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Sport’s sponsorship: Is it worth the sweat?

Our social media analysts give you the score on sports sponsorship talkability

It’s no secret that South Africa is a sport-loving nation. The Comrades Marathon, the Cape Town Cycle Tour, the ABSA Currie Cup – these are annual South African institutions with a history that seems guaranteed to resonate with the public.  Given their considerable popularity and big audiences, these events are viewed by marketers as a sure sponsorship bet. But how much talkability are brands really getting for their buck?

Our Social Media Analysts assessed the traction around two recent sporting events to get insights into talkability return: the 2016 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon and the 2016 Cape Town Cycle Tour. The comparison was carried out through the lens of Pick n Pay, one of three sponsors of the Cape Town Cycle Tour and a minor sponsor of the Two Ocean’s Marathon.

Overall talkability of events

What did the results say?

Both events contributed to only 3% of total Pick n Pay social media conversation for February and March 2016. This is a lower than expected return for Pick n Pay, given the high profile nature of both of these events.
Notably, Pick n Pay’s more low key #PancakeDay Twitter competition, which also took place in February 2016, gained more social media traction / mentions on one day than the sponsored sports events –  248 mentions vs 60 for the Cape Town Cycle Tour and 211 for the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon.

#CycleTour2016 was the top performing Cycle Tour hashtag, achieving 1 586 mentions. #OMTOM2016 achieved a total of 3 186 mentions for Two Oceans – almost double the mark reached by the Cape Town Cycle Tour. In a head-to-head comparison of social media conversation and value for money on mentions, Two Oceans was the clear winner.

Cape Town Cycle Tour

Image courtesy of SA Yes

Why did Two Oceans perform better?

The Two oceans event was characterised by continuous and consistent messaging across all platforms, including the sponsors’ and sponsored athlete’s pages. Their clean, catchy hashtag #OMTOM2016 was ubiquitous. Conversely, multiple CTCT hashtag variations were used by the public, event sponsors and athletes. Further to this, having recently changed the name from the Argus Cycle Tour, the public were confused as to which title to use.

This analysis illustrates the importance of content design, specifically a catchy hashtag. And of course, the ability to share that hashtag with the public in an aligned manner that isn’t confused by variations.
“The #OMTOM2016 hashtag rolls off the tongue easily and is simple to remember,” says Social Product Manager, Dean Mabodi. “People actually call the event OMTOM when chatting or typing. This is a good example of how important the choice of hashtag is in the social media environment. Equally, Old Mutual has sponsored the event for a long period, so they have been able to build association between the brand and the event, manifest in the hashtag, over time. They are currently experiencing the rewards of this long association.”

The final score

Don’t take anything for granted. A strong South African legacy is just one factor. It’s important, but it won’t deliver all on its own in a social media environment. The event must be assessed holistically, with a strong eye on consistent and clear messaging. If these elements are in place, the brand will be positioned to achieve expected returns.

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