Event sponsorships have always been a highly effective way for brands to authentically connect with consumers through shared passions such as sports and music. With live events postponed indefinitely and the world continuing to social distance, brands must change their messaging and find new ways to connect with consumers through collective experiences. Billions of marketing dollars that were previously spent on sponsorship activations involving sporting events, music festivals, and retail locations remain on hold, resulting in the need to develop new strategies to support in-home consumption opportunities.
Virtual events have emerged as the new standard for connection, and brands have swiftly pivoted to digital sponsorships to engage with consumers like never before. The success of virtual events has resulted in an influx of live streams.
Providing a unique value to consumer audiences
Brand opportunities within the virtual event space are still nascent, with early adapters finding themselves at an advantage when it comes to partnership flexibility and competitive sponsorship pricing. Sponsorships of virtual events are currently unbound by the exclusivities and limited inventory that typically accompany traditional events. By partnering with virtual event organizers to integrate natively within existing events, brands have the opportunity to offer unique value to consumer audiences and genuinely connect with them without disrupting the fan experience.
Since the state of the world continues to evolve rapidly each day, virtual events are produced and launched with much shorter timelines and fewer resources. Brands that will be successful at realizing the full potential of digital sponsorships are the ones who are agile and able to move quickly while proactively identifying virtual event partners and planning campaigns.
What brand activation looks like for virtual events today
Brands are still testing and learning new approaches when it comes to effectively integrating themselves within virtual events. The best approaches so far involve native integrations that feel organic at the core and offer a clear benefit for attendees called out or linked to within the event’s stream.
Examples of native integration would include a cooking show that features a brand product in a recipe or a DJ drinking a brand’s beverage during their set. Collaborating with an event organizer that is a genuine fan of your brand enables an organic integration of the product that the audience will know is authentic and connect to.
We’ve rounded up some of the best executions we’ve seen of brands moving fast and leveraging virtual event partnerships to successfully connect with consumers.
Incentivize engagement to raise money for a cause
DoorDash drove brand affinity with consumers by sponsoring Diplo and Dillon Francis’ recurring DJ livestream to donate one free meal to a family in need. In partnership with Feeding America, DoorDash gave a meal to a family for each person who tuned into the livestream. DoorDash made it easy for fans to feel good by doing good, just by tuning in. The brand was further integrated within the event as Diplo ordered food on air and giveaways were introduced to encourage engagement from viewers. Fans had a chance to win DoorDash gift cards by taking a screenshot of the livestream, posting the photo on their Instagram, and tagging #MadDecentDoorDash. Winners were announced in real-time.
Drive sales using delivery apps to create in-home consumption moments
Michelob partnered with Diplo and Y7 Yoga to provide free yoga sessions, followed by a Happy Hour DJ set where Diplo enjoyed a Michelob while answering questions from fans. Sales were driven by a unique promo code for on-demand beverage delivery provided by retail partner Drizly. The brand integrated organically within the event by bringing together fitness and music fandom in the same livestream session while promoting participation from fans joining the Y7 yoga session alongside Diplo.
Drive traffic to e-commerce/D2C with a native integration and exclusive offer
During a time when all sporting events are canceled, The Hammer Classic connected sports fans with their favorite players by producing a 24-hour event with Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard. Hosted on his Twitch channel, Meyers helped raise money to feed 1 million people affected by the coronavirus pandemic in partnership with Feeding South Florida and Feeding America. Meyers also featured brand partners within the event by wearing branded glasses and technology from gaming partners. Fans were also given a discount code and driven to product pages directly from the event stream.
Promote sales using customized promotions
Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, hosts live unboxing events as he opens the packages he receives from fans and brands alike. His unboxing events have over one million streams, resulting in collaborations with brands such as Death Wish Coffee. Dave drives viewers to Death Wish Coffee’s website and encourages them to use his unique code to save 15% off their purchase.
Opportunities for brands and agencies
Now is the time for brands to enter the virtual event space and experiment with creative approaches to engage consumers. Virtual experiences will continue to grow at a rapid pace, even after stay at home orders are lifted. Brands have the opportunity now to shape the new world of digital sponsorships, while forming partnerships with event organizers that are more cost-efficient and collaborative than they have ever been before. These events combine the shared collective experience of live events with the scale, measurability and ROI of digital advertising.
Additional Thought Starters
Increase traffic to owned channels using unique promotions during virtual events
Offering unique promotions and discounts via virtual event streams can drive traffic to your e-commerce platform and owned channels during a time when reopening physical stores won’t be an option for the foreseeable future.
Drive trial by offering physical samples to virtual event audience
Drive trial of your product or service by partnering with event organizers to deliver samples directly to your target audience. A free sample can be mailed to viewers after the show or distributed in real time by an app-based delivery partner like 7NOW, GoPuff, etc so the viewer can enjoy the product while the event is happening. During a time of isolation, surprise gifts in the mail or via contactless real-time delivery provide a memorable experience for consumers.
Expand reach through social media partnerships with event organizers
Expand your brand campaign’s reach by leveraging a virtual event organizer’s built-in audiences. Promote contests and giveaways directly through the event organizer’s social channels with strong CTAs before and after the event to engage new consumers.