A recent study of Premier League shirt sponsorship by Aberfield, a PR, social media and brand communications agency, found that £60m of the £200m spent annually on sponsorship is effectively going to waste. The reason? Brands are failing to engage with football fans – and therefore missing the opportunity to fully capitalize on their sponsorship efforts.
Historically, the value of such sponsorships has been in building brand awareness. However, although the reach of the Premier League remains impressive (it claims to reach 650 million homes worldwide), audiences are increasingly tuning out conventional advertising.
This is partly due to brand saturation – a particular problem for Premier League club sponsors, whose logos and adverts must compete against a myriad of sponsors both around the stadia and in advert breaks. Outside the realm of football, the same is true of other event sponsorships, and even more generally across web display advertising.
The challenge now is for brands to move beyond simply throwing money at sponsorships (or traffic and pageviews, in the digital context), and consider how to convert awareness into engagement.
The first step towards engagement is, of course, understanding the audience, and then tailoring content accordingly. Recent research from analytics specialists Teradata found that 67% of consumers would "positively interact with a brand in response to a personalized engagement".
The recent revamp of NYTimes.com, which is heavily geared towards engagement, shows how the process is picking up steam in the online publishing industry. The publication has taken careful note of user behavior and used this data to guide the development of its experience update. New features include:
A mobile-style 'push' notification function that alerts readers to relevant breaking news stories while they browse the site.
Repositioning the comment section so that it sits almost side-by-side with editorial content, enabling users to join the conversation more easily.
Navigation menus that users can customize to display their most frequently-read sections (to be introduced gradually over coming months).
So, what lessons can brands learn from The New York Times? The clear message is that making smart use of audience data is the key to unlocking real engagement.
To understand how powerful data-informed engagement initiatives can be, it’s useful to compare some of the best and worst performing Premier League sponsorship partners, according to Aberfield’s study. Southampton sponsor Veho is praised for its extensive efforts to engage with fans, beyond simply buying exposure for its logo. These initiatives ranged from simple marketing tactics like competitions to win match tickets, to richer cross-platform experiences including a nationwide hunt for hidden match balls.
In contrast, Newcastle sponsor Wonga, the payday lender, failed to back up its sponsorship investment with any targeted fan engagement effort – or a convincing 'damage limitation' campaign to mitigate the negative sentiment associated with its industry. As a result, it found itself facing a fan backlash, with an active campaign to oust it as a sponsor.
As these cases demonstrate, winning the advocacy of consumers (and nurturing meaningful engagement) are significant challenges. However, having a clear picture of the customer viewpoint, including behavior, sentiment and interests, can make a big difference – and this insight can be enabled by pooling all the data from various customer touch points into one central repository.
To learn about how censhare is helping brands to unify and integrate all their data sources to create better user experiences and personalized communications, explore our solutions.