Do you produce and share social media content with your sponsors? If not, you’re missing out on a major opportunity.

More than one-third of properties rank access to property content a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale, where 10 is extremely valuable, according to the 2016 IEG/ESP Properties Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey.

And the need for content is more important than ever as more companies use social to activate sponsorship. Studies have shown that content from properties gain more traction than content posted by brands.

The Phoenix Suns in 2016 created a new department charged with creating content for sponsors. The eight-person team includes talent from digital, in-game entertainment and other internal departments.

With content production off its plate, the team’s digital department now spends more time using data and analytics to better engage fans.

“Our social media strategy starts with exclusive and engaging content that fans can only get from us. Exclusive content drives impressions and engagements, which in turn drives new revenue opportunities,” said Keith Detwiler, Phoenix Suns’ director of digital growth, engagement and strategy.

And social monetization isn’t just limited to sponsorship. Like the Suns, rightsholders can also use social to drive ticket sales, develop a future fan base and accomplish other business objectives.

Below, a four-step roadmap on developing a social media communications strategy.

Step #1: Map Out The Audience Journey
Developing a social media communications strategy starts with identifying and calendarizing key moments in which fans will be receptive to property-themed content.

Those moments include training camp, draft day, game day, ticket pre-sale and lineup announcements.

The Chicago Bulls each year creates a content franchise document that maps out content that fans will be interested in. The team uses the document to generate ideas for sponsor involvement.

“It’s a steering device rather than prescriptive. Very few ideas get sold in as is,” said Dan Moriarty, Chicago Bulls digital director, noting that the team works with each sponsor on custom programs based on their specific marketing objectives.

Identify and Calendarize Key Moments:

  • Pre-season kick-off
  • Lineup announcement
  • Ticket pre-sale
  • Draft Day
  • Game days
  • On-site activities
  • Training camp
  • Signing day
  • Playoffs
  • Post-game reports
  • Anniversaries
  • Amount of money raised

Properties should take the perspective of their fans when exploring new content opportunities. What do fans expect from the property? What are they looking for? What other interests do they have?  Rightsholders can answer those questions by interacting with fans, reading their social media comments, and through market research.

One key opportunity: food.

The Minnesota Twins and Budweiser this year teamed up on a promotion that played into baseball fans’ love of hamburgers.

The “Bud and Burgers” promotion gave fans the opportunity to win tickets in exchange for voting on one of three hamburgers created by a Twins player. The Twins promoted the players and their creations through a custom video that asked fans to cast a vote on their favorite burger.

The Twins sold the winning burger in Target Field during one of its homestands.

Step #2: Be Authentic
Properties should use authenticity as a filter to evaluate every piece of content. Is the content authentic, is it additive, and does it enhance the fan experience?

The Chicago Bears take a three-prong approach to content development.

“We want to entertain, inform and engage. Those three things are our hallmarks. Whatever content we put out needs to do one of those things,” said Doug Carnahan, Chicago Bears vice president of corporate partnership.

The Minnesota Twins learned the importance of authenticity the hard way. The team this year has placed more focus on organic sponsor integration after seeing a decline in views following posts touting sweepstakes and other commercial messages.

“A clunker post creates headwinds for the next post, which may be our starting lineup or something else completely unrelated to sponsorship. As a result, we have become better in finding ways to integrate sponsor objectives into the posts,” said Jeff Jurgella, Minnesota Twins senior director of corporate partnerships, noting that the team’s sponsorship department is working with its social media department to develop content that has a more organic fit.

Simply put, if content does not enhance the fan experience, it’s not worth posting.

Step #3: Focus On Objectives
A properly designed content strategy should include multiple objectives, all of which should be centered on enhancing the fan experience.

Those goals include driving sponsorship revenue, driving ticket and merchandise sales, and developing a future fan base.

The Phoenix Suns in August launched an NBA Jam-themed video that highlighted key matchups throughout the year, with the goal of promoting single-game ticket sales around the launch of the 2017-2018 NBA schedule release.

The video included a link to the team’s web site where fans could purchase tickets.

As part of the initiative, the Suns posted a video on Facebook and Instagram that highlighted its rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers and an upcoming game.

The Suns’ marketing department conducted an A/B test for the paid social posts, and used attribution modeling to track people who viewed the video/image to purchase game tickets. The results were impressive: return on ad spend from the video content was 8.2 to 1 versus a 4.4 to 1 ROAS from a traditional ad on the same social platforms.

“With something that can be as straight-forward as a schedule release, our content team instead developed a fun video that helped deliver the message in a more creative and engaging way. The throwback theme of the NBA Jam-inspired video complemented our milestone 50th season campaign and it was something that ultimately resonated very well with our fans,” said Casey Taggatz, Phoenix Suns vice president of communications and content.

The Phoenix Suns also use social to drive apparel sales. The team in August used social to unveil its new Nike uniforms and drive traffic to, where fans could pre-order a basketball jersey.

#4 Set Goals and Objectives
When developing a social media communications strategy, it is critical to set goals and objectives for each content piece.

That includes setting quantifiable goals and qualitative objectives, as well as analyzing the performance of previous campaigns. How many engagements did each type of content piece generate? Is it increasing? Is it stagnant? Is it decreasing? Those insights can help shape future goals.

Properties should also define the objectives for each content piece. Is it building awareness? Driving consideration? Or driving traffic to a landing site?

Setting Goals: Three Examples

Content Messaging Success Metric Quantifiable Goal Objective
Game Recap Impressions 10,000 impressions per post Enhance the fan experience
Enter to Win Sweepstakes Entries 500 entries Drive sponsorship revenue and/or drive ticket/merch sales
Custom Branded Content Piece Video Views / Engagement 2,200 views / 1,000 click-throughs to landing page Custom video on content fans want, matching sponsor attributes, with property voice