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Tom cruise yelling show me the money
Many sports organizations hesitate to invest their hard-earned money into social media because they worry about the return on investment. After all, the real-world impact of social media can sometimes be difficult to quantify, especially for smaller organizations that do not use sophisticated analytics. While it can be difficult to put a dollar figure on the awareness or community-building aspects of social media, there is one area that’s easy to quantify: sponsor acquisition and retention.

When done properly, social media can help your sports organization increase sponsorship dollars, retain existing sponsors and even attract new ones. Why?

  • Social media extends your organization’s reach. Instead of a handful of fans seeing a sponsor’s banner at a soccer game, a sponsor can access hundreds or thousands of soccer fans online.
  • Social media provides concrete data on how many people are engaging with your sponsor’s message, which offers greater accountability.
  • Some small businesses that sponsor local sports clubs may struggle with social media and want to tap into your expertise and fan base.
  • Today, people spend a good deal of time online, but don’t often click on ads. Many brands are also aware that their products aren’t very interesting and that people won’t naturally follow a granola bar or a brand of deodorant on Facebook or Twitter. To reach their target audience, brands must align themselves with things that consumers are already passionate about, such as sport. By sponsoring sports organizations, brands can reach their target audience in a more effective way.


Here are 10 ways to start engaging your sponsors and partners via social media

1. Do your research

Cartoon man writing on a chalkboardBefore you can properly engage new or existing sponsors, you need to know what your social media presence can offer them. Start with the following questions:

  • How many social media followers do we have?
  • What’s our social media reach? Using Facebook Insights, you can easily see how far your posts reach every month. Though you may only have 500 Facebook followers, for example, some top posts might reach up to 30,000 people because your followers share your content.
  • What are my audience’s demographics (age/gender/location)? Pay special attention to valuable markets (men aged 25 – 34, young families, etc.). Sites like Facebook, and YouTube offer this data via analytics. You can also use Google Analytics to figure out the demographics of the traffic that comes to your website via social media.
  • How does my organization stack up against similar social media accounts? If you’re a karate organization, how many followers do other BC karate organizations have? What about karate organizations across Canada? Being able to say that your Facebook page is the most popular karate social media account in Western Canada, or the third most popular account in Canada, gives you a boost with sponsors.

Many organizations turn the answers to these questions into a one-pager and use it to make sponsorship asks, so remember to share this information with the person in charge of sponsor acquisition.

You should also research the social media presence of existing sponsors and partners. If they don’t have a strong social media presence, you can offer them one. If they do, you can get a better idea of how you can complement their existing social media presence.


2. Make a plan

Contractor looking over blueprintsMeet with your sponsors to create a social media plan that will maximize their involvement. By finding out exactly what your sponsors hope to accomplish through the sponsorship, you can come up with creative ways to meet their needs. Create an agreement that outlines exactly what you’ll offer and check in periodically with analytics to show your progress. Some organizations that host large events have specific social media offerings for platinum, gold, silver and bronze sponsors, while

others prefer to work with sponsors directly to come up with solutions tailored to their goals.
Remember: you may need to crunch some numbers to figure out how to maximize the returns on your social media assets. Would it be better, for example, to give one big sponsor exclusivity on your webcast, or should you offer ads to several sponsors?


3. Share your sponsor’s messages

Set of scalesRe-posting, sharing and retweeting the content of sponsors and partner organizations is an easy way to provide social media benefit. Some sponsors will even provide you with a list of approved tweets and Facebook posts, which you can schedule in advance. Follow your sponsors on your personal Facebook account to see their posts, and make a list on Twitter of all your sponsors so their tweets are easy to find.

Remember: strike a balance between sponsored and organic content. If too much of your content is from your sponsors, your followers will tune you out.


4. Create mutually beneficial content

Shaking handsTake your sponsorship to the next level by creating content that benefits both your organization and the sponsor. Sponsors especially love photos or videos because it allows them to showcase the good work they’re doing in the community and helps promote their products and services in an organic manner. Photos and videos are also highly shareable, increasing the reach of your content.

Keys to success:
  • Post and tweet photos of your members interacting with sponsored  products. You could, for example, take a photo of some fans enjoying a sponsored product or of kids playing with equipment purchased with a grant. Short video clips are also popular.
  • If your sponsors provide you with banners, make sure they’re visible in action shots posted on social media.
  • Tweet at and tag your sponsor in content that features them. If your sponsor has a particular hashtag, use it.
  • Offer your sponsors exclusivity in a type of content. Perhaps all athlete video profiles are sponsored by one company and include their logo and branded messaging.
  • Allow your sponsors to engage with your audience by blogging on your website.

5. Tell a Story

cartoon woman adjusting a camera

Storytelling is a powerful way to create content that benefits both your organization and your sponsor. Create a video or blog post that tells a story that aligns with your sponsor’s values, and in- turn they may consider sponsoring it. For example, an insurance company or family business might want to sponsor a series of short videos that feature athletes talking about a time when their family supported them through a difficult injury or loss.

6. Be Honest

a star

You won’t offer any value to your sponsors if you alienate your fan base, so be clear when an initiative benefits your sponsor. For example, if a sports equipment sponsor writes a blog post about the benefits of their latest model, make sure that you clearly denote that the content is sponsored so that your fans can see that the blog isn’t unbiased, neutral advice.

7. Hold a contest

a character with a 1st place ribbonA simple social media contest or giveaway can increase your social media followers and provide value for your sponsors.

Keys to Success:

  • Keep it simple. Getting entries to contests can be difficult enough without making your followers jump through hoops. Photo contests, caption contests and contest where fans enter by retweeting or liking are most popular because they require little effort.
  • Ensure that the greatest number of your fans as possible can enter. For example, a contest that asks fans to post their best skiing photos will only appeal to skiers. A contest that asks fans to post their best winter photos, however, appeals to everyone.
  • Factor likes or retweets into the judging to get more social media traffic, but consider having a final judge picking the winner so that you’re not stuck with a low-quality or joke entry as the winner.
  • Provide a prize that people want. Remember: not every prize has a monetary value. A meet-and-greet with a high-performance athlete is free to you, but might be priceless to a fan.
  • Make sure that you comply with the media platform’s rules on contests. Facebook is especially known for constantly changing its contest-hosting rules.

8. Express Gratitudea thank you card

Sponsors, partners and granting organizations like to feel appreciated. It doesn’t take much to tweet a thank you message or post a photo of the kids in a program holding up a thank you banner. A little gratitude, however, goes a long way when sponsors or granting organizations are considering your proposal next year.

9. Show your results

Character cheering in front of a positive graphSend your sponsors an analytics package that highlights your success. These analytics can be pulled from Hootsuite (for Twitter/Facebook), Facebook Insights or YouTube Analytics. If a certain type of promotion takes off more than expected, you can suggest increasing this type of promotion. Some things to consider are:

  • Increases in followers/likes/subscribers
  • Increases in retweets, mentions, share and comments
  • The most retweeted/shared/liked posts
  • How many retweets/shares your posts get that mention your sponsor in them

10. Get Creative

Cartoon man holding up a light bulb

Social media is an evolving field and creativity wins high marks with sponsors, who are often looking for the newest way to share their messages. Even small, simple touches of creativity can go a long way. For example, a restaurant recently donated a chicken dinner to athletes at a tournament. Tournament organizers filmed the volunteers serving the food doing the Chicken Dance to thank the restaurant for their donation. The video took 5 minutes to film and another 10 minutes to edit and post, but it impressed the restaurant, which included it in their company newsletter and sent it to their head office and marketing team. Thanks to 15 minutes of work, the tournament organizers were able to get increased sponsorship from the restaurant.




To learn more, check out our Social Media Toolkit, found here.