Looking towards 2016 we can expect a host of sporting events from 6 Nations Rugby to Superbowl 50 to EURO 2016, that will challenge Sponsors to activate on the rights they spend millions to acquire.

Building on the lessons of 2015, its clear that an essential element of a successful Sponsor activation resides in how effectively they engage their target audience through social media. While Sponsors often invest heavily to create unique content, integrating this in unique ways that attract fans before, during and after an event is challenging – so it’s integral that Sponsors have a unique platform from which to elevate their message. See our recent blog ‘How To Hack Social Media at Live Events’ for more in depth coverage of this subject.

Sponsorship has evolved over recent years and social media presents both a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Concerns over competing brands ambush marketing events on social are very real, as are challenges reaching a fragmented audience across multiple device platforms and viewing times.

Digital Sponsorship tools provide a platform upon which Sponsors can elevate their brands above the noise, creating unique and engaging content to maximise the benefit from the social media boost around live events.

Here’s a snapshot of digital sponsorship technologies that can help brands create a real impact on social media with their sponsorships.

1. Stadium Giga-Pixel Cameras

Fancam and Huggity are two of the market leaders in this space, capturing 360 degree pictures of a stadium that capture the entire crowd and allow fans to zoom in to tag themselves.

Both companies have been in attendance at many events and the technology and brand value of allowing fans to cut their images and post to Facebook or Twitter can then be effectively quantified in impressions and direct engagement (re-shares, re-tweets, comments).

Huggity recently capitalised on the Rugby World Cup activating at the event and  “engaging fans beyond the event” – meaning that fans can log in after the event is finished and post branded images to social – effectively keeping the Sponsorship alive.

The giga-pixel stadium image has been used by a number of brands – such as the UFCSky Sports and the All Blacks and drove new opportunities around the digital sponsorship sphere.

A similar company with a twist is Fanpics, it helps brands engage with fans through high resolution photography as well, but instead of one gigapixel camera, this  company stations cameras around sports stadiums to capture the individual highs and lows of the fan viewing experience.

As well as the novelty of being caught unaware, Fanpics only captures fans at the height of their emotional experience – which are then sent to their mobile app for only that individual fan to view. If they like the image, the fan can then share a branded version to social media channels

2. Social Media Aggregators

There are a number of social media aggregators now operating, with the market maturing for this type of offering. Market leaders such as Spredfast, Stackla or Fandom focus on capturing user generated content from social media channels and incorporating that into a rights holder or brand website to drive fan traffic to the site.

Spredfast was founded in 2008, CEO Rod Favaron aimed to get people “pulling in the SAME direction” and his work with Spredfast typifies this sentiment.

Spredfast works by creating a unified dashboard for marketers to manage their company’s’ presence across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and other social networks.

Similarly, Stackla, has recognised the power of user-generated content and that it should be at the heart of brand marketing. An easy to use interface is one of its many positives and Stackla provides a unified platform where social media and content management mix almost seamlessly.

By engaging the customer or target audience, Stackla relies on user generated content to enhance the user’s experience and makes it almost familiar to the audience.

While these tools remain hugely popular, the emphasis on curation requires that certain Twitter handles and social accounts are selected which then form the basis for the stream of content. While this can give fantastic insights into an event, however, can rely too heavily on corporate channels – rather than fan channels.

3. Incentivised Hashtags

Kwangl aims to link traditional advertising at sporting events with social media. It’s unique concept is enabling you to program hashtags that deliver incentives, exclusive content and rewards to consumers.

While it relies heavily on Twitter engagement and requires specific sign-in to the platform – it does allow you to create a unique call to action in your traditional media (for example pitch-side LED advertising), before rewarding consumer responses in bulk –  for participating in your marketing campaigns.

4. Sport Storytelling

Snapchat Stories by Snapchat are a fun way for live sporting (and many other) events to be consumed.

Snapchat Stories add Snaps (photos & short video clips) from people attending or involved in an event together to create a narrative. Fans can add a Snap to a Story and the story then lives for 24 hours before it disappears, making room for new stories. The Story always plays forward, because it makes sense to share moments in the order they are experienced.

Snapchat being ephemeral by design, limits these Stories so that they cannot be shared or viewed at a later date, which may not be in the rights holders main interest – however, as long as Snapchat supplies the audience, the call the shots.

A recent example being The UFC collaboration with Snapchat for #UFC193 resulting in an awesome snapchat story documenting the night of the greatest shock upset in UFC history when champ Ronda Rousey lost her title to a superb Holly Holm.

Interestingly, while the UFC were able to share content snippets to Instagram – the Snapchat Story in its entirety was only available to view on its own network.

A much more recent example of a story telling platform is SportTeller by Deltatre which is a cross-media storytelling platform that engages fans. It is geared towards sports federations, broadcasters, clubs and brands who want to harness passion and grow their audiences by enhancing their sport storytelling.

SportTeller can apply to any kind of sport content, it connects with audiences by understanding their appetite for appealing, easy to access content. Comprehensive analytics tracking means brands and sponsors can monitor the success of their SportTeller campaigns instantly.

SportTeller easily integrates into existing digital platforms and allows fans to share stories that they love across a multitude of social media.

5. Fan Storytelling and Real-time Rewards

The Crowdsight platform, which can be embedded in an official stadium or team apps, uses Sponsored Rewards to incentivise fans to upload their images live from an event. Similar to Snapchat & Sportteller – this is all about creating a story, a narration of the fan experience through the eyes of the attending fans.

Critically, the fan creates this story.  In contrast to social media aggregators, the content is not curated from a limited number of high profile social accounts, rather fan content is uploaded directly into the platform. This is then moderated using the latest in content moderation technology, ensuring that the resulting live stream is brand safe – while remaining the most authentic and genuine narration of the fan experience available.

Uniquely, by capturing the fan story in real-time, Crowdsight empowers Sponsors to react and reward individual fan moments, LIVE as they happen, using our social analytics tools to identify which items of content are going viral, and which fan influencers are helping – so that Sponsors can reward more effectively.

For the fans at home, Crowdsight showcases the excitement of the live fan experience, while Sponsors can enjoy unparalleled access to fans at the height of their experience.