Media content

Why sports organizations should embrace branded content on social media –


Today’s guest columnist is Aidan O’Connor, vice president of strategic communications firm Prosek Partners.

The whirlwind-turned-rift romance between Elon Musk and Twitter has been one of the most sensational storylines of the summer, with no clear end in sight. This volatile relationship, combined with market pressure on tech stocks as a whole, has propelled social media valuation and mDAUs (monetizable daily active users) into mainstream debate.

At the same time, 40-year highs in inflation are draining brands’ resources for advertising and marketing efforts. A fifth of CMOs have already cut their budgets, which have fallen by an average of 16% year over year (by advertiser perception). Declining consumer purchasing power and rising raw material costs are also pushing consumers towards social media in favor of more expensive business alternatives.

This confluence of events marks an opportune moment to explain why sports organizations must urgently address their underutilized “digital inventory” or risk wasting potential sponsorship revenue as macroeconomic headwinds continue.

Branded social media content (i.e. content from a publisher that features a sponsor in exchange for funding) is a more profitable and heavily undervalued marketing channel for the sports economy , compared to less nimble traditional alternatives such as signage, shirt placement, TV commercials and in-stadium media. There is also major intrinsic value attached to branded sports content offered by teams, athletes, leagues or federations, which on average receives 2,500% more engagement than standard social media advertising.

To highlight the opportunity at stake, let’s take the example of the top six European football leagues. According to a recent Horizm study, “brand-enabled posts” posted by teams in these leagues accounted for less than 5% of all social media content. If these entities activated just 5% more, it would generate “billions of additional impressions…and over €75 million ($76.3 million) of additional activated value.” Another Talkwalker study found that only 9% of Facebook posts by sports properties were sponsored.

While there is a significant opportunity for prominent sports participants to bolster revenue streams through this knowledge, the monetization of digital real estate is also a logical pivot for fledgling sports organizations with fragmented global audiences (Major League Rugby), rich storytelling potential (Professional Fighters League) or a lack of stable revenue from lucrative media rights deals (any professional esports league). This strategy also caters to the next generation of sports fans in their chosen field: 84% of Gen Z consumers have purchased products in direct response to branded social media content (according to Oracle and CRM Essentials).

To be clear, the approach is more nuanced than buying display advertising space. Branded content elicits an emotional response, which in turn increases brand perception and purchase intent. A study by Turner Ignite and Realeyes found that viewers of branded content are 62% more likely to react positively than those who watch 30-second ads, while over 66% consider branded content to be more influential when viewed. they make a relevant purchase decision.

A successful example is in the fiercely contested arena of sports gambling and betting, where huge marketing budgets rushed to capture market share after the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. FanDuel has become an exclusive category sponsor for NFL punter-turned-artist Pat McAfee, with collaborations ranging from McAfee’s daily YouTube show to promo code offers, merchandise, a live event tour and viewing parties tied to major sporting events like the NFL Draft.

FanDuel-McAfee’s success can be attributed to the fact that both parties share similar values, including an affinity for mixing live ratings with industry commentary that generates nearly 10 million visitors each month. Focusing on branded content also expands FanDuel’s presence with the online audience of celebrities and professional athletes who regularly appear on McAfee’s show. This winning formula culminated in a renewed and expanded partnership of $120 million over four years in December 2021.

The impact of branded content can also be seen in more experimental adjoining areas. Opendorse projects spent more than $900 million by brands in NIL’s first year in college sports. In the same window, sports organizations such as the NBA and the Big3 have shown a unique ability to attach real value to the NFT phenomenon, with utility ranging from content ownership and club perks to exclusive discounts and never-before-seen experiences. . While sobering economic forecasts and declining purchasing power may hamper the growth of NIL transactions and NFT use cases, sports organizations can derive valuable insights from these areas and apply them to the less risky realm. digital brand partnerships.

For those looking to capitalize, there are several achievable next steps.

1. Sports organizations should create a dedicated narrative, a North Star, for how they approach brand partnerships on social media: to maintain integrity, relevance to the organization’s core values ​​and alignment when activating campaign-specific short-term commitments.

2. Contracts between athletes and teams/organizations should include language that allows for overlap of branded content between their social media channels. Athletes are an extension of the organization with which they are contracted. They are usually influencers in their own right. If, for example, they can wisely incorporate brands into behind-the-scenes footage on matchdays, there is substantial mutual benefit for all.

3. Sports organizations need to establish strong, real-time coordination channels between communications, content, marketing and social media teams. Breaking news (draws, player swaps), timely assets (starting lists, final score) and interactive content (goal of the month or player of the match polls), are all fertile opportunities for agile operators.

4. Finally, sports organizations should explore third-party platforms that are coming to market that specialize in digital inventory management. This infrastructure provides a central resource for selecting and evaluating sponsors, purchasing digital inventory, and targeting different audiences. These vendors also offer more advanced brand conversion metrics to validate engagement, as well as predicted sales benchmarks for brand partners looking to compare different sports properties.

It’s tempting to stick to what you know in times of uncertainty. But current events, inside and outside the industry, reinforce the reason why hesitant sports properties and partners need to drop reservations and invest in compelling branded content offerings.

In addition to his position with Prosekwhere he works with private equity, enterprise technology, media and sports economics clients, O’Connor is also a strategic advisor to Area7, an AI-based injury prevention platform. You can find him on Twitter @AidanOConnor.

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