How Sports Teams are Leveraging Social Media for Sponsorship Activation

Brand sponsorship in sports has long been a billion dollar industry. Experimental marketing and TVC ads have been traditional avenues to activate these sponsorships — with social media treated typically more of a ‘throw-in’ element to a sponsorship program. 


Fast-forward to today, and it’s become pretty clear that social media can no longer be an afterthought in sponsorship activation strategies. In fact, it often takes center stage. It’s easy to understand why when you consider the prolific use of social by today’s general population. And for fans, social media has become a crucial puzzle piece to their overall sports team experience. It’s often their first port-of-call for team news, real-time match commentary, and a place to de-brief after a game with the online fan community. With so much time spent online, social media makes for the perfect place for brands to unlock their sponsorships and engage fans via creative campaigns.


The benefits of using social media for sponsorship activation

For sports teams, there are many ways they can demonstrate social media ROI to sponsors. Below, we will discuss just some of the benefits.


  • Generate leads: The main objective of every sponsor is to find more customers. There are so many great opportunities to do this through social media through tactics such as contests and pushing traffic to their website.

  • Drive direct sales: On top of generating leads, social media also allows brands to drive direct sales through special offers, coupons, and branded ticket packages.

  • Increase brand awareness: We’ve come a long way from simply slapping a logo on something and calling it brand awareness. Through creative campaigns and branded social media content, brands can drive awareness around what they do in an engaging and natural way.

  • Activate fans: Social media provides no shortage of opportunities when it comes to getting the fans involved. User-generated content (UGC) contests and campaigns are an example of this. Here, fans are encouraged to create and share guided content on their own channels for a chance to be featured.

  • Activate athletes: We know how successful influencer marketing can be. A popular sponsorship activation tactic is to leverage the team’s most powerful influencers — the athletes. This provides so much value to sponsors, enabling them to reach a whole lot of engaged fans.


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Winning examples of sports sponsorship activation on social 

So now we’ve discussed some of the ways brands can get great ROI from their sponsorship of sports teams via social media, let’s take a look at some real-world examples that really knock it out of the park!

Budweiser and Messi's 644 toast to the goalkeepers’ campaign

At the halfway point of Lionel Messi's final season at Barcelona, 160 goalkeepers were sent a combined total of 644 Budweiser beer bottles. Why? Well, Messi was on the verge of breaking a 46-year-old record of scoring 643 goals for a single club. To celebrate, Budweiser wanted to promote its association with Messi by sending personalized bottles of beer to every goalkeeper that the legendary Argentine forward had scored against up until that point. Many of the goalkeepers who received a bottle then went on to post a message on social media, garnering huge numbers in terms of engagement.

"In this game, no goal is easy"

Which is why we’ve created a custom bottle for all 644 goals Leo Messi scored. Yes, that’s 644 unique bottles.

Sent to all 160 goalkeepers Messi scored against to toast their part in making history.#BeAKing #Messi #KingOfBeers #KingOfFootball— Budweiser Football (@budfootball) December 23, 2020


Arsenal Supporting Supporters: The Chip Inn

While the brand in question was not strictly a sponsor of the club, this next campaign was heavily inspired by player-business partnerships. Post-pandemic, Arsenal Football Club wanted a way to support local businesses and community organizations. To do this, their paired local businesses with members of Arsenal men’s and women’s teams to help raise awareness of their services and drive footfall both during and outside of matchdays. This particular segment of the campaign focuses on The Chip Inn, a local fish and chip takeaway and long-standing favorite with the fans. The humorous viral video features Arsenal goalkeeper, Aaron Ramsdale, alongside club legend, David Seaman. The video is a parody of a common chant soccer fans shout in an attempt to unsettle goalkeepers. When keepers are preparing to take a goal kick, fans in England can often be heard building up with oohs before screaming: "You're sh*t, aah!"

🍽 Chip Inn Fish Bar

🐟 Home to the finest catches, on the other side of Holloway Rd.

🧤 Isn't that right, @AaronRamsdale98?#ArsenalSupportingSupporters— Arsenal (@Arsenal) February 22, 2022

Google Pixel’s NBA campaign

Google Pixel, the official fan phone of the NBA, recently launched an energetic social campaign to promote the phone’s features and show how they can enhance the enjoyment of the sport. Basketball-themed short "Okay, I See You" depicts a secret backcourt pick-up game that develops throughout the day into an epic duel of champions in front of a roaring crowd. The short film features league partners and “Team Pixel” athletes Jalen Green, Joel Embed, and Giannis Antetokounmpo along with WNBA stars Kelsey Plum and Candace Parker alongside many other famous faces from the NBA scene.The brand is truly making the most of its partnership with the NBA, launched a campaign to engage fans on social media, and “deepen its connections to culture”. 

The craziest game of pick-up doesn’t exis… 🤩🤩🤩 See who pulled up to the run and get ready for @NBA #KiaTipOff22! #TeamPixel #Pixel7

— Google Pixel (@GooglePixel_US) October 19, 2022

Glossier x WNBA

During the 2020 global pandemic, going out and shooting content with sports teams was a no-go. But beauty brand, Glossier, and the WNBA came up with a great way to overcome this problem when it came to activating their brand partnership. After releasing new products in their Body Hero line, Glossier wanted to get the personal narratives of ‘unique body heroes’ ranging from nurses to students. This also included eight of WNBA’s most empowering and championing women. While living in their bubble, the athletes, including Sue Bird and Stefanie Dolson, self-shot their own content where they shared their personal routines and perspectives on beauty. At a period when the population probably felt more disconnected from athletes than ever before, this campaign gave both consumers and fans a way to take a behind-the-scenes look into the world of these individuals while spreading an inspiring body-positive message.


Super Bowl: Groupon’s Party Like a Player Campaign

The world’s biggest sporting event always has plenty to offer when it comes to unreal examples of marketing campaigns. One example from this year’s NFL Super Bowl event comes from the experience-selling company, Groupon. Wanting to provide fans with a “baller-like celebration”, it launched the #PartyLikeaPlayer social media campaign. The brand teamed up with Rob ‘Gronk’ Gronkowski, a famous NFL player, offering fans the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime party at his mansion with 15 of their friends. All fans had to do was download the Groupon App and enter for a chance to win. For Groupon, this resulted in a whole heap of juicy app downloads — a great ROI!

So, I’m not in the Big Game… but you guys deserve to have some fun watching it. That’s why I’m letting @Groupon throw a Game Day party at my house. I know I know, I’m a trusting guy. Download the Groupon app to enter for a chance to win! #PartyLikeaPlayer #ad

— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) January 25, 2022Looking at the successes of these campaigns, it’s safe to say social media is no longer an afterthought of sponsorship activation in sports. From branded storytelling with athletes to super fun competitions, so many brands are unlocking the power of social to amplify their sponsorship of teams.


Sponsorship Activation with Slate

Creating sponsored content has never been easier with Slate’s powerful content creation tool — and that’s why so many sports social media professionals lean on us for all their social media marketing needs. The Slate app allows for social media content to be sponsored in new and exciting ways. Slate increases the ability to sponsor your most engaging real-time content and opens up a whole new menu of sponsorable assets. Ready to unlock a world of sponsorship opportunities? Book a demo today.

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