What trends are digital marketing strategists watching in 2015? What technology should sponsorship buyers and sellers have on their radar screen?

Below, executives at The Marketing Arm and Wasserman Media Group share trends to watch in the New Year.

Zack Sugarman, vice president, social media & digital, Wasserman Media Group
I have my eye on a few trends in 2015 as it pertains to sponsorship activation and social media / digital content:

Engagement will become the most important key performance indicator for brands, teams and properties alike. We are a mobile first society where teams, properties and sponsors have the ability to engage fans 24/7, 365 days a year. Meaningful and lasting engagements will be the preferred success metric instead of reach and impressions because engagements are a more active and accurate metric when looking at the impact and effectiveness of an activation. Focusing on engagement also allows teams and properties to maintain their premium while providing brand partners with clearer ROI.

Smarter venues with cutting-edge technology that enhance the in-venue experience and connect with fans wherever they live. Augmented reality, beacon technology, push notifications, drones, LED screens, 3-D projection and printing will become more commonplace and transform how fans engage with teams and sponsors.

Platform specific content, specifically native video on Facebook is going to be huge and a must have for successful sponsorship activations. Facebook likens itself to the world’s biggest arena and they have made it clear that they want to surpass YouTube when it comes to owning video given the changes they have made to the Edge Rank Algorithm. Across all of our brand clients, we have seen roughly ten times more engagement, views and reach when posting videos natively on Facebook versus sharing YouTube videos. Successful activations will understand the role of each social media platform and how to effectively deliver the right message, on the right platform, at the right time.

Twitter Amplify spreads to other social media channels. Continuing on the trend of platform specific content, I expect other social media channels to mimic Twitter Amplify and figure out a way to provide near real-time video-based highlights to fans. Imitation is the best form of flattery and I expect Instagram to be the first to roll out a similar product.

Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Line will become part of the sponsorship activation mix. If judged solely by numbers, it is hard to ignore WhatsApp’s 700 million monthly active users and Line’s 170 million monthly active users. WhatsApp has more MAUs than Twitter and Instagram combined! But beyond the numbers, these apps allow brands and teams to insert themselves directly into conversations in additive and engaging ways. Currently, most opportunities include stickers and GIFs but I expect that to change in 2015 with more robust integrations such as the delivery of game/team specific video highlights or behind-the-scenes content to relevant conversations in real time.

Tom Edwards, senior vice president of strategy & innovation, digital, The Marketing Arm
In 2015, we’ll see brands leverage data, content and channels to maximize their sponsorship investments. There will be an increased focus on leveraging behavioral data to inform programmatic media buying, as well as the opportunity to visualize data in a unique way that further ties events and attendees together.

There will be an increased focus on connecting content that is created at events with those not in attendance to create a seamless connection between digital and physical, and ultimately, there will be a focus on the channels that deliver messages, be it social, mobile or beyond.

The key will be creating compelling experiences that reach consumers in a non-linear way by meeting the consumer with a contextually-relevant message where they are. Content discovery, both organic and paid, will play a key role in mapping success in 2015.

Heading into 2015, Snapchat is the fastest growing social app. From a sponsorship perspective, the platform boasts heavy usage by younger audiences, with a recent business insider study showing that nearly half of Americans aged 12 to 24 have used the platform. In 2015, the platform will continue to evolve by connecting physical events to digital audiences with their “Our Story” offering.

Our Story is a location-based collaborative story that leverages content from events and allows others not attending to directly experience the events. A user at an event has the ability to upload a photo or video snap, and Snapchat drops a Wi-Fi geofence around the event to capture the experience from the eyes of the attendees. Brands will have an opportunity to sponsor Our Story events to reach not only those in attendance, but also those interested in attending or following virtually.

This comes in the form of a 10-second interstitial title snap. The sponsored content is then interlaced through the user-generated content and clearly identifies the sponsor.

With so much focus on content marketing over the past few years, it will be even more paramount to reach the right consumer at the right time. This will come in the form of an increase in strategic partnerships designed to align products and services where consumers are versus simply pushing product messaging to them.

Consumers will also continue to carry brand messaging. Leveraging authentic advocacy will be a key area of focus of sponsorship initiatives in 2015. It is also important to understand the shifting dynamic of entertainment. It’s less about A-list celebrities and more about authentic integrations with key influencers.

A recent Variety survey highlighted that YouTube stars are more popular than mainstream celebrities with teens.

This fundamental shift in entertainment, combined with the ease and accessibility of content creation means that consumers have a very strong voice and the brands that understand how to leverage these trends in an authentic and contextual way will maximize their sponsorship dollars in 2015.