Replicating the ever-changing world of technology, SAP AG has entered the next phase of its sponsorship strategy.

Looking to promote new products ranging from cloud storage to mobile solutions and real-time analytics and support its transition away from a pure-play enterprise software provider, the Walldorf, Germany-based company is now using sponsorship to put a personal touch on its brand.

The primary driver behind the new strategy is the growing trend of "consumerization", around which new information technology is first adopted by consumers before spreading to business and government applications.  

As such, SAP is partnering with sports, arts and entertainment organizations to reach B2C audiences and humanize its brand.

The company kicked off the strategy with ties to three pro sports properties: The NBA, the NFL San Francisco 49ers and, more recently, MetLife Stadium, home of the NFL New York Giants and New York Jets.

SAP will activate the ties—as well as future deals in the sports, arts and entertainment space—by using its technology to enhance the fan experience. For example, the company activates the NBA by using its SAP HANA platform to offer real-time statistics through The data was previously available only to NBA employees and select members of the media.

The 49ers tie affords title of the team’s practice facility—the SAP Training Center—and cosponsorship of the Niners new stadium slated to open in 2014. SAP is sponsoring MetLife Stadium with EMC Corp., both of which gain status as the venue’s fourth cornerstone sponsors.

IEG SR spoke with Chris Burton, SAP vice president of global sponsorships, about the thinking behind the new sponsorship strategy, the consumerization of information technology and other topics.

Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.

IEG SR:  Tell me about SAP’s new sponsorship strategy.

Burton: Our business is changing. You’ve heard about the consumerization of information technology. That’s something that is really upon us. SAP recognized years ago that the power of the mobile device can fundamentally change the way we work.

As a result, we realized we had to tell our story in a different way and introduce new people to the SAP brand. What that meant was ‘How do we introduce new people to the SAP brand in a way that humanizes us and makes us credible and relevant?’

We identified sports, arts and entertainment as platforms for the strategy. We kicked off the initiative with sports. Part of our strategy is to work with teams, leagues, arenas and stadiums to figure out how we can help them reimagine their fan experience, or, to take a phrase from our marketing platform, ‘To run like never before.’

We want to create the most amazing fan experience and help stadiums deliver increased profitability by giving fans in-seat dining or purchasing opportunities. Those are ways that we can tell an incredible story in an authentic way. If we can do it for the San Francisco 49ers or New York Giants, imagine what we can do for your company or your public sector organization.

We want to help fans get to a new place through the authenticity of our software. That’s the essence of our new story and new sponsorship strategy.

IEG SR: Does SAP plan to sign additional deals to support the strategy?

Burton: Our long-term strategy includes rounding out our portfolio. We are a global organization, and we might make new investments in priority markets. But for sure, our strategy is about being authentic, relevant and credible.

We’re a B2B brand, but we’re acting like a B2C brand.

IEG SR: SAP is using its new partnership with the NBA to enhance statistical information on Tell me about that.

Burton: It’s a really powerful partnership, and we’re in the throes of activating it.

We partnered with the NBA on behalf of SAP HANA, our new real-time data analytics platform. We’re using the technology to enhance the fan experience by providing analytics to NBA fans in a way the league could not previously do.

Once we figured out how to help them run better we looked at our core geographies. We found a sweet spot for the NBA in China. Chinese NBA fans are absolutely the most passionate fans that we have ever seen.

The NBA is a global property. It works well in Europe as well as China. And China has the largest percentage of our activation dollars as it relates to the NBA.

SAP is a German company that bought a U.S. property to use predominately in China. That’s a cocktail you couldn’t make up.

IEG SR: What was the thinking behind the 49ers and MetLife Stadium?

Burton: We believe the 49ers are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How many times can a technology solutions company walk into a stadium with a blank canvas and go through the ideation process to create a fan experience that will be like nothing that anyone has ever seen? The opportunity was too good to pass up.

Our guys in Palo Alto are excited about sitting down with the 49ers’ information technology, operations and management teams and learning about what our company can do to help them.

The same thinking applies to MetLife Stadium. The venue is located in the richest media market in the county, and we believe it is a unique opportunity to tell our story. We’re sponsoring the venue with EMC Corp., which is a partner of SAP. Our two companies will work together to enhance the fan experience and help the stadium use cloud solutions to run more efficiently

And of course, we’ll also have a unique opportunity with the Super Bowl next year.