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Beyond Banner Ads: How Sponsors are Activating Through Mobile Apps

Beyond Banner Ads: How Sponsors are Activating Through Mobile Apps

5 minute read

  • With the ubiquity of mobile apps, a variety of sports properties including leagues, teams and facilities have created their own apps
  • Sponsors can look to activate within a property’s app and gain access to key demographic statistics
  • Sponsors and properties have also pushed to improve the app experience by offering new transportation methods, assisting in on-site navigation, and creating reward program

According to comScore, the average person spends approximately 68.2 hours a month engaging with a mobile app. Apps have become one of the primary functions on smartphones, resulting in millions of apps available from a wide variety of publishers. Brands ranging from major banks to independent coffee shops have leveraged apps in order to engage with their customers. This is also true for major sports properties including leagues and teams - who all have released their own official mobile app. Through the publication of an app, properties are able to engage with their fan-base regardless of location.

With the popularity and frequency at which apps are viewed, apps can provide sports properties with a valuable asset, which can be integrated with sponsors. Through creative integration, not only can sponsors benefit, but they too can provide fans with an enhanced experience.

Benefits of Sponsor Integration through Mobile Apps

Data Capture - Mobile apps can provide marketers with an accurate picture of who is engaging with their content, and how frequently they are viewing content. Brands that capture this data are provided with valuable information that can be shared with a sponsor

Second Screen Presence - With instant information available on our smartphones and tablets, sports fans have been keeping their devices close by when watching their favourite sporting events. According to the NFL Executive VP of Media, between 60-70% percent of football fans watch NFL games with a “second screen” in order to check other scores, stats, or chat with friends. In the age of multi-screen consumers, mobile apps provide brands with unique access to highly-engaged users whose attention is almost exclusively invested in their mobile experience. Being present on both screens can help reinforce the sponsor’s presence and result in higher brand recognition and recall.

Contact with Consumers through Special Offers – For sports sponsors, the greatest opportunity for engagement is traditionally either on-site at home games or during roadcast. However, since most sports have an “off-season”, the opportunity to activate is limited to a specific window of time. However, this is not the case when activating through a mobile app. Through app sponsorship, a sponsor can look to achieve fan engagement beyond a scheduled season or field of play. It is not uncommon for fans to open their favourite mobile app to receive updates or check the latest news regarding their favourite team. As a results, through a mobile app, sponsors can be present with fans 24/7, year-round. Sponsors can look to encourage engagement through special offers or exclusive content. During this year’s offseason, Starwood Hotels created a mobile game with the MLB which offered fans a chance to win a variety of baseball prize packs. Starwood was able to reach consumers through its MLB partnership during the offseason, generally a time when MLB sponsors are not as active.  

Four Trends in Mobile Apps

Enabling Fan Generated Content

During the 2016 NBA Playoffs, the Portland Trailblazers partnered with sports start-up Brizi. Through the official Trailblazers app, Brizi allowed fans to control in-arena cameras and take pictures of themselves in the crowd. Photos could be viewed instantly and shared via social media. At the conclusion of the playoffs, the Portland Trailblazers experienced over 220,000 engagements with Brizi (a significant amount considering the population of Portland, OR is approx. 609,500 people). Through new technology from Brizi, the Trailblazers were able to add a new asset to their mobile app, which in the future, can provide valuable inventory for any additional sponsors. 

Cross App Pollination

To provide their fans the best app experience, some apps look to integrate with other popular apps. The app of the Sacramento Kings recently integrated with ridesharing service Uber in order to provide fans reliable transportation to and from their home arena. Integration into the Kings’ app provided the ride-sharing service with the opportunity to reach more users, while simultaneously giving Kings’ fans an extra option for game-day transportation. 

Assisting in On-site Navigation

As a major sponsor of all four tennis majors, IBM is heavily invested in the sport of tennis. To bring their tennis sponsorship to life, IBM is responsible for technology at the major tournaments, including website maintenance and on-court data capture. To take their sponsorship to the next level, IBM debuted a new app called the CrowdTracker - aimed at improving the fan experience at the 2015 Australian Open. With over 640,000 fans at the tournament, navigating the grounds is often a difficult task for tournament newcomers. However, CrowdTracker used data to display where the largest crowds were, nearby matches, popular social media content and more. More than gameday stats, CrowdTracker helped assist fans with their game day experience, and helped position IBM as a leader in app technology.

Providing Rewards Programs

Located near Silicon Valley, San Francisco is an area that is at the forefront of technology. When the San Francisco 49ers unveiled the new Levi’s Stadium in 2014, it was envisioned to be one of the most technologically advanced stadiums in the world, which also extended to their stadium mobile app. Within Levi’s Stadium’s official app is a rewards program - Faithful Rewards presented by Esurance. Through the app’s rewards program, fans can gain reward points by attending games, interacting with the 49ers on social media, or purchasing merchandise from the team store. Reward points could be redeemed for trips to see the team play on the road, memorabilia, and more. With the ability to earn and redeem rewards through the app, the 49ers and Levi’s stadium are able to provide a centralized place for fans, making it easier for them to participate. The rewards program also provided the 49ers with an additional sponsor-able asset which could be sold to Esurance. 


As properties and sponsors continue to improve their apps and find new ways to assist fans, apps will continue to see higher levels of engagement. This increased engagement will be beneficial not only to the sports property, but also the sponsors who have the opportunity to activate through the app. 

Odell Beckham Jr. & Pepsi

Lewis Hamilton & Epson