Real-Time Marketing at Events: The Evolution of Brand Sponsorship

Sprinklr Team

February 26, 20218 min read

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Real-time analytics paired with real-time marketing tactics have the potential to transform the way brands participate in global cultural events. The transformation of media triggered by social, mobile, and ubiquitous connectivity, means a brand with a savvy creative approach and a strong grasp of real-time marketing can now introduce wholly new tactics to attach their brand to major events. This blog post will explain how to make real-time event marketing  happen.

Real-Time Marketing at Events like the World Cup and Super Bowl

Brands pay $4,000,000 to purchase 30 seconds of commercial time during the Super Bowl and tens of millions of dollars to sponsor the World Cup or the Olympics. But what if there was a way to get more value out of an event sponsorship, or to even become part of that event without sponsoring it at all?

Global sports and athletes have never been more popular, and as a result brands spend huge sums to be part of massive cultural events like the NFL Playoffs or the Olympics. Yet, the focus of consumer attention is no longer just a television broadcast, but also the hashtags, videos, comments, and links that millions of viewers engage with throughout the event. According to the latest Nielsen survey of connected device owners, nearly half of smartphone owners (46%) and tablet owners (43%) said they use their devices as second screens while watching TV every day. This creates an opportunity for nimble brands to become a part of global events by using timely social and digital marketing tactics that can influence, or even hijack, the conversation surrounding a sporting event.

Precedents for Brand’s Seizing the Spot Light

First, let’s address the question – is it even possible to build a digital program that closely ties your brand to a major event in ways that are more meaningful than an on-field logo or in-game commercial? The answer is yes, there is ample precedent for this ranging from Nike at the last World Cup, to Doritos every year at the Super Bowl, and Oreo at the most recent Super Bowl.

The key is to combine compelling digital content, with ongoing  adaptive and timely tactics that align to the breaking news of the event.

Compelling digital content: Nike’s 2010 World Cup digital campaign

As we saw in the 2010 World Cup, with Nike’s digital video campaigns, and then again during this year’s Super Bowl with the various attempts at real-time, there is an opportunity for brands to become a part of the atmosphere of these major events, without necessarily (or in addition to) spending huge sums of money on event sponsorship and advertising.

Nike was not an official sponsor of the 2010 World Cup, but you’d never know it based on the effectiveness of their digital marketing tactics. Look back at the coverage of the event and you can see the degree to which Nike was able to build a dominant position surrounding the event with tactical digital executions like their use of sponsored athletes and digital video.

Ongoing relevance: Doritos Crash the Super Bowl Campaigns

Every year brands release portions of their Super Bowl commercials in teasers and hints in the days coming up to the event. But only Doritos really makes a long-running event out of their commercials. Their contest, with its rounds of voting and constant change, keeps the brand’s audience involved for the duration of the event.

Pursuing ongoing relevance has the benefit of not only broadening appeal beyond the audience that solely watches the big game itself. It also creates more opportunities for brands to attach to timely trends while widening the window for timely executions. It’s a lot easier to do timely marketing on a 48 hour timetable, than real-time marketing on a 4 minute time table.

The power of timeliness: Mini’s Burger Controversy Campaign

Similarly, look at Mini’s use of timely content in the context of the burger meat scandals in the UK. They launched a piece of timely digital content within days of the news breaking, and then extended and optimized the campaign across channels as it resonated with their target audience.

real-time event marketing infographic

Mini’s horsemeat campaign. Image via AdWeek

So, what does this mean for the future?

Brands that want to dominate the digital conversation alongside major events can design programs that are built to thrive in a world of more timely and real-time conversation.

Multi-day cultural events (like the NFL Playoffs for example) are the perfect place for brands to speed up and el/evate their timely marketing. It is relatively easy to identify the trends and news that matters using existing technology. The relevancy window where a brand can say something is much longer than a single game – so brands can move quickly, but not quite in real-time and still be successful.

In the future brands will borrow the Nike strategy of guerrilla digital marketing, link it to the Frito strategy of layered digital execution, and add in a 3rd piece: timely, responsive content in order to become the dominant brand in the context of major events.

How to Do Real-Time Event Marketing at Multi-Day Events

To get started with real-time event marketing at major events, brands need to embrace some new technology, and some new process, but much of this can be done with existing resources and capabilities.

Establish a flexible creative platform and associated guidelines

This platform will be the foundation of all of your tactics surrounding the event – both planned and timely. This is critical because the guidelines for which event storylines and trends to join, as well as how to join them will flow from the brand values and creative platform you’ve already established. Having these rules in place will speed up your execution substantially. Make sure you can quickly answer questions like:

Is this a trend we should join? What tone should we take? What assets do we have? What call to action should we focus on? Is it compliant / legal? What are the specific roles and responsibilities for creative development, approval, publishing and measurement? How will we align our paid media budgets to these tactics? etc.

Implement the technology, team, and process to adapt the creative platform in a timely way.

This breaks down into three stages. You will need to identify trends, join trends, and then measure/optimize your efforts. Some of this is technology enabled, and some of it is just old fashioned project management, but sped up substantially.

Identifying trends

Use a combination of software and your creative platform guidelines to identify the narratives and content from the event that are trending among your target demographics. These will give you the raw materials for trend attachment.

Dachis Group’s software finds the topics and content trending among your specific target segments in real-time (men who love soccer for example) so that you can know the most fruitful areas to build content and participate in the conversations.

Joining trends

Once a trend is identified, you must rapidly create content, get it approved internally, publish it and promote it. This will typically be the responsibility of a joint brand/agency team who can work together to filter through ideas and actually make the creative assets necessary for publication. Because this effort will take place in a timely (though not quite real-time manner) you won’t need the huge team in one room that Oreo had for its famous Tweet from the Super Bowl. But make no mistake, this will require smooth and rapid hand offs between a number of parties – we recommend practicing well in advance.

Dachis Group can help with specific training and guidelines that make it easy for your brand to rapidly develop and implement content.

Measuring and optimizing participation.

Most of the events you choose to join are long lasting and occur in bursts over the course of weeks. For example, the NFL Playoffs occur over more than a month. This affords brands the unique opportunity to experiment with tactics, track their effectiveness, and optimize for the next round of content.

Real-time analytics that track very specific audience reactions, content performance, earned media performance are critical to ensure an optimized program. This will also help you to understand which content is resonating and may be appropriate to extend into other channels – even traditional media as we saw with Mini’s burger controversy campaign.

Dachis Group software helps you optimize with a number of analytics dashboards that report on competitive brand performance, content effectiveness, and earned media performance – all in real-time.


Inserting your brand into the conversations surrounding major cultural events has never been easier or more valuable. The World Cup, Super Bowl, Nascar and countless other events no longer play out solely on the pitch or track, they play out in real-time conversations on X, formerly Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and YouTube. Is your brand ready?

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