In just a few years, ride share services have evolved from an upstart industry into a mature category with a ubiquitous presence across the sponsorship landscape.

In one measure of activity, Uber this year replaced PepsiCo as the second most active sponsor of U.S. music festivals. Twenty-one percent of properties with a sponsor in the ride share category report a partnership with Uber, per ESP research. Eight percent of music festivals reported a partnership in 2016.

And companies continue to sign new deals. Uber this year has signed new partnerships with the Columbus Crew, Buffalo Bills and other properties, while Lyft has partnerships with NFL Players Inc., Phoenix Rising FC and The Meadows Music and Arts Festival in Queens, New York, just to name a few.

In one of the largest deals in the category, Uber this year signed official rideshare and transportation partner status across numerous AEG assets in Europe and the U.S. The multiyear deal affords a presence at more than 25 music festivals, venues and sports teams including the Bonnaroo music festival, Staples Center, The O2 and the LA Kings.

“Uber already plays a big part in a fan’s game day, concert, or event experience by getting you there safely and on time. This partnership with select AEG venues takes that experience to a whole different level. Now, fans will have access to new perks, designated pick-up and drop-off spots and exclusive promotions — creating the best event experiences for all fans,” said Amy Friedlander Hoffman, Uber head of experiential marketing, in a statement announcing the partnership.

And upstart companies are increasingly joining the sponsorship fray. ZTrip has partnered with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Sprint Center in Kansas City and Baltimore’s Pier Six Pavilion, while Ride Austin this year teamed with the Austin Rodeo, Austin Food + Wine Festival and the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Sponsorship activity is expected to heat up even more as additional companies enter the category. Some of these new players are putting a new spin on ride share services. That includes companies like Chariot, a crowdsourced shuttle service. Chariot is expanding service to seven markets this year following its San Francisco launch.

Ride share services use sponsorship to accomplish five primary objectives:

  • Acquire new customers
  • Drive incremental business from existing customers
  • Acquire new drivers
  • Reward existing drivers
  • Promote ancillary services (Uber Eats, etc.)

In a major positive for rightsholders, ride share companies are increasingly moving away from incentive deals in which properties are reimbursed based on how many rides they deliver in favor of cash partnerships.

How Ride Share Services Help Enhance The Fan Experience
Ride share companies provide a major benefit for rightsholders: the opportunity to enhance the fan experience.

Many consumers, particularly Millennials, are increasingly looking for transportation options to sports games, music festivals and other events. Ride share services help fulfill those needs — and bring fans closer to their passions.

That’s the case with the Columbus Crew and Uber.

“The partnership happened naturally for us and made sense for both parties. It’s a way for us to enhance the ingress/egress options for our supporters and continue our efforts to implement and strengthen the efficiency of the match day experience,” said JP Lococo, Columbus Crew SC business development manager, corporate partnerships.

The MLS team pitched Uber two key assets: a dedicated pick up/drop off zone (an asset Uber refers to as a “PUDO” zone) and promotional offers to drive usage.

Uber ran a promotion earlier this year that gave riders the opportunity to win a 2017 Columbus Crew jersey, tickets to a game and a match day experience.

In some cases, Crew players delivered the jerseys to contest winners to provide an even more personalized experience.

Data also plays a role in the sponsorship. Uber shares data with the Columbus Crew on the success rate of Mapfre Stadium’s drop-off/pickup zone.

“Uber collects and shares data with us regarding the success rate of trips for our supporters such as average wait time for riders, ensuring cancellation rates are dropping and overall ridership numbers increasing,” said Lococo.

Uber also shares fan/rider data from in-market promotions throughout the season, he added. “We have the ability to access their database for select marketing and messaging throughout the year, and vice versa.”

Uber also gives the team ride credits, an asset it shares with players, staff, season ticket holders and other stakeholders.

Another key sponsorship driver: driver acquisition and recognition.

Uber activates the LA Kings with a driver incentive program for fans who sign up to be drivers and a “King of the Month” promotion that honors specific drivers with tickets, VIP experiences and on-ice recognition.

Similarly, Uber leverages the San Francisco Giants and other MLB teams with a home plate ceremony honoring Uber All-Star driver-partners.