6 Sports Sponsorships Changing the Game

Jess Westendorf
Jess Westendorf October 1, 2019

The world of sports sponsorship has significantly changed. While traditional assets like in-venue signage and stadium naming rights are still used, brands are investing more in immersive experiences in order to better connect with today’s fans.

So we did a little research and found six sponsored activations that show just how much the world of sports sponsorships has changed. The teams and brands below are the ones we think are leading this next generation of experiential sponsorships.


1. The Chicago Bulls’ Angry Birds Eye View Cam

Rovio, the Finnish developer behind the Angry Birds franchise, has established several innovative partnerships in sports and entertainment. And the company’s latest deal with the Chicago Bulls is an eminently sensible one. It provides an above-the-backboard camera angle in the United Center called the “Angry Birds Eye View Cam.” The name is clever, and the fact that the deal was announced shortly after the Bulls secured top pick Lauri Markkanen, who hails from Finland, adds an extra bit of synergy. A line of “Angry Birds 2” text along the top of the backboard along with an image of one of the iconic Angry Bird characters in the top right corner of the frame ensures viewers won’t forget who is responsible for the unique camera view. The partnership is a clever and effective way for Rovio to align its mobile game (and all of that game’s offshoots, including a pair of movies) with one of the NBA’s most valuable franchises.


2. L.A. Dodgers Starting Lineups

BioFreeze teamed up with the L.A. Dodgers for one of the simplest sponsorships yet. The Dodgers added the pain relieving brand logo to its starting lineup graphics as part of the team's new partnership with BioFreeze. The lineups have been heavily shared across the Dodgers social media accounts, especially its Twitter account which has over 2.2 million followers. This is not the first time that BioFreeze has done this kind of partnership either. Last year, the company did the same type of deal with the New York Yankees by adding animations to the Yankees starting lineup and sponsoring the Yankees official stadium experience sweepstakes. Overall, BioFreeze drove in over $2 million dollars from that deal. Talk about easy money and branding.


3. Budweiser and the "Light up the World Cup" Campaign

When you think of the World Cup, you likely think of the superstar players, insane goals and diehard fans. Budweiser found a way to capitalize on the aspect of the game that fans crave. For the World Cup in Russia, Budweiser was the official beer of the tournament, which provided the perfect opportunity to introduce its red light noise activation cup. The cup was sold both in and out of venues so that all fans could take part in the action. The goal (no pun intended) behind the cup was to combine the love for celebrating the biggest moments on the field with the fans in the stands. Soccer is notorious for its goal celebrations and loud cheering, and the cup lit up anytime there were loud noises, amplifying the fan experience on and off the field.  


4. Watford FC and Sports Interactive's Data Exchange

The partnership between Premier League club Watford and game developers Sports Interactive, the creators of the popular Football Manager series, has evolved from a simple jersey sponsorship into something much more elaborate. The alignment has always made sense as a mutually-beneficial play for both parties to target crossover audiences and raise brand awareness. Now, though, Sports Interactive is also giving Watford access to the wealth of otherwise inaccessible data on clubs around the world that its 1,300 part-time researchers accumulate for Football Manager (and of course Watford will help ensure, reciprocally, the accuracy of its in-game depiction).


5. The Los Angeles Lakers' Wish Jersey Patch

When Wish made the aggressive move to place its logo on the Lakers’ jerseys in exchange for about $40 million over three years, no one imagined that the e-commerce platform was actually getting a bargain. But it made sense for Wish from the beginning, given its large base of customers in Los Angeles and vendors in China (where the Lakers have gained considerable ground due to the popularity of Kobe Bryant, per Recode). But the return on Wish’s investment has been greater than anyone could have imagined. Hookit reported that Wish gained 20 million social media followers during 2018, a 108 percent increase from 2017 (Front Office Sports). The brand stands to benefit even further, as in the time since the deal was finalized, the Lakers have secured LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Moreover, the company has activated its partnership by drawing on the team’s “intimate relationships with its celebrity fans” and giving courtside seats to influencers willing to wear Wish T-shirts. (AdWeek). Wish fully embraced the culture of the team and city it was entering with its sponsorship deal, and reaped considerable rewards as a result.



6. EA Sports and Pizza Hut’s Virtual Naming Rights

Pizza Hut secured the naming rights for a virtual venue contained within Madden NFL 20 in which EA Sports will host the games of its Championship Series (MCS). The MCS took place from August 30th to September 1st, meaning Pizza Hut's deal paid off with repeated and prolonged exposure. Pizza Hut is already the official pizza of the NFL, having replaced Papa John’s after the 2017 season, and a move into Madden suggests a renewed emphasis on targeting younger football fans (especially given that the MCS is streamed on YouTube and Twitch).

One particularly interesting quality of this move is the level of direct control EA has over how frequently its partner’s sponsorship is automatically activated. EA Sports developers have the power to release subtle gameplay presentation updates to Madden to call additional attention to the Pizza Hut branding without repeated effort on the fast-food chains part. 



Jess Westendorf

Jess is a former Marketing Coordinator at FanThreeSixty.

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