How Sponsors and Rightsholders Are Increasing Audience Engagement

By Lesa Ukman Apr 10, 2015

How Sponsors and Rightsholders Are Increasing Audience Engagement

At IEG 2015, Jed Pearsall of Performance Research (@SponsorEye) and I conducted a workshop on how technologies are transforming the ways sponsors and rightsholders build deeper bonds with audiences via more meaningful, more personalized and/or more frequent engagement opportunities.

In thinking about fan engagement, consider three timeframes: 1) before the audience arrives at your event, stadium, attraction, etc.; 2) during the time they are on site; 3) after they leave the venue.

The key to engagement across all three timeframes is access to exclusive content and experiences.

Rightsholders tend to focus on engaging fans on site—because they want to sell tickets, which in turn optimizes revenue from sponsors, merchandise sales, concessions, parking, etc.—so we can start there.

Exclusive Access and Content On Site

  • Access to stats/content fans can’t get at home. Whether through augmented reality or other devices, live audiences can be granted exclusive access to what’s happening on the field, on stage, etc.
  • Access to rehearsals, backstage or green-room coverage.
  • Mobile app turns smartphone into in-stadium DVR, streaming live video from multiple camera angles, displaying replays from different perspectives, etc.
  • Mobile app directs users to restrooms with shortest lines.
  • Mobile app also guides users to best route to and from the venue, available parking spots, etc.

Exclusive Experiences On Site

  • Wearables that give fans a sense of what the pros feel, e.g., the sensation of a tackle.
  • Wristbands, a type of wearable. For example, at Belgium’s Tomorrowland festival, RFID wristbands replaced admission tickets and also provided a way for attendees to connect with one another. Prior to the event, festivalgoers registered their wristbands online and linked them to their Facebook accounts. On site, if two people near each other pressed the heart-shaped button on their wristbands at the same time, each person's Facebook name was stored in the cloud and then sent in an email to the other person.

How Sponsors and Rightsholders Are Increasing Audience Engagement

  • Augmented reality device or Google Glass that allows fans to feel like they are on the field or on-stage.
  • Virtual reality exhibit allowing similar experience of becoming part of the action.
  • 3D projection mapping.
  • Capturing social and other conversations/content through media walls: think walls; Tweet walls; hashtag live; Instagram displays; selfie collages; etc.
  • Social/community programs that unite.
  • Fan zones.
  • Digital souvenirs of experiences emailed post-event.

Fan Engagement Mechanisms Off Site (Pre or Post)

  • Twitter Q&A with artists, curators, players, etc.
  • Bring fans via online channels into the museum, stadium, etc.
  • Fan participation: voting; content creation.

How Sponsors and Rightsholders Are Increasing Audience Engagement

  • Drones: Italian telecom company TIM promotes its sponsorship of Milan’s Expo 2015 with weekly progress videos taken from drones.
  • Twitter- and Instagram-powered vending machines.
  • Digital loyalty program, e.g., earn points by sharing team/event posts to social networks.
  • Augmented reality. Examples: To promote its Wagamama lounge at U.K. music festivals, the restaurant chain had its placemats augmented by Blippar so that diners could use their smartphones to learn more about the lounge. In addition, Coke's activation of its 2014 FIFA World Cup sponsorship included 18 special edition mini-bottles that had markers, which when held up to smartphone cameras, activated augmented reality animations.

How Sponsors and Rightsholders Are Increasing Audience Engagement

  • Recognition: Juventus FC chooses 20 fan tweets each month to show fans that they appreciate their efforts.
  • Crowdsourced: The Football League in the U.K. gave Twitter followers the chance to decide the color of the Wembley arch as part of the build- up to the 2015 Capital One Cup Final between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. How it worked: The League tracked the designated team hashtags #ChelseaAtWembley and #SpursAtWembley and the one with the most use the week before the event won, with the arch lit up in that club’s colors.
  • Virtual Reality: Red Bull activated the Red Bull Air Race World Championship with a VR game that puts players in the cockpit of the prop planes used in the event. The 2015 Race Across America will use a Google Glass app that allows cyclists participating in the fundraising ride to tap the side of the glass to record videos and send them to a website to be shared with fans and friends. Donors can also send messages to riders using Goggle Maps to identify where and when they want their messages to appear.


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Please login to post a comment.

Paulo Figueiredo 4/27/2015 12:03 PM
Great ideas for great events!
Metin Odemis 4/11/2015 5:30 AM
We're seeing some great activation campaigns nowadays. We love doing business with brands who are investing in the sponsorship partnerships, rather than "spend" money... Great article and resources! Thank you!

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