When the Red Sox take the field today for their season home opener, we’ll have another reason to root, root, root for the home team: V2 client Rocket Software is now a proud partner of the Boston Red Sox! While seeing their logo in world-famous Fenway Park will be a thrilling moment for those of us among responsible for cementing Rocket’s position as a world-class and admired brand, the reality is that today’s opener is really just a milestone moment in a much larger brand awareness campaign, and as with all sports sponsorships, it has been months of hard work in the making.
Sports sponsorships are often one of the biggest investments a brand makes—and rightfully so given the scale at which it can catapult a company from no-name brand to household name. But such campaigns cannot be effectively executed in a silo. The best ROI and brand lift is only delivered when what happens within the park, stadium or arena is integrated across channels. V2 is proud to be a partner clients rely on the maximize the impact of their sports sponsorships.
Here are some of the considerations for how communications teams can be an MVP in brand sponsorship campaigns:
Involve communications in the contract negotiation
While logos, tickets and player access may be at the top of a sponsorship engagement checklist, there is significant value in leveraging the team’s brand and influencers (not just the players!) for additional communications activities. Having a comprehensive and integrated communications strategy around the sponsorship is critical to making those asks early and ensuring there is a contractual agreement when it comes to promoting the partnership in ways that come to life outside of the sports arena.
Measure baseline brand awareness
Big sports sponsorships can equate to big brand lift but proving that requires advance action. Ahead of any major sponsorship, take stock to understand what, if anything, key audiences know about the brand today, what your product or services do, and more. As the season progresses and complementary communications and brand awareness activities are executed, follow on surveys can be conducted to understand how effective the sponsorship is at achieving high level brand awareness and progressing toward more specific goals.
Tell a compelling story
A sports sponsorship is far more than slapping a logo where fans will see it. To get the most out of the investment and see the greatest impact, it is critical to have a clear understanding and articulation of the joint brand story, aligning the values, messages and brand essence in a way that will resonate with everyone from customers, partners and employees to the average fan in the stand. In the case of Rocket Software and the Boston Red Sox, the storytelling centered on the organizations’ shared reputation as brands who call Massachusetts home but have global footprints; passions for innovation, delivering incredible experiences and building teams with the best possible talent; and a commitment to DEI. That ethos became the cornerstone from which we developed social media posts, a press release and internal employee communications, among other activities.
Amplify with Traditional and Social Media
Once a compelling story around a partnership is defined, it is critical to use media channels to amplify that to the audiences who may not be watching games but matter to the business. While a sponsorship alone is rarely enough to warrant media coverage, the engagement creates a potential touchpoint for conversations with press about the company’s vision, local community involvement or growth—to name a few. On the social media, hashtags can be used to create, monitor and engage in conversations that build excitement around the sponsorship and further align the brand with the team. For Rocket Software, #RocketSox2022 is a consistent thread that is being used for the campaign—from the initial announcement of the partnership, through contests that will generate additional buzz and excitement and create measurable data on engagement.
Even a local sports team can generate excitement among employees worldwide. The key is thinking beyond the ballpark or employees’ affinity for a given team. With Rocket Software, part of our remit involved creating internal communications and contests that would excite employees who may be halfway around the world or not care for the game of baseball. One activation will be a contest where employees are invited to post pictures of their own proud sports moments—at their child’s game, attending a local soccer match, streaming the Sox from their computer and perhaps even cheering on those damn Yankees.
Come end of season, brands want to know their efforts were worthwhile. Complementing formal partnerships with smart, integrated communications programs bolsters awareness and strengthens pride of association—not only with the sports team, but with the brand itself—so that regardless of whether a championship trophy is lifted at the end of the season, brand lift is undeniable.