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In the past, sports sponsorship was simple and straightforward.

Sponsorships involved a logo or signage within clear view of TV cameras, which was the only way a fan could watch the game. With the modern omnipresence of mobile phones and social media-obsessed fans, this is no longer the reality. Sports can be watched and experienced anywhere.

Falling viewership and attendance numbers are well-documented, but not universal. Game seven in the last World Series had more than 23 million viewers, the most since game seven in 2017. Reporting shows that fans still watch their sports live. It seems fans aren’t changing the times they are watching their games, but rather the way they watch them. In fact, they are probably watching the game the same way you’re reading this right now – on a mobile phone.

Approximately 96% of Americans own a cell phone, with 81% using smartphones. We check our phones an average of 52 times per day and touch our phones a whopping 2,617 times per day. And alternative viewing options don’t stop there – nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults own desktop or laptop computers with roughly half owning tablet computers.

It has been reported that two-thirds of ESPN’s audience is exclusively mobile. In 2016, 83% of searches around big sporting events were from smartphones. It’s safe to say that number has gone up and will continue to do so. People are consuming on multiple screens – watching the game with friends while searching for updates, posting real-time thoughts, and checking countless apps.

Why this matters: this handheld addiction offers considerable opportunity if brands and teams are willing to deploy some data strategy muscle. The wealth of data points created by this interconnectivity creates a new variety of ways to reach fans with a measurable impact.

Sponsorship costs aren’t going anywhere either, with brands spending record amounts in order to increase brand awareness, improve brand image, and reach their target audience. Market research shows the global sports sponsorship market at  $55 billion in 2018 with projections to grow to $86.6 billion by 2025 boosted by a compound annual growth rate of 6.72%. And, according to, brands spent roughly $652 million in TV advertising during the 2019 MLB playoffs. It was also the second consecutive year that each round of the MLB playoffs had an official presenting sponsor. Fox stated that the Super Bowl generated around $600 million in gross revenue, the largest revenue day in TV history. All ad spots sold out two and a half months before game day. According to Kantar Media, the average Super Bowl commercial cost has increased by 96% over the past decade, with advertisers shelling out $5.2 million on 30-second commercials during the 2019 Super Bowl. Fans responded in kind by spending an average of $81 each on food and drink during the game.

What is propelling these rising sponsorship costs? Data, social engagement, and sales metrics.

For fan data, the standard demographics such as age, gender and income are a basic requirement. Looking further and incorporating psychographics and behavioral analytics can be the factor that pushes a sponsor to sign on the dotted line – or walk away from the deal. Identifying insights through Artificial Intelligence within your data equips marketing and sales teams with customer preferences. This data can be uncovered through ticketing apps, social metrics, and surveys.

Behind category exclusivity, surveys show that brands consider presence on social or digital media as the second most valuable sponsorship benefit, with 98% of brands using social media to leverage and promote sponsorships. Sponsorship opportunities laden with unique social channel promotions are a surefire way to curry favor with fans and maximize ROI.

Impressions and attendance numbers don’t cut it anymore – brands want sales goals tied into sponsorship agreements. Anheuser-Busch InBev created a new sponsorship model with some of the 80 pro teams it sponsors. The model was based on the simple calculation that winning teams have fans spending more on tickets and beer. If teams make the playoffs, they get more sponsorship money. Additional incentives include reaching specific viewer metrics for Budweiser-branded social media videos produced by teams and a bigger payoff if the Budweiser market share jumps in the team’s area over a 12 month period.

What can help brands the most is to create a target audience profile of who they want to reach and lay out specific goals. Based on audience profile metrics uncovered from data points, teams can then focus their efforts on finding sponsorship opportunities that fit those needs.

Teams can also access cutting-edge analytics tools that can segment high-income fans, use data visualization tools to show where fans are located and predict which fans are most likely to purchase season tickets. Showing a potential sponsor the details of your fan base will put you head and shoulders above the rest. And while the sponsorship approach looks very different nowadays, those changes bring a wealth of opportunities to help brands and teams prosper. The key is creating the KPIs and finding the data that will make a sponsorship partnership a win-win for both parties.

Sponsorship Central brings together two products with 25 years of combined experience and trusted by sports organizations across the country. Sponsorship Central changes the game with a solution that integrates every step of a partnership – from the first sales contact to fulfilling the last activation of the season – while delivering day-to-day measurability, accountability, and cost-saving efficiency. Managing sponsorships has never been so easy.