Aug 27, 2009 at 05:25 PM
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How Social Media Helps Sponsorship Scale

Wikipedia - scalability is a desirable property of a system, a network, or a process, which indicates its ability to either handle growing amounts of work in a graceful manner or to be readily enlarged.[1]

For marketers using experiential, scaling means something slightly different. How do you in a smart way increase the reach of your campaign without a) diluting the personal dialogue of your consumer interaction or b) incurring prohibitive variable costs (relative to traditional media).

Experience marketing has the unique ability to build memorable and emotional connections to brands, in a way that transcends traditional media and advertising. There is no disputing that. The 1 to 1 dialogue that brands can have with consumers via sponsorship is unparalleled. As brands with niche audiences or highly targeted demographics already know, event sponsorship is perhaps the most cost efficient way to spend their marketing dollars, as it can accomplish a number of different marketing objectives at a fraction of the cost of a traditional spend. It's a bit trickier when it comes to brands with broader demos seeking to accomplish national or global objectives through event sponsorship. Traditional media generally has fixed costs in creative and variable costs in each media buy. This makes traditional media easier to scale - generally you can run as much media as you want, but production cost is fixed and already sunk. Event sponsorship campaigns, however, are the inverse right? You have fixed costs that are relatively light in comparison to advertising (some creative and production costs, website, etc.), but variable costs can include a variety of expensive add-ons per event such as rights fees, event staffing, promotional items, hospitality, media to promote the event... and tens, sometimes hundreds of other line items in the per event budget. Multiply that by tens or hundreds of events nationwide and you get the picture. Event marketing is hard to cost efficiently scale.

Enter social media.

Now at your disposal are a free set of tools that can exponentially increase the reach of your message, dialogue, interaction or experience. The 1:1 experience you have is really 1:1:many via Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and other social tools that are readily available. If a consumer has a great interaction with your brand, a YouTube video of it may be viewed by thousands of other consumers. They might share a unique branded photo opp with hundreds of Facebook friends within seconds of the experience. Heck, they might even stream it live to their network with tools like or Justin.TV. And it's highly likely that their network is like-minded, in the same demo and has the same interests as the consumer with which you just shared your experience. What's that mean? If you're targeting an event, you're also targeting everyone within the attendees social media networks (and casting a much wider net at little to no incremental cost). Tennis player, commentator and coach Luke Jensen called it out yesterday, as a key asset that tennis players can now use to provide value to their sponsors (and thereby monetize).

So that's all well and good right. But here's the rub. While social media tools allow sponsors to cost-efficiently scale the experience, property owners aren't necessarily aligned with this objective. You see, they have to protect the rights of their media and corporate partners. The most recent example of this is the SEC's new media policy. In protection however, they run the risk of stifling the ENORMOUS opportunity that social media provides sponsors: the chance to scale experiential more cost efficiently. Who will make sure that doesn't happen? Sponsors, fans and smart-minded properties. Surely there's a middle ground and it's up to us collectively to find it.

Is social media the magic band-aid that means sponsorship no longer has issues with scaling? No. Can it help add value, extend the reach of your sponsorship and decrease the average cost of a brand interaction? Absolutely.