Why social matters so much to measuring sports sponsorship

For as long as there’s been sports sponsorship there’s always been some model to measure it by. But as the way fans consume the sports they love has changed, so too have the methods of analysis.

Certain things still hold true, of course. Millions of fans still attend events in-person and watch them live on TV, and that’s not going to change any time soon. 

But digital media continues to grow in strength. Fans can stream an event from anywhere so no longer need to be tied to a TV to follow the action, while social media means they don’t need to dedicate their time and attention to an entire game: within minutes, they can see Steph Curry scoring that crucial basket in a 90-second clip on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. 

The sporting media landscape has fractured, slimmed down and sped up, and rights owners and brands need to keep the pace when judging the impact of their activations.

Dragons get fired up

This past weekend provided a great example. Wrexham’s 3-2 victory over Notts County was the biggest game of this Vanarama National League season and BT Sport’s live coverage presented plenty of opportunities for exposure.

As the match went on and word spread of the on-pitch drama, viewing figures likely increased, providing further good news for the league, teams and their commercial partners.

But it’s only after the game that interest exploded. Wrexham goalkeeper Ben Foster, who’d come out of retirement just weeks earlier, saved an injury-time penalty to help his team see the win out and put them three points clear of County at the top of the league.

Fuelled by posts from their celebrity owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, interest skyrocketed in the hours after the full-time whistle as the combination of the incredible game, Foster’s out-of-nowhere story, and the existing attention Reynolds and McElhenney have generated meant that Wrexham attracted more Twitter mentions than Sunday’s Liverpool v Arsenal match.

By 9am the following day, the full-time announcement alone had earned 10.5m views, more than double the figure generated by both Liverpool (1.8m) and Arsenal’s (2.9m) full-time tweets combined.

Why does this matter?

It’s easy to dismiss such figures as simple vanity. After all, social media is a fickle place and viral status is achieved as frequently by kids posting memes as it is by teams and brands posting content that will generate tangible value.

But in sport sponsorship visibility is vital. The 10m+ views Wrexham’s full-time announcement generated is precious real estate for their sponsors and, had they posted an image featuring a partner’s logo, it would have delivered value many sponsoring brands can only dream of.

Certainly, the club’s front-of-shirt sponsor TikTok will be celebrating having appeared in multiple images and videos across various accounts. Even the sleeve sponsor VistaPrint benefitted, with posts from ESPN UK and EuroFoot putting them front-and-centre.

And it’s not just Twitter that can deliver this kind of exposure, either. Ben Foster’s YouTube channel jumped from 1.32m subscribers on Monday to 1.34m at time of writing this post, with his video blog of the game being seen 1.3m times.

So, what's next?

Between them, Reynolds, McElhenney and Wrexham are changing the game and showing that what happens on social media is as important as what happens through broadcast.

Rights owners and their partners should be paying close attention, as should Wrexham itself. As incredible as the Notts County match was, there were plenty of missed opportunities that can be analysed, understood and rapidly resolved to generate further exposure and greater value.

Only by taking a holistic approach to sponsorship and measuring visibility across social as well as broadcast can stakeholders truly get to grips with the power of a partnership and maximise the value they’re generating from it.

Find out how DataPOWA can help you understand the modern sponsorship landscape and get the most out of partnerships by emailing us at [email protected]