As social media continues to reign supreme for nearly every sponsor, rightsholders must walk a fine line when incorporating sponsors into Twitter posts, Instagram photos and other social media content.

The challenge: balancing the need to enhance sponsor reach while not turning off fans with commercial messages.

“One rule that we work hard to maintain is that when someone follows the Los Angeles Lakers, they are looking for information on the Lakers. When you look at it that way, it becomes a challenge to have a sponsor involved,” said Nick Kioski, the Lakers’ director of new media and technology.

To get around that challenge, the team focuses on one audience when integrating sponsors into social media: Lakers fans.

“We try to be laser focused on what works for the fan. An engaged fan will deliver what a sponsor wants—impressions and attention.”

WHAT TYPES OF CONTENT DO YOU PRODUCE AND ARE YOU MONETIZING IT?
WHAT TYPES OF CONTENT DO YOU PRODUCE AND ARE YOU MONETIZING IT?

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
Most properties align sponsors with photos and other content, not promotional messaging.

Replicating an activation program around its sponsorship of NFL teams, Anheuser-Busch presents the Los Angeles Lakers’ “Photo of the Week” on behalf of Bud Light.

“From our perspective, that’s a pretty good program. It’s leveraging our best content in strong visual terms that our fans enjoy,” said Kioski.

The Lakers post the photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Like the Lakers, the State Fair of Texas is careful not to include intrusive messaging in Twitter posts, emails and other outreach platforms.  

“Our fans are loyal, and every sponsor would love to engage them through social media, but social is an information channel,” said Jennifer Schuder, vice president of marketing with the State Fair of Texas.

The fair tries to strike a balance by aligning sponsors with content that enhances the attendee experience. That includes sponsorship of “things to do” lists and other event-themed content.

Rather than promoting a sponsor’s booth, the fair posts photos of the booth with other sponsor booths.

“One sponsor said ‘I want you to mention us this many times on Twitter and Facebook.’  I get that sponsors want that, but we need to make it non-intrusive. We can do more things visually than we can in print.”

Sharing Content That Enhances The Fan Experience
Below, three examples of how properties are integrating sponsors into social.

Tough Mudder training videos. Tough Mudder looks to integrate sponsors into content that enhances the athlete experience. For example, Cellucor sponsors a weekly series of training videos for Tough Mudder participants.

The property works with each sponsor to create mutually approved content that is aligned with the Tough Mudder message.

“As long as content is portrayed in the Tough Mudder voice, it should be a successful program,” said Jon Martone, Tough Mudder’s head of partnership sales.

Artscape photo-ops. Batlimore’s Artscape festival this year will use social media to support a Kaiser Permanente promotion that offers attendees the chance to have their photos posted on a billboard on the festival grounds. The festival will use social media to drive attendees to Kaiser Permanente’s booth to have their photo taken.

Consumers will take photos of their face on the billboard, prompting even more visibility for Kaiser Permanente and the festival on social media, said Bob Sicard, director of corporate sponsorship with the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts, which produces Artscape.

Toyota hashtag integration. The Los Angeles Lakers created the #SuitingUpTogether hashtag to support Toyota’s presenting sponsorship of the team’s social media hub.

The Lakers include the hashtag in Tweets announcing starting lineups. 

“It’s an organic way to get a sponsor involved, and it links different elements that we’re doing with Toyota across the digital landscape,” said Kioski.