly be felt. If the sponsored social media post is executed properly (more on that later) partners will be able to engage team audiences in conversation. Such interactions unlock greater opportunities for the brand to develop a much more meaningful relationship with the viewer than traditional broadcast-style advertising can provide. Sports brands are great at engaging people thanks to the loyalty and enthusiasm that fans bring to the table.

These interactions can be measured and tracked with the right tools, and can be shown to potential sponsors as a means of encouraging them to purchase an ad package.

There are different ways of measuring engagement depending on the social media channel in question and how granular you want to get. Twitter, for instance, has likes, retweets and replies, while Facebook has comments, shares, and the new emote responses. But you can always take a step back and give advertisers an overview of your engagement levels across channels, just to keep thing simple.

Taking the right approach

When you offer ad packages and sponsorship opportunities, you need to set realistic expectations as to the kind of results partners can expect to get, and the best practices that net sponsors the best results.

Your ad partner may want you to post about their summer sale, or Tweet pre-approved ad copy, but that’s not going to work on social media. Social media followers are a jaded bunch, and wary of any post they consider to be overly sales-y.

The brand should retain creative control and carefully craft each sponsored post to be subtle and understated. This has the highest chance of success in connecting with social media audiences. You know what’s good and effective, so you should be the one to keep the reins.

Engagement rules should be decided in advance as well. As people respond to the sponsored post, how should the brand and the ad partner behave? Does the ad partner jump in and hijack the audience? Or should the brand maintain consistent and gently nudge audiences in the advertiser’s direction?

In conclusion

Digital marketing and social media has a lot to offer potential advertisers; they just have to start seeing the value in it. Share benchmark performance metrics such as engagement and impressions, and communicate the benefits of advertising on digital channels. If your numbers are high enough, then advertisers will be beating down your door for an opportunity to partner with you and your team.

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