While rightsholders have made great strides over the past few years in using Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms as a sponsor activation tool, many are still trying to figure out the best way to make the most of the still-evolving medium.

To be sure, the benefits of social media are obvious: Sponsors can use Facebook and other platforms to gain additional reach, while properties can use the medium to raise the value of sponsorship packages.

But while most sponsors have launched their own Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, many still rely on property-controlled social media channels to activate deals.

“Social media is the number one thing we get asked about,” said B.J. Carretta, group direct of marketing and communications with Alli, the Alliance of Action Sports, the producer of the Dew Tour and other properties.

To no surprise, Facebook and other social media platforms can go a long way in providing sponsors additional reach. That can be as simple as touting an on-site promotion through a team’s Facebook page.

Case in point: Foxwoods Casino last season leveraged its sponsorship of the NBA Boston Celtics by promoting an in-arena contest through the team’s Facebook page. The contest offered a VIP getaway weekend that included courtside tickets at TD Garden and a weekend at the resort.

The effort paid off: Foxwoods generated a seven-fold increase in contest registrants after taking the contest online.

“The results were incredible. Facebook is a great platform to get information out to a very engaged segment of your fan base,” said Ted Dalton, the Celtics’ vice president of corporate partnerships and business development.

IEG SR asked a handful of other pro sports teams and other types of rightsholders how they help sponsors activate in the social media space. Below, they share examples of new promotions and tips on making the most of the evolving activation platform.  

NFL St. Louis Rams. As a team that launched its Facebook page last year, the Rams are a relative latecomer to the social media space. But the team is quickly making up lost ground as the 2011 football season gets underway.

“We are using social media to build our brand, sell tickets and monetize the initiative through incremental sponsorship revenue,” said Chad Watson, the Rams’ director of corporate sales and marketing.

While the team is incorporating sponsor messaging into its Facebook page and other social media platforms, it tries to keep content football-centric as to not turn off fans with blatant commercial messages, he said.

The Rams have recently launched several new social media promotions, including the following:

  • Motorola Tweet the Headline. The Rams are using Twitter to help the consumer electronics company engage fans after each game, a period when it sees an increase in Twitter traffic.

    “Emotions are highest right after a game. That’s something that we want to capitalize on,” said Watson, noting that the contest winners will receive tickets and a prize package from Motorola.
  • Purina Pet of the Week contest. Looking to build visibility for an existing in-game promotion, the Rams last month rolled out the Purina Pet of the Week contest on its Facebook site.

    The promotion dangles tickets and a pet food prize package to consumers that post photos of themselves in team gear posing with a pet. The promo is sponsored by the Nestlé Purina PetCare Co.
  • Fan Friday promotion. In addition to touting sponsor promotions on its Facebook page, the Rams also incorporate partners into existing team-themed social media initiatives.

    For example, the team has incorporated Bandana’s Bar-B-Q into its Fan Friday Facebook promotion, around which it distributes prizes to lucky fans. The restaurant chain uses the program to drive store traffic through promotions dangling gift certificates and other prizes.
Alli, the Alliance of Action Sports. The producer of the Dew Tour and other action sports events relies on behind-the-scenes content to drive consumers to both its own social media outlets and those of its sponsors.

“It’s not good enough to say ‘Like us on Facebook.’ We want to give consumers a reason to go to the page by providing something that action sports fans can’t get anywhere else,” Carretta said.

For example, Alli has leveraged its partnership with Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc. to gain content for the Dew Tour's Facebook page. Alli used the site to stream interviews with BMX rider Jamie Bestwick and other Toyota-sponsored athletes. Consumers also could use the site to submit questions for the interviews.

“Social media is big for Toyota, and we provide them with something that is special and unique,” said Carretta.

Alli also uses social media to help sponsors engage action sports fans around their key passion points.

Case in point: The Dew Tour this year teamed with PepsiCo Americas Beverages’ Mountain Dew and skateboarder Paul “P-Rod” Rodriquez to create the Unlock Your Spot promotion.

At each of the four Dew Tour stops, Alli uses Facebook, Twitter and other digital media channels to ask skaters to identify local areas that are off-limits to skateboarding but that they would like to skate. The event producer than picks a location in each market and works with the host city to secure the necessary permits to host a skating event.

Each ‘pop up’ event features Paul Rodriguez and other Mountain Dew-sponsored skaters, as well as competitions for local skaters.

“The event provides something that kids normally couldn’t get. We have relationships with cities, and it’s easier for us to approach a city council or mayor’s office about getting a permit,” Carretta said.

NBA Phoenix Suns. With the launch of PlanetOrange.net in 2007, the Suns were one of the first pro sports teams to fully embrace social media.

The team has recently placed more emphasis on using social media to drive the number of “likes” on its sponsors’ Facebook pages.

For example, the Suns last year ran a season-long promotion with the Arizona Lottery dubbed the Stat Star of the Week. The team touted the promotion and its weekly winner on the statistics section on www.Suns.com; the site featured branding for the lottery and a link to its Facebook page.

“The statistics section on Suns.com was completely branded by the lottery and lucky numbers,” said Jeramie McPeek, the Suns’ vice president of digital.

The Suns and sibling team WNBA Phoenix Mercury also use social media to help sponsors reach consumers located in specific geographic markets. For example, the Mercury this summer created a Facebook promotion for State Farm Insurance Cos. that was designed to drive traffic to the company’s local agents.

The State Farm "Like Your Agent" promotion dangled a free T-shirt to fans that visited a local agent office. The promo was targeted at consumers living in key Arizona markets.

“It was a way to promote State Farm agents to residents that live close to their offices and give fans an incentive to like them on Facebook and visit their offices,” said McPeek.