Amidst COVID recovery and political polarization, athlete and brand advocacy has come to the forefront of social priorities, with increasing value placed upon purpose-driven marketing. As fans connect and engage more with more meaningful content, an increased emphasis on relevance through data will be beneficial in identifying ideal sponsor opportunities.

The pandemic ransacked the industry, canceling games and accelerating fan migrations to digital viewing. Last year, empty stadiums, often sadly displaying cardboard people, quickly became the new norm, so brands went on the defense, shifting budgets and focuses in order to adapt to constant uncertainty. Yet sports fans are a devoted bunch and migrated to digital spaces fast, as sponsors of professional sport properties in 2020 actually reached more fans than in 2019, increasing the effectiveness of sponsorships despite closed venues.

We’ve previously noted the power of diehard fans in sustaining sports momentum even during difficult times, but what else contributed to the success of sports sponsorships during COVID? A greater need for purpose. Throughout the pandemic, a profoundly polarized political climate contributed to heightened social media advocacy, with major sports teams and figures finding themselves spotlighting social injustices or rallying behind groups like Black Lives Matter. Social advocacy posts were attributed to driving 80% more engagement for brands in 2020, acknowledging a shift in national messaging priorities. Marketing with purpose became the norm throughout the pandemic, with brands like Annheiser-Busch InBev redirecting sports marketing budgets to approach weary fans relatably. Sponsorship success doesn’t require the games–it requires the fans. And with more fans online than ever before, the accelerated migration to digital has only helped sponsors reach more eyes in more places.

Professional athletes have traditionally been viewed as community leaders, and the importance of the athlete as a spokesperson was highlighted in 2020. Truly meaningful sports sponsorships have proven not only resilient but effectiveexpect to see sponsorships gain momentum in 2021. Catering to diehard fans and leveraging their passions requires hearing them across digital. As sports fan social media consumption ramps up, increased engagements will help navigate marketers and brands to the most ideal opportunities for sponsors. 

Understanding fans allows for more powerful, meaningful promotional campaigns and experiences for sports fans. As users continue to engage with favorite players and brands across social media, more insights become attainable in discovering which athletes, teams, or leagues can have the most profound effect on specific fans. A successful sports sponsorship requires marketing with purpose, and purposeful marketing requires insights-based strategy. FanFinder360º is an all-in-one social insights platform that allows marketers from any industry to leverage fan engagements to reveal the most ideal sponsorship opportunities. 

Competing in a crowded digital playing field requires relevance to stay on top. Reaching on an emotional level requires relating on a psychological level, and by studying fan behavior and passions closely, marketers can ensure their sponsorships are truly relevant. We’ll help you find the right insights – reach out at hello@affinityanswers.com.