After seeing success with branded Instagram and Snapchat content over the past year, the Chicago Bulls plan to expand the programs in the 2017-2018 season.

The NBA team—arguably one of the most innovative pro sports teams using digital content to drive sponsorship value—credits the initiatives with driving millions of social engagements and connecting sponsors to new audiences.

“We’re one of the top teams in the U.S. in terms of social media followers, so we try to be as creative as possible. Sponsors don’t want to be plugged into a traditional piece of content. They want something unique and outside the box,” said Scott Sonnenberg, Chicago Bulls vice president of corporate sales.

Below, two examples of how the Chicago Bulls integrate sponsors into digital content—initiatives it plans to expand in the current season.

Bud Light Instagram Takeover
The Chicago Bulls partnered with Anheuser-Busch on an Instagram takeover in the 2016-2017 season with the goal of driving awareness and sales of the beer giant’s new cobranded Bud Light can.

The team agreed on a takeover in which photographers from Chicago’s creative community received exclusive access to the United Center before, during and after games, with each photographer taking over the Instagram account in the evening.

Each photographer gave their own individual style to the takeovers, which helped keep the content fresh and compelling. Each takeover started with a daytime post that announced the game’s photographer and a Chicago-themed photo of the Bud Light can.

The team mentioned the photographer and Bud Light in each post to make sure fans understood the program was a collaborative effort.

And the program has been a success for all parties.

The #BullsIGTakeover photos performed at almost two times the normal rate of engagement compared to other branded content the team posted on Instagram in the 2016-2017 season, according to team data. A shot that featured a behind-the-scenes photo of Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade celebrating a win represented the team’s most engaged piece of content in the entire season.

All told, the team generated more than two million engagements on the #BullsIGTakeover content.

Anheuser-Busch credits the program with humanizing and localizing the Bud Light brand, driving a “significant increase” in in-market sales, and making the cobranded can one of the company’s top-selling team cans in the U.S. market.

BMO Harris and Snapchat Stories
The Chicago Bulls last year teamed with the Second City comedy shop and BMO Harris Bank to create short films through Snapchat’s Stories platform.

“BMO Harris Bank is a long-time sponsor, and they challenged us as part of their renewal to come up with some creative social media campaigns,” said Sonnenberg.

The Chicago Bulls and BMO Harris designed the Snapchat program to support the bank’s goals of solidifying favorability in the local market and engaging a demographic that lives outside of traditional banking channels, and the team’s goal of creating differentiated and partnership-focused digital content.

The two parties created the Chicago Bulls Snap Films to capitalize on the limited number of brands using Snapchat to share anything beyond behind-the-scenes content.

While BMO Harris Bank presented the film series, the bank’s involvement in the content went much deeper than a logo slap. That included brand integration and appearances by Hubert, the bank’s mascot.

The Chicago Bulls released the first short film in early 2016 with a “murder mystery” theme. The team shot the four-minute film over a six-hour period in a mansion in the Chicago suburbs.

More than 60,000 people watched the film on Snapchat, without any paid support to drive viewership. The team also received thousands of comments on Snapchat during the duration of the filming, with fans unexpectedly sending the team their guesses and thoughts on “who committed the crime.”

The Chicago Bulls point to three lessons learned from the program:

Leverage cultural trends to drive viewership. The Chicago Bulls this year released the Beauty and the Bull Snapchat film to coincide with the buzz around the launch of the romantic fantasy film Beauty and the Beast.

The Snapchat film featured Belle trying to make her way to a Bulls home game, with the Chicago Luvabulls and Benny the Bull mascot providing assistance.

Work within the limits of Snapchat. The Chicago Bulls broke its first Snapchat film into three acts. But instead of filming ten-second scenes, the team put the camera on airplane mode so that the Snaps went live when the data was turned back on.

Incorporate incoming Snaps. The Chicago Bulls closed the second act of Who Deflated Big Ben? with a question that asked viewers who deflated Big Ben, with the goal of keeping fans engaged and wanting them to come back for more.

The question generated thousands of unexpected responses, prompting the team to consider incorporating incoming Snaps in future films.