Honest Conversations About Social Partnerships

Partnerships. Social media.

Individually, each element holds a lofty standard of driving innovation and reimagining opportunities. Naming rights deals, collaborative apparel partnerships, groundbreaking food and beverage innovations. Unprecedented content creation. Use of influencer personalities. Capitalizing on ever-changing trends while establishing your voice.

Ten years ago, the thought of using multiple social media platforms or shifting to mainstream jersey partnerships would’ve been reserved for the most daring of teams. Now, partnership departments are built out with multiple activation reps while the importance of a dynamic social media team is growing more apparent every day.

And yet, the concept of social media based partnerships are often swept under the rug. The side of revenue generation that is still in its infancy stages, it can be a touchy subject to bring up. Conversations between the two departments can be disjointed with each having to bang the table for what they need to accomplish.

The guiding principles behind effective social partnerships answer the following questions:

· Is the content something that will entice fans?

· Is our team’s brand protected?

· Are we effectively providing value to the partner?

If the content ultimately produced can answer “yes” to these three questions, it will provide a solid base to generate value for the team, the partner, and the fans. Whether the activation ends up taking the form of player content, fan submissions, or aligning a partner strategically into a successful social media activation, the fans should be left with a feeling of excitement about a partner being involved on social, rather than one of lukewarm indifference.

From a revenue perspective, the partnership department wants to highlight the partner while generating revenue. Now while this is the basic premise for any partnership, social media adds in additional questions that need consideration:

“Do they want exposure?”

“Do they want entrants into an enter-to-win form?”

“Are they hoping for branding?”

“Is their goal to mirror what we are doing in-stadium?”

There are a myriad of dynamics to consider. Often the conversation ends with this:

“Can you slap a logo on it?”

Whether it’s a graphic, video, or a sponsored post, this is the bare minimum of integration for a partner asset. To be clear, adding a logo and tagging in the PA copy does provide value. It increases a brand’s exposure online, integrates their alignment with the team, and shows that the team is tapped into the community. However, what this activation does not outright provide is ROI, direct impact from inclusion, or how more or less likely people are to associate with that brand because they are affiliated with the team. On the social end, for every time a partner has to be tagged in a post or graphic, it often has to go through multiple revisions as well as being subject to specific needs from the partner’s end to best amplify their message.

The Quakes routinely speak the same language across the board. Whether they are tweeting highlights, interacting with fans, or shouting out partners, their voice is organic. Sponsored posts feel normal and not stuffy. In this case, the partner is involved in an in-stadium activation that is then further highlighted on social.

So what does a powerful social partnership look like? Well, it’s not a one size fit all. There is no formula. There are many factors at play. You have to consider all of the different parts involved: the partnerships’ team has their prerogative on who they want to promote, yet also have to give consideration to other partnerships that may be on the social level. They want to provide added value while making sure they are getting their fair share of investment. On the social side, they must make sure that the partnership does not get lost in the shuffle of other social posts while staying on brand, acting as an engaging piece of content, and amplifying team messages.

“Effective digital partnerships & true brand affinity building goes beyond just slapping a brand name on a graphic or a content series,” said Geoffrey Bloast, Senior Data Analyst at Zoomph. “The most effective digital partnerships I see go multiple ways. One example is when both parties share content or messaging and it isn’t just one side (team or brand) driving the relationship. Another is through co-branded content that has both sides’ interests at heart. On the team side, it still effectively tells a relevant story even if a partner wasn’t tied to it. On the brand side, it’s content that is relevant to their target audience & makes sense to be tied to.”

Keep in mind that for every social partnership activation, there are a plethora of things to consider for each side:

The partnerships’ team to the social team:

· How can we best amplify the message?

· Will we be able to balance this post while making sure other partner’s don’t feel left out of social content?

· Can we add paid media behind this post to generate additional sign-ups/exposure/engagement?

· Can we ensure this will stand out and not get lost in the shuffle of other social posts we have scheduled?

· It’s in their contract to fulfill __. How can we ensure that happens?

The social team to the partnerships’ team:

· We have many other posts that are scheduled and we don’t want this to get lost in the shuffle

· For this to be pulled off successfully this will not be a quick turnaround

· What are the partner’s expectations? What results are they hoping to achieve?

· How can we ensure this post will be received well by fans?

· If this is part of a continued series, how can we ensure brand standards will be maintained over time and will be able to be produced in a timely promptly?

· How can we make sure this is a natural alignment for our team’s brand and this doesn’t have the feel of an obligatory sponsored post?

· What prize/partner involvement can be utilized to entice fans to interact and engage with this content?

With the baseline in place of what both sides expect from content, the question of how to implement progress remains. The easiest place to start is to clearly outline (similar to the above back-and-forth) each side’s needs and concerns. Often this part may be forgotten, assumed, or delayed until it is too late. While individual department meetings will remain the standard, cross-collaboration and sitting in on other conversations will help to develop additional perspective. Additionally, knowing which partners are more apt to invest in giveaway/sweepstakes items that will entice fans is key for activating contests and will give the social team a better understanding of which partners will help contribute to pushing awareness of ongoing promotions.

Branded content is evolving more and more every year; especially in this current climate of the industry,” said Jared Eummer, Corporate Partnerships - Organizational Development for the Cleveland Cavaliers. “When it comes to delivering those impressions needed for partners, it is very important to make sure there’s a natural synergy between the pillars of our organization, the existing aesthetic that’s being presented by our social/content team, and the overall brand positioning of the partner. The last thing we want to do for a client is attempt to amplify their message or include them on a program and it doesn’t resonate with our audience.”

Nice integrated post between the Penguins and FedEx. Post naturally tells the story of partner involvement with the team. Organic way to highlight the relationship, non-invasive tagging of the partner, and allows for opportunity to continue to tell similar stories with the partner down the road

This is a constantly changing space and change is certain. Partnerships will change. Social media will change. So naturally, social partnerships will change. For this space to continue on the trend of innovation, these conversations and guided questions need to take place.

Organizations need to critically examine where value can be derived. Each situation where partners could be involved needs to be questioned as to whether or not they should be involved. Not every scenario will or should involve partners. For the ones that do, they need to align with the team’s branding and voice, echo overall messaging, and showcase the partnership on both sides.