New Media and Sports Sponsorship: You Can’t Buy/Sell What You Don’t Know

Ah, the rate card.

For years, corporate sales teams have at times lived and died with their rate card. A list of assets, the price they’re going for (a price often arbitrarily created years ago and increased over time with inflation and demand), and they went about their business checking off the boxes, selling out the inventory, activating/executing, reporting, and then, repeat the cycle season after season.

But then digital and social came along and upset the paradigm.

Most have heard of, or experienced, a fixed quantity of Facebook posts, or a tweet emailed for a paid-for copy and paste job. It’s not that brands, and even sales people, thought this was the most effective use of the resources for the sponsor. It’s that they didn’t know anything else to do. Sponsors didn’t know to ask, account executives didn’t know what they didn’t know.

Evolution has indeed occurred, and there is more collaboration now than ever between social and digital teams and corporate sales and sponsorship teams. The NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins have fostered such a collaborative environment, and they even go even further, building and equipping their team with sponsor-able assets that can go right along more traditional assets on their now maturing rate card. Penguins Manager of New Media Andi Perelman explained how they do it.

“One of the things we do in the offseason is put together a list of sponsorable inventory,” said Perelman. “Everything we  would want to put out there even without a partner, that we could tie a partner into. Sometimes we even put suggested partners, build out templates, and…(show) how they could fit into partners’ brands.”

There is so much (consistent) content sports teams are putting out there that fans enjoy and continually consume. Most studies have shown fans (yes, even Millennials) don’t mind sponsor integration, if the content is good. But most sponsors don’t live in social and your corporate sales team doesn’t know what content and contests can be easily produced that fans will want to engage with.

It all comes back to listening and communication (doesn’t it always?)

The corporate sales team listening to the social team. The social listening to the sales team. Both sides listening to what the partner is telling them. Because we’re beyond logos. It’s an era of objectives and activation.

“We have to listen to what partners are trying to achieve,” said Perelman, who spoke to the flexibility of the social team, but determination to stay true to their fans. “Now, we’re just hoping we can get to the point that everything we’re selling is something we really believe in and is something that is going to perform the way we expect it to, both for us and the partner.”

This is not some sort of trade-off where fans must tolerate advertising in exchange for content. The social team knows fans crave content and welcome engagement, and they know how to creatively weave it all together to help what the corporate partners want to accomplish. But it’s important to not leave the sales teams nor the partners guessing. The social team knows what content can (and already will) be created.

The sales team is on the ground, trying to decipher this new world of digital and social and convey the value to sponsors. Teamwork, transparency, and teaching (from/to all sides) has to happen. That is how the paradigm will evolve. That is how sponsorship will mature to a place more valuable, for all parties, than ever before.

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