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Digital Activation Ideas for Sponsorship

Organizations often limit their sponsorship marketing opportunities to the events they hold throughout the year. However, events and conferences are very costly, especially new events that have yet to establish their usefulness in an industry. If you are looking to partner with companies in meaningful ways, sponsorship can be applied to other forms of activation that aren’t dependent on events and experiential marketing specifically.

Sponsorship activation takes place when audience goals and sponsor goals come together successfully. Digital activation uses online marketing channels to present sponsorship opportunities. It can include integration across several channels from ads to video and social media to mobile marketing.

Digital activation ideas for sponsorship don’t have to be difficult. They just have to resonate with your audience and your ideal sponsors. The trick to strong activation ideas is to ensure they help your sponsors meet their goals while providing a source of information, product, service, or entertainment their target audience will appreciate.

Offering digital sponsorship opportunities is important because technology has become the norm for communicating with just about every audience out there. It allows your sponsors to speak to their audience using the channels they prefer, opening endless possibilities to be creative in a very cost-effective way. Here we explore the world of digital activations and list some effective digital activation ideas your sponsors will love.

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The Benefits of Digital Activations

Digital activations are highly customizable. You can use a variety of channels to target ideal segments and collect measurable proof that shows sponsors their sponsorship dollars are working. Digital activations can target larger audiences, as you are not limited by room or venue capacity like events. As well, you can guarantee everyone on your list will be reached, as opposed to events where a ticket must be purchased, and people must be available to attend on a specific day or weekend.

Digital activations require less of an investment upfront than many event opportunities and there is a lower risk with digital activations than there are with event participation. Digital activations are also good for you because you can design some of your assets to help you expand your own reach. While sponsorships of any kind prove to be beneficial for both the sponsors and the asset holders, digital activations can become long-lasting partnerships. You and your sponsors can continue to collaborate on a selection of projects that become more and more effective as your relationship grows.

How To Make Digital Activations Successful

Your sponsored digital activations aren’t quite as simple as throwing a logo on a social media feed. Instead, they take careful thought and planning to make them appealing to sponsors while helping to ensure the campaigns are effective. There are four steps you can take to make digital activations more successful:

1. Understand a sponsor’s goals:

It’s impossible to succeed if you don’t define your sponsor’s goals. Are they trying to increase sales? Define their brand? Increase awareness about their social responsibility? Launch a new product? Increase their social media following? Improve their SEO? Goals speak to the nuts and bolts of your campaign and ensure your tactics and the channels used will work together to get the right results.

2. Understand the value of your audience:

You can’t sell sponsorships without a clear understanding of your audience. You are, in essence, selling that audience and therefore it is key to define what you bring to the table. Who a sponsor can reach must be specific, with defined segments they can choose from a menu. This keeps your efforts more efficient while also allowing them to invest in the audience that will help them meet their goals and expand their reach. Define personas to help sponsors find their ideal customer based on the variables that are the most meaningful to them. The more detail you provide, the more valuable your audience becomes.

3. Set a sponsorship budget:

Your sponsors have to go into a sponsorship agreement with their eyes open. Adding value to the different digital activations you offer will keep them within their budgets while also showing them you have their best interest at heart. When you combine their goals with what you offer, you can keep them on target and on budget, so they get the best possible ROI on their advertising spend.

4. Leverage social media:

Today social media is at the base of any good digital marketing campaign. The value you bring through your followers can prove to be the most important sponsorship opportunity you offer. You can track engagement while helping improve your own brand exposure when you can align yourself with brands that resonate with your followers.

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Measuring the Success of Digital Activations

It’s easier to measure digital activation success than it is to prove a property was activated at an event. You can share easily sourced metrics including: 

  • Website/landing page visits
  • Sources of traffic to reflect the different channels you might be using
  • Organic search generated by your onsite efforts
  • Referrals from your digital pages to a sponsor’s website or pages
  • Visits and views generated by social posts
  • New visitors vs. Returning visitors
  • Session visits to their website and the average time spent on each page
  • Page views and the most popular pages visited thanks to your digital activations
  • Bounce rate for how many people leave or stay on the pages
  • Social media metrics
  • Advertising metrics
  • Email marketing metrics
  • Impressions to show the number of views of your content or ads
  • Engagement rate such as clicks, shares, likes, retweets, comments, etc.
  • Email open rates and click-through rates for links for ads or emails

These numbers help support sponsorship efforts with tangible data sponsors understand.

The Types of Digital Activation Ideas for Sponsorship

That brings us to the types of digital activations you can offer sponsors:

Social media

This is a huge online space that allows sponsors to effectively meet their goals. Social media is a valuable sponsorship property as it allows sponsors to share a very intimate relationship with your followers. Branded content is an excellent collaboration for social media and can be offered at different levels including co-branding, sponsor-based production and content, or “stealth” branding to create a more authentic less salesy message. As long as you and your sponsors are on the same page for the goals you wish to achieve, you can produce highly complementary, effective social media campaigns that are creative, engaging, and successful.

From fresh, unique content, to strategically chosen links to share, and from encouraging follower participation to live streaming mini-events, demos, etc. you can combine your marketing minds to create mutually beneficial social media content. Longer-term collaborations work well as it shows a commitment between two like-minded brands. It also leads to better ideas and more successful promotions as you learn where you succeed and where you can improve together.

Social media sponsorships can even be used for polling and voting based on all kinds of topics and opinions whether it is for real data collection or just for laughs. Each of you bring your own unique set of assets whether it is talent to produce web series, product images and usage ideas, audience participation tricks, etc. You can also get better exposure by choosing to run promotions, content, feeds, etc. in tandem so that you both benefit from each other’s followers.


Digital contests can be used for a number of purposes including raising brand awareness, getting people to try products, email address collection and jump-starting social media engagement. Sponsors can choose how they participate whether it is a simple logo presence to providing high-ticket prize items. As with social media content opportunities, you can choose to offer contests as exclusive opportunities, co-branded with yourself or another sponsor, etc.

Contests encourage more shares, which can increase reach for you and your sponsors. They can also be handled in different ways to help you meet your goals. For example, if you are simply looking to expand your mailing list you can have people enter the contest by providing their email address. If you want to increase followers or improve your content you can ask people to submit videos or images showing them using a sponsor’s product.

You can ask for shares, likes, or comments for contest entry if your goal is to increase engagement, or even have people submit a video explaining why they should win to generate user content. All these ideas can contribute exciting new content, increase interest in your feed and encourage participation and engagement.

Online networking and community

Online communities create networking opportunities that can be extremely far-reaching. A perfect example would be a platform such as LinkedIn which brings together thousands of different sector and industry networks where people can interact, share content, raise their company profiles, meet people to help find jobs and more. This also creates a highly valuable resource for sponsors looking for new ways to connect with their ideal customers. Communities and networks can also be used to serve other purposes including:

  • Market research
  • Customer service resources to assist with advice
  • Establishing or finding industry influencers
  • Beta testing new platforms, software, online services, etc.
  • Tracking customer feedback
  • Sharing information

You can discuss your sponsor’s goals to come up with a new community or leverage an existing network or community to offer sponsorship opportunities.


Buzzfeed rules social media feed quizzes. Quizzes are quick and fun and can be completely customized to meet the needs of any segment audience. Many sponsors would be willing to pay for customized quiz options that will resonate with your audience and can easily be combined with contesting to add value and increase participation.

Some Examples of Excellent Digital Sponsorship Activations

Pottery Barn & Sherwin-Williams:

A perfect match, these partners offered a special line of paint colors designed to complement Pottery Barn furniture featured on both websites. https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/color/find-and-explore-colors/pottery-barn-collection

Spotify and Starbucks:

Spotify has partnered with many companies including coffee mogul Starbucks https://www.forbes.com/sites/nomiprins/2015/05/19/the-spotify-starbucks-partnership-is-digital-co-branding-genius/#1b7da7284a7a. It’s all about customizing and streaming music for improved customer experience while using the services.

Cover Girl and Lucasfilm:

Cover Girl created a dark side and light side makeup line in partnership with Lucasfilm to attract more girls to watch the latest Star Wars release. https://www.instagram.com/p/6U3toqpSLr/?utm_source=ig_embed

So, there you have it. Digital activation ideas for sponsorships are an exciting alternative to the usual event opportunity offering an affordable way to leverage relationships and forge partnerships to expand reach.

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Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.

After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.

Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.

Connect with Chris via: The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn