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Can a Mascot Supercharge Your Content Marketing?

October 27, 2016

 
Sponsorship, Content Marketing, and Digital Gravity

 

We have a standing Thursday morning meeting with a long time client. After we got through our agenda and some chit-chat (our kids are the same age, so we can riff pretty extensively on that topic), I asked what else she was working on. Her response:

 

“I’m trying to figure out our content marketing strategy.”

 

Inwardly, I smiled. You and everyone else, it would seem.

 

In an industry that loves its trends and buzzy phrases, content marketing has rapidly ascended to a prime position in the marketing vocabulary, stepping over “gamification”, “clickbait” and “meme-orization” (ok, admittedly, I made that last one up.)

 

The explosive growth of digital and social media channels has swamped corporate marketing departments. New platforms rise and fall like waves in a tempest; just when a team has steered a brand to the top of one, another takes its place and threatens to swamp them.

 

Content marketing was born from this chaos. At its core, content marketing concerns the effort by brands to generate original, unique and compelling content that can be used to engage customers with a preferred brand story. Content can take almost any form (video, pictures, graphics, audio, text, etc.) and is overwhelmingly distributed digitally.

 

But therein lies the rub. As brands use content marketing to post more and more content, the online noise becomes deafening. And as brands go to further extremes to grab attention, it’s getting worse. With content marketing budgets increasing an estimated 50% in the next 12-months, how do brands produce content that is engaging enough to break through the clutter?

 

An answer may lie in the sponsorships that so many brands already have.

 

Because the term ‘sponsorship’ can mean 10 different things to 10 different people, let’s define terms. I’m talking about sponsorship of a property (sports team, cause organization, music festival, etc.) that generates an intense emotional response. This type of sponsorship is done with strategic intent, is brand driven, goal-oriented, and is considered an essential part of a marketing mix.

 

(Conversely, I’m not talking about capriciously concocted partnerships or donations. Examples include ‘sponsoring’ a golf tournament because the CEO loves golf, or buying a table for 8 people at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon because Keith in Western Regional Sales plays softball with the CoC’s President’s husband…)

 

A strategically selected sponsorship property can provide wide range of benefits, but one of the most significant can be its online presence. Sponsorship properties maintain varying amounts of “digital gravity.” Fans drifting through chaos of the Internet are inexorably drawn into the orbits of the things they care about (Manchester United, the Foo Fighters, Sierra Club, etc.) While the gravitational pull of some properties is certainly stronger than others (New York Giants > New York Islanders), the effect is undeniable.

 

Harnessing the power of this digital gravity elevates and differentiates brand content marketing efforts.

 

Brands will enhance the digital gravity of their content marketing efforts by embedding intellectual property associated with a sponsorship investment. Fans that might have previously ignored, missed or avoided a brand’s online offerings will be drawn to them because they now contain content they are already drawn to.

 

Case in point: an insurance client’s email marketing efforts were decidedly underwhelming. Response rates weren’t terrible, they were just … meh. To improve performance, we developed several concepts that integrated content related to the company’s new NASCAR sponsorship into future sends. Right out of the gate, CTR for emails featuring NASCAR content outperformed previous versions by over 600%.

That’s not surprising (or at least it shouldn’t be). NASCAR fans are notorious for their support of sponsors, and racing is perhaps just a wee bit more compelling than insurance. Leveraging that passion and interest to the benefit of content marketing efforts is clearly a winning strategy.

 

The good news is that sponsorship properties (sports in particular) are positively laden with intellectual property (logos, images, and, yes, mascots) and content in all its shapes and forms. Many are also good at working with sponsors to create new content that is tailored to fit a need. So if an existing opportunity doesn’t meet brand objectives (e.g. injury reports for a hospital partner), properties can work with partners to develop and provide a regular stream of engaging content that will.

 

Now this isn’t to say that you should just post a team logo online and rest easy knowing your content marketing challenges are solved. All the same rules still apply: tailor content for each channel, provide useful/compelling information, personalize whenever possible, make content relatable, etc. But with these constants in place, content related to sponsorships can be the variable that boosts success.

 

For properties, the challenge lies in working with sponsorship marketing managers to engage content marketing specialists to develop an understanding of their priorities (audiences, platforms, content-types, messages, etc.) With this in hand, properties will be able to identify both existing and potential content that will be invaluable in supporting brand online activity.

 

Harnessing the immense digital gravity of sports and entertainment properties can supercharge content marketing efforts. Brands will be well served by spending time and energy to evaluate their existing sponsorship marketing investments to determine which are able to best help tell essential brand stories. 

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