Overview:

The global spread of COVID-19 has temporarily changed the landscape of sponsorships. With virtually all live events being paused, digitized, rescheduled, or canceled, brands must reassess existing partnerships, explore new opportunities, and plan for new consumer behaviors and sentiment as the market recovers.

At YAH, we believe the current market conditions have opened up new opportunities for brands to enhance the day-to-day lives of their consumers during these challenging times. We recommend brands reassess their marketing plans and determine how to alter media, messaging, and touchpoints to better align with the current consumer needs and interests. To maintain a brand’s health, it is important to continue forward with a strategic communications and marketing plan; however, brands must remain positive and nonexploitative during this time to avoid receiving backlash from consumers.

High-Level Recommendations:

Reassess Existing Partnerships

  1. Redefine Activation: Consider new channels/platforms to connect with consumers
  2. Reexamine Assets: How can you use traditional assets in a non-traditional way?
  3. Renegotiate: Cultivate ongoing dialogue with sponsored properties

New Opportunities

  1. Livestreaming
  2. Digital Content
  3. Corporate Social Responsibility

Plan for the Future

  1. Consumer and Business Insights
  2. Social/Digital Media Habits and Trends
  3. Risk Management

Existing Partnerships:

Redefining Activation

The benefits of experiential marketing are well known throughout the industry. It’s no secret that traditional experiential, 1:1 marketing is not currently feasible. This can represent a big hole in a brand’s marketing mix. In the meantime, what options do brands have?

  • Leverage social and digital channels to create branded virtual experiences.
    • Don’t just broadcast content; create two-way interactions.
    • Connect consumers with the content, influencers, and celebrities they love and miss.
    • Reward customers or those in need with products or services to enhance their shelter-in-place experience (e.g., surprise and delight).
  • Look for sponsorship opportunities to make a positive impact in the community.

Reexamine Assets

Take a deep dive into existing sponsorship relationships and their respective assets. Are there existing assets that can be leveraged differently in the immediate future?

  • Find creative ways to leverage IP within a newly defined marketing playbook (e.g., co-branded Zoom backgrounds).
  • Host virtual meet and greets with contracted influencers, athletes, and celebrities.
  • Utilize vintage or unique swag for surprise and delight initiatives (e.g., autographs and memorabilia).

Renegotiate

Keeping an open dialogue with sponsored properties is key. What are the properties themselves doing over the next 30, 60, and 90 days? How can you as a brand partner help play a role? Look to create win-win opportunities to engage and create value for the surrounding community.

  • Is there an opportunity to play a larger role in a partner’s digital/social initiatives?
  • As a sponsor, can you help smaller events get through this difficult time?

New Partnerships:

Livestreaming

Celebrities, artists, athletes, and influencers around the globe are frequently releasing content across their social channels during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a brand, how can you help facilitate, distribute, and/or complement new content to entertain consumers?

  • Artists & Celebrities
    • Form direct artist and/or celebrity relationships that feel authentic to your brand.
    • Explore partnerships with platforms such as Live Nation, AEG, iHeart (e.g., Concert from the Couch), etc.
  • Sports
    • Explore opportunities to partner with sports still broadcasting without live audiences (e.g., WWE).
    • Consider opportunities within eSports:
      • iRacing (NASCAR): On March 22, nearly 1MM racing fans tuned in to FS1 to watch NASCAR iRacing from a virtual Homestead Speedway. This marked the most-viewed eSports event in U.S. TV history. This points to consumers’ appetites in the current void of typical spring-time sports and other live entertainment.
      • Livestreaming on Twitch—popular eSports games include CSGO, Fortnite, League of Legends, and Dota.
  • Influencers
    • Niche influencers are proactively sharing their skills, tips, and tricks now more than ever before.
    • Consider aligning with influencers in relevant, niche areas like food/beverage, home organization, etc.

Digital Content

Finding opportunities to create and/or distribute content through digital channels is essential to the newly adapted marketing playbook that brands must use to interact with consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Repurpose archived content:
    • With a large percentage of the population spending a majority of their time at home, reposting or repurposing archived content that brings enjoyment or value to people’s lives can be beneficial to people while also reinforcing values behind a brand’s identity.
  • Engage with people digitally:
    • People are at home and looking for things to do to keep them entertained. When and where appropriate, brands should engage people in a meaningful and tasteful way through popular media channels and platforms.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

More than ever, consumers and communities are looking to businesses to help during this time of uncertainty. As a brand, how can you help?

  • Consider adding CSR components to new initiatives if it aligns directly with the brand identity and current business decisions that are being made.
    • CSR components should not be used for profiteering. If these initiatives contradict broader business decisions, companies risk consumer backlash and longer-term negative brand sentiment.
  • Donate product or resources (where applicable) to sponsored properties and the surrounding community.
  • Find opportunities to show appreciation and bring value to the lives of healthcare professionals and newly identified emergency workers who are on the front lines (e.g., delivery and grocery employees).
  • Partner with individual(s) who provide a voice that will convey CSR messages in an authentic and compelling way. This could be anyone from an hourly employee to a shareholder or celebrity partner.

Plan for the Future:

While short-term impact on consumer behavior is becoming more defined by the day, it is still uncertain how this pandemic will impact marketplaces after society moves past the peak of this crisis. Key areas that YAH will be focused on to ensure future success include the following categories:

Consumer and Business Insights

By constantly analyzing consumer sentiment and how our clients and their competitors are adapting core business, YAH Agency will be prepared to make proactive recommendations to clients to ensure business goals continue being met in cost-efficient ways. Some considerations to address could include:

  • Abbreviated seasons
  • Non-traditional dates for iconic events (Masters, Indy 500, Kentucky Derby, etc.)
  • Lost seasons (Spring NCAA)
  • Rescheduled concert tours/live event dates
  • New/different venues for touring properties

Social/Digital Media Habits and Trends

Social distancing also means finding different ways for people to connect with each other—and for brands to connect with their consumers. Platforms and services are working quickly to enable many forms of these connections.

  • Social networks are adding new features (Facebook with internet safety resources; Instagram launched co-watching features).
  • Social video (TikTok, YouTube) posts have increased (roughly 20+ percent more video posts from those ages 16-24).
  • Consumers are messaging more within apps (Facebook and WhatsApp have increased 50%).
  • Facebook Live has increased streams by 50% since January 2020.
  • Digitally, conference services like Zoom have seen a 30% increase since February. It’s now the world’s second most-downloaded app, behind TikTok.

Risk Management

It’s likely that life will not completely return to what we previously considered “normal.” As marketers (and sponsorship/experiential marketers especially), we must keep in mind the changing world around us. How can we create open, inviting, and interactive experiences while also ensuring consumer well-being is top of mind?

  • Consumers will be less open to touch at events (handshakes, high fives, etc.).
  • Shared surfaces will need to be cleaned regularly, and signage communicating the cleaning practices should be prevalent.
  • Consumers may be less likely to reuse items such as VR headsets.
  • Premiums, such as hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial screen wipes, will be more sought after than ever.

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