Corporate Partnership in Action: Top 10 Most-Engaged Sponsors of #MLSCupDecember 10, 2018
MLS has grown as a league year over year, bringing in new clubs and developing home-grown soccer in the US. According to Wikipedia, MLS has seen a 68% increase in TV viewership since 2012.
As the playoffs ended in 2018 with the MLS Cup between Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers, it brought MLS near the top of sports conversation and opened the door to exciting work between teams and their corporate partners.
As Atlanta defeated Portland 2-0 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of a record crowd, brands worked with MLS to make sure that the week leading up to the game and the game experience itself were as engaging as they could be.
United We Conquered 🏆
2018 MLS CUP CHAMPIONS!!! pic.twitter.com/ykEhRDWTtH
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) December 9, 2018
Measuring Twitter activity from the week of the MLS Cup (12/3/18 – 12/9/18, with the match occurring on 12/8), here were some of the stats surrounding the MLS Cup itself:
- 86.5K organic tweets were sent either mentioning the MLS, Atlanta United, Portland Timbers, or using any of the hashtags associated with the MLS Cup. 2.4 billion impressions were registered with a projected reach of 110 million users.
- Atlanta United was directly mentioned over 36K times, more than 4x as many times as the Portland Timbers.
- People that tuned into the MLS Cup and posted about it on Twitter tend to have a greater interest in certain popular sponsorship categories than the average US sports fan, such as video games, automotive brands, and fantasy sports.
While the content surrounding the MLS Cup was far-reaching, it’s what brands did to tap into MLS fans during the week that stood out. Around big events like this, invested brands tend to step it up and help to create the best experience for fans as possible, both in person or over social media.
Here were the top sponsors from the MLS Cup, sorted by total activity around them on Twitter (posts, engagements, and interactions). These sponsors are ones in partnership with the MLS, Atlanta United, or the Portland Timbers. Below are examples of how each sponsor activated on social media, how much value the impressions generated, and how you can follow a similar content model.
10. American Family Insurance
Atlanta United’s jersey sponsor wasn’t idle during the MLS Cup week. By leveraging local ambassadors like Brad Guzan, hosting ticket giveaways, and engaging (without forcing) conversation around the game, they played their part as their players went on to win the MLS Cup.
- Total posts, engagements, and interactions around American Family Insurance: 177
- Projected reach: 91K
- Impressions value: $1.2K
As the official beer of MLS, Heineken was very present throughout Atlanta United’s locker room celebration. Heineken was also present outside of MLS, thanks to sponsoring segments from shows on ESPN that were shared on social media.
- Total posts, engagements, and interactions around Heineken: 245
- Projected reach: 1.8M
- Impressions value: $9.3K
8. Home Depot
The official home improvement retailer of both the MLS and the Mexican national football team had branding present at all locations on gameday during Spanish pregame broadcasts. Also, because they’re headquartered in Atlanta, both corporate and local stores were inspired to get involved on digital, with workers posing in Atlanta United gear.
- Total posts, engagements, and interactions around Home Depot: 525
- Projected reach: 480K
- Impressions value: $2.9K
The official soft drink of MLS co-hosted an eMLS event before the championship to bring in both professional gamers and celebrities to play FIFA 19. It doesn’t hurt that Coca-Cola is based in Atlanta as well.
- Total posts, engagements, and interactions around Coca-Cola: 913
- Projected reach: 3.5M
- Impressions value: $72.3K
The presenting sponsor of the MLS Cup actively engaged in social conversations in the week leading up to the game, which peaked on 12/5. Audi was featured on the Twitter poll seeking an MVP during the game. They also had memorabilia for fans and products in the stadium during gameday.
- Total posts, engagements, and interactions around Audi: 1,499
- Projected reach: 3.6M
- Impressions value: $58.5K
The official tire of MLS also sponsors MSL’s Extra Time Radio show. They dropped a show during the week and used FIFA 19 to predict the MLS Cup. Continental Tire also let the Extra Time team take over their social handles during the game.
- Total posts, engagements, and interactions around Continental: 1,558
- Projected reach: 3.3M
- Impressions value: $53.7K
As the official supplier of MLS, not only is every team’s kit Adidas-made, but Adidas worked with Soccer.com to host a giveaway of tickets to the game. They also had championship gear ready as soon as the game was done and posted as soon as the game was over.
- Total posts, engagements, and interactions around Continental: 3,520
- Projected reach: 4.1M
- Impressions value: $29.1K
3. EA Sports
The one thing about video games is that a lot of fun things can be done with them in terms of activations. MLS used FIFA 19 to predict the final score of the game, additionally bringing in celebrities to play onsite at Mercedes Benz Stadium. We predict that as eMLS continues to grow in 2019, EA SPORTS is going to get a lot out of their investment.
- Total posts, engagements, and interactions around EA SPORTS: 3,608
- Projected reach: 6.5M
- Impressions value: $86.3K
2. Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines showed how to really make the most out of being a sponsor. As the jersey sponsor for the Portland Timbers, they made sure that fans traveling to Atlanta were treated especially well and hosted giveaways with fans for tickets and merch. While they may not have earned the biggest reach, the number of posts and sentiment around Alaska Airlines suggests that they earned a lot of fans for life.
- Total posts, engagements, and interactions around Alaska Airlines: 7,505
- Projected reach: 850K
- Impressions value: $34.2K
With the naming rights to the home stadium of the championship match, Mercedes-Benz was at the heart of the MLS Cup. They leveraged MB Stadium handles and their own company handles to engage on social media. Not to mention, MB Stadium has made headlines over the last couple of years for offering a great stadium experience, underscoring why Mercedes-Benz emerged as the number one sponsor during the 2018 MLS Cup.
- Total posts, engagements, and interactions around Mercedes-Benz: 39,860
- Projected reach: 12M
- Impressions value: $291.9K
Looking back, here are some takeaways from what we observed during the MLS Cup:
- Corporate partnerships are a two-way road. Both the team and the sponsor need to be engaged to make their partnership work. Mercedes-Benz, Alaska Airlines, and Home Depot, for example, engaged throughout the event from their own corporate accounts and didn’t just rely on teams and leagues to carry them on social media.
- Aim to create a memorable experience. Coca-Cola created a place for fans to have fun playing video games. Audi had products on site and gave out items to fans. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is, even now, a place to behold in American sports. Fans are more likely to post and engage with events on social outlets where their favorite influencers are active.
- Know your audience to land the ideal corporate partnership. Consider EA Sports. Data showed that people engaging with the MLS Cup were more likely to be interested in gaming than the average American sports fan. It was therefore wise for them to be as involved as they were with the MLS. Teams and leagues should similarly use insights like that to gauge opportunities and pitch prospective sponsors.
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