In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated lockdowns, social media has seen an upward spiral in activity. Whether it be through brand-led initiatives or community support campaigns, sports rightsholders and brands have immersed themselves in creative ways in which to capture new fans via their social media channels.
The acceleration around sporting digital transformation has come to a grinding halt without the showcase of live sport to rely on. The first half of 2020 has seen the majority of sporting leagues and events either cancelled or postponed, forcing sponsors and sporting bodies to uncover “virtual” ways to successfully interact with fans.
The industry has seen a notable spike in media consumption since the absence of games and events; fans have directed their attention towards social media more than ever before. This has required a deep pool of content to engage them, and on a positive note, has seemingly proved a success. From archived footage and documentaries, through to esports events and behind-the-scenes insight, fans have been spoilt with the content that has come their way.
But, how do sporting bodies and sponsors take advantage of this rise when broadcasted sport returns? It is a unique challenge, especially given the daily changes and uncertainty in the current climate. While nothing is guaranteed for the time being, understanding the key learning points from the past few months can ensure social media managers are prepared when the sporting world returns to some kind of normality.
Throughout this period, an emphasis on authenticity has shone through, presenting a more personal approach towards social media engagement. Lockdown has undeniably prevented the creation of pristine, studio-shot pieces of work, but the rise of unpolished content has proved highly successful. This has seen a new and effective focus towards content such as player-fan interaction videos, athlete quarantine life and training at home footage.
SQN’s clients have remained resilient during the COVID-19 period, adapting its content strategy to reflect imposed lockdowns around the world. Hyundai Motorsport’s Home Ntertainment campaign, for example, has encouraged motorsport enthusiasts to stay safe at home, while taking part in fun activities – including a virtual autograph session. The team’s Home Shakedowns and clever social media content has brought WRC and WTCR drivers and co-drivers into fans’ homes with insightful interviews and engaging videos, that has revealed their personal experiences of lockdown.
What has been evident throughout this period is that campaigns and partnerships have been more creative than they perhaps were previously. They have incorporated compelling stories with a personal approach. On social media, sports rights holders are demonstrating shared experiences more than previously. A sense of community is connecting the social environment and can be seen from campaigns regarding frontline workers and charity programs.
The difficulties of not having an exact return date creates uncertainty and navigating out of this pandemic will be difficult for everyone in the industry. From a social media stance, it’s important to maintain a connection with followers. Posting regular content that is fan-centric presents the opportunity for greater interaction.
When everything is back up and running, there will be a larger focus on tactical execution in sports marketing. Successful social media campaigns from the pandemic period cannot be forgotten. Incorporating strategies similar to ones that have worked well during the past couple of months can assist with the post-pandemic transition.
Partnerships will be stronger as a result of lockdown. The sponsor-rightsholder relationships have had to adapt to ensure that partnerships stay relevant and at the forefront of people’s minds. New social strategies and approaches have been developed that could, and should, be taken forward.
The sports industry is unbelievably resilient and will come back stronger. Social media is a force to be reckoned with and the pandemic has further highlighted this. Sponsors and sporting bodies need to continue to ride the social media surge and maintain the momentum that the current digital rise has proven. Now is the time to think beyond the pandemic and to start planning for the future.