Do you know the primary factors that drive sponsorship value?

Here’s a hint: signage is not one of them.

Many properties make the mistake of adding more signage and social media mentions to drive sponsorship value.

While reach is a key component in the sponsorship value equation, it is also an element that other marketing vehicles can deliver, particularly traditional advertising.

Sponsorship’s real value lies in passion and engagement. And that is where properties and their sponsors should focus their efforts to obtain maximum value.

Below, five best practices on maximizing the true worth of partnerships.

#1) Make On-Site Branding And Displays Unique And Engaging

  • Make signage and displays interactive, not static
  • Engage audience with unique and exclusive content
  • Integrate seamlessly and organically
  • Showcase unique product attributes

Despite the many technological advancements in activation, many companies continue to activate sponsorship with product display, sampling programs and other standard platforms.

Everyone likes to receive free product, but chances are it’s not going to make a long-lasting impression. Instead, rightsholders need to work with sponsors to enhance the onsite experience through unique brand integrations, behind-the-scenes access and exclusive content.

Case in point: Hewlett-Packard leveraged its sponsorship of the Sundance Film Festival with the Sundance House, an experiential build-out where attendees could watch technology demonstrations, attend workshops and learn about films premiering at the festival.

The content was tailored to the interests of Sundance attendees, sharable via social media and demonstrated H-P’s commitment to the film industry.

#2) Make Media Integration Meaningful

  • Focus on messaging rather than just logo/mention
  • Highlight unique content and product attributes
  • Make sponsor’s presence relevant to the audience
  • Drive audience to social channels

Sponsors need to prioritize messaging over logo mentions when activating sponsorship through TV broadcasts and digital media.

While brand exposure is a primary driver for new companies or brands, established companies can maximize value by using media assets to communicate a brand message, highlight product attributes and start a conversation. That means shifting the use of media from a strictly awareness play to promoting “what’s next” and encouraging consumers to continue the conversation online.

EA Sports partnered with Litton Entertainment to create EA Sports Gamechangers, a Saturday morning TV show. The show was unique in that it incorporated EA Sports Ignite, the technology used to inform the real-life feel of EA Sports video games.

EA Sports distributed interviews and other content from the show through Facebook, YouTube and other owned social media channels.

#3) Create And Distribute Exclusive Content

  • Give sponsors exclusive clips, interviews and behind-the-scenes content
  • Use content to drive value and keep fans/customers coming back
  • Make sponsored content available on multiple platforms
  • Encourage user-generated content and sharing/commenting

Properties can increase the value of their sponsorship packages by offering what companies want: exclusive content.

More than one-third of sponsors ranked content a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale of value, making it the fourth most valuable benefit, according to the 2016 ESP Properties Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey.

That means properties should offer up content that can be shared through social media, smart phone apps and other channels.

Samsung Canada leveraged its partnership with the National Hockey League with a tie to the NHL app, around which it offered scores, the countdown to the puck drop and other real-time content.

Fans with a Samsung mobile device could also use the app to access “Inside the NHL Situation Room” content that offered insights into plays on the ice, why a call was made and an explanation of rules.

#4) Use Social Media To Expand The Experience

  • Encourage sharing (and make it easy)
  • Broadcast new and compelling content
  • Extend promotional timeframe
  • Crowdsource

To no surprise, social media is by far the most popular activation platform. Ninety-eight percent of sponsors use the platform to activate sponsorship, according to the 2016 ESP Properties Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey.

As a result, properties need to develop content that gives fans a reason to participate, interact and share before, during and after an event.

Listerine leveraged its sponsorship of 2014 FIFA World Cup with “Power to Your Mouth,” a campaign built around the expected social media chatter around the global soccer competition.

Listerine designed the campaign to wrap in real-time optimization with real-time content.

Case in point: Listerine worked with Twitter and Facebook to create customized content for the promotion. The brand then tracked which posts drove the most interaction and allocated paid media behind the posts in real-time.

#5) Create ‘Can’t Buy’ Experiences

  • Must be “one of a kind” to stand out
  • Leverage access to talent and authentic content
  • Use for sponsor VIP’s plus promotions to broader customer base

Companies are increasingly looking for hospitality benefits that extend beyond tickets, suites and other standard fare. Properties can raise the value of their sponsorship packages by offering sports clinics for sponsors and their families and other unique, one-of-a-kind experiences.

Properties can also leverage ‘can’t buy’ experiences to engage mass audiences. Esurance activated its sponsorship of South by Southwest with the “My Way” sweepstakes that gave consumers the chance to create their own festival experience including VIP access to exclusive events.