Non-sports properties, content and mobile-first fan experiences are playing an increasingly important role in AT&T’s sponsorship strategy.

Looking to offset competition from streaming video services and other players in the hyper-competitive telecommunications category, AT&T is placing more focus on using sponsorship to access content and promote its expanding line of products and services, including its 14-month-old DirecTV Now subscription streaming television service.

And non-sports properties are playing a key role in the strategy.

AT&T activated its presenting sponsorship of the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival with AT&T Presents: Untold Stories, a program that gives diverse filmmakers the chance to create and distribute his or her film. The program awards $1 million to one winning filmmaker and distribution on AT&T video platforms, including DirecTV Now.

While AT&T dropped its decades-long partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2017 (a partnership now held by Comcast), the telecom has not completely moved away from sports.

AT&T signed a handful of new ties with sports teams and leagues over the past year including the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United FC and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home to last week’s College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T.

In addition, AT&T in 2017 renewed its partnership with Soccer United Marketing, a deal that includes Major League Soccer, U.S. Soccer and the U.S. and Mexican Men’s and Women’s National Teams.

Below, Mark Wright, AT&T vice president of media & sponsorships, discusses the thinking behind AT&T’s evolving sponsorship strategy, why the company is placing more focus on content, and other topics.

On AT&T’s evolving sponsorship strategy
AT&T’s current sponsorships have done a tremendous job generating positive brand awareness. When evaluating new sponsorship options, we’re looking for brands that can leverage AT&T’s brand story to continue engaging our customers in new and innovative ways.

As shown by our work with AT&T Presents: Untold Stories, our future sponsorships will go well beyond traditional sports. All sponsorship options for AT&T need to be mobile-first, video-content-driven. We want to drive eyeballs to AT&T and, ultimately, get folks to choose AT&T. We aim to leverage all our sponsorships to put the customer, or fan, at the center. We want to bring them closer to their passions.

We want people to see themselves in our brand. Our goal is to reach people where they are through creative sponsorship experiences that evoke emotion and result in love for the AT&T brand.

We’ve evolved from a telephone company to a wireless company to a global leader in telecommunications and technology. Entertainment is now part of who we are. We’re all about providing access to content people love virtually anytime, anywhere and on any screen, and we’re committed to supporting our sponsorship activities through access and innovation.

Since we are a brand with high levels of awareness, we’ll seek to future focus our portfolio beyond sports and drive greater activation of our sponsorships to improve brand relevance.

On the impact of AT&T’s 2015 acquisition of DirecTV
Our integrated mobile, TV and broadband offerings have enabled us to capitalize on the explosion of video content. We consume video everywhere thanks to mobile connectivity. Mobile experiences are vital to everything we do. We’re able to bring premium content – like Taylor Swift Now and NFL Sunday Ticket—to leverage across our more than 130 million U.S. wireless subscribers.

Streaming the NCAA March Madness Music Festival live on Audience Network is one example of how of that’s come to life in our sponsorships.

On the role of content in AT&T’s activation strategy
We are always thinking about ways to further ensure that our investments are placed in the right mix of assets that account for the highly fragmented media consumption and fan engagement landscape. To do that, we’re always evaluating our sponsorship portfolio to ensure that not only do we have the right mix of sponsorships, but are we leveraging them in the best ways possible for the customer.

An example of this is working with sponsored properties, athletes and entertainers to offer customers exclusive behind-the scenes content.

Connectivity and access to exclusive content is like oxygen to the sports fan. We believe that in the coming years, content providers like AT&T will be endemic to sports sponsorships in the same way sports drinks and apparel companies have been over the last 20 years. AT&T is looking to build a sponsorship portfolio that focuses on building fan engagement and increasing brand love through mobile-first fan experiences. People consume content everywhere—and our technology enables that.

On AT&T’s approach to category exclusivity
We are heading toward a time when sponsorship rights will shift in terms of how they’re presented to the market. We’ll start to see rights be sold by content/platform, rather than solely narrowly defined by category.

That said, we’ll look for opportunities that encompass AT&T’s full suite of product and service offerings. Content—and exclusive content—will continue to be king.

When you look at things from the customer POV, you understand they want inside access to things they’re passionate about – and we, as sponsors, want to deliver those exclusive experiences to them. That’s how we’re approaching deals moving forward.