Sports Marketing: Tracking Social Media ROI, Influencers, and Engagement

On the surface, sports marketing in the digital age should be easy.

You have a thrilling product, a rabid fanbase, and a growing arsenal of social media platforms to connect the two.

Sure, you can post content all day long, but how do you evaluate the success of one sports media campaign versus another?

How do you prove your sports marketing agency is better-equipped to land that contract? How do you justify your marketing strategy to your superiors? And how do you prove that what you’re doing aligns with your business goals?

In other words, how do you measure the ROI and success of your sports marketing campaigns?

In this post, we’ll explain why you should be measuring the ROI on your sports marketing campaigns, what metrics to track, and case studies on metric tracking in sports media.

  • Why you should be measuring the ROI of your sports marketing campaigns
  • The most important metrics to track
  • Example use cases of these key metrics
  • Case studies of effective metric tracking in sports media
  • Tools to help you track these metrics

Let’s go!

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Why Should You Measure the ROI of Your Sports Marketing Campaigns?

Which Sports Marketing Metrics Should You Track?
Visibility Metrics
Engagement Metrics
Sentiment Analysis
Audience Analytics
Influencer Analytics
Other Business Metrics

Sports Marketing ROI Case Studies:
The Special Olympics
SportQuake
MELT Atlanta

Why Should You Measure the ROI of Your Sports Marketing Campaigns?

Even if you have a product that sells itself—like a successful sports team—blindly posting content for the sake of posting content is only going to get you so far.

By setting specific, measurable goals before embarking on any sports media campaign, you’ll be able to identify what went well, what went wrong, and what you can improve for next time.

Start with the question:

“What am I trying to accomplish?”

Is it growing your team’s social following? Is it attracting new sponsors or investors? Making existing sponsors satisfied with their investment? Creating new partnerships? Recruiting or tracking influencers? Raising awareness for a cause?

By identifying your goals in advance, you’ll know what data is needed to prove your campaign’s value to any relevant stakeholders, whether that’s your boss, a sponsor, or your own sense of accomplishment.

Once you’ve picked a goal, decide what metrics you’ll use to measure success and pick specific targets.

For example, if your goal is increasing followers, by what percentage, and over what time period? If your goal is impressing a sponsor, you may want to set targets for total reach and fan sentiment.

Not sure which metrics you should be tracking? Don’t worry, because we’re covering that next.

Which Sports Marketing Metrics Should You Track?

Let’s jump into which social media metrics you should be tracking to understand your ROI, whether you’re measuring posts, particular accounts, hashtags, or your audience.

Visibility Metrics

No matter what your goals are, it’s likely you’ll be invested in the overall visibility of your campaign.

Reach

Reach is the number of unique users that have seen a particular post, keyword, or hashtag.

For example, if one account with 10,000 followers posts your hashtag, that hashtag has a potential reach of up to 10,000 unique users. The same account posting again on that hashtag would not increase the potential reach.

If your content has broad reach, that means it’s making its way to a large volume of users. It’s a sign that your content is being broadly shared by influential accounts.

Impressions

Impressions is the total number of times the piece of content has been viewed (similar to page views on your website).

In contrast to reach, the same user seeing the same piece of content twice would count as two impressions.

High impressions are either a result of high reach or high repeat engagement from a core follower base.

Follower Count

Of course, you’ll also be invested in the number of followers to your sports social media accounts, whether it’s on a single platform or across platforms.

By growing your own follower base, you can directly impact the potential reach of your own posts, relying less on influencers and shares to have your message heard.

You may also need to track the follower counts of your sponsors or your team’s athletes.

You can also track your follower growth rate, calculated as follows:

Example Use Case: Sponsored Hashtag Monitoring

Measuring hashtag analytics will be extremely important to you if your goal is to track the success of a sponsored hashtag.

Take #SuitingUpTogether for example: a Toyota-sponsored hashtag used by the LA Lakers on Twitter, Instagram, and various other platforms.

To prove the success of the sponsorship to Toyota, the Lakers could share metrics like reach, impressions, and increases in @ToyotaSoCal’s follower count over time. 

Engagement Metrics

Beyond pure visibility, you should also track how engaged your audience is with your posts.

Average Engagement

Average engagement measures the average number of likes, comments, and shares each of your posts gets. 

Average Engagement Calculation: (likes + comments + shares) / (# posts)

This is an indicator of the volume of interactions your posts get.

Average Engagement Rate

Average engagement rate is your average engagement per follower.

Average Engagement Rate Calculation: (average likes per post + average comments per post + average shares by post) / (# followers)

This ratio is more telling of the quality of your content and/or how active your followers are. If you have a lot of followers, but low engagement, you may need to step up your content game!

Optimal Post Time & Post Length

Once you have visibility and engagement metrics, social media monitoring tools can start to give you feedback on what type of posts are providing the most value.

A tool like Keyhole can give you data like the optimal time of day to post, what type of content formats are performing best, and the length of text that gets the most engagement. 

Example Use Case: Game Hashtags

Game hashtags are known to have tons of engagement from fans.

Whether it’s a hashtag you created for a team, or you’re joining in on a grassroots hashtag created by fans, there are sure to be hundreds, thousands, or even millions of posts on that game’s hashtag.

But how do you post on that hashtag to gain the most engagement?

Here’s an example of a hashtag, #nbafinals2019, with a game specific clip.

By analyzing the average engagement rate of posts at different times, you can identify the perfect time to post during games. Is it at tip off? Half time? During the intermission? 20 minutes before the game? As the clock winds down?

Only by measuring these metrics will you know for sure.

Sentiment Analysis

Quantity doesn’t always mean quality. Posts, teams, or athletes can go viral for the wrong reasons—so you have to look beyond reach and engagement.

Sentiment analysis allows you to track the number of positive vs. negative posts for a given hashtag or keyword.

By tracking sentiment analysis, you’ll be able to prevent and manage PR crises, better understand your audience, and keep a finger on the pulse of your audience’s mood.

Example Use Case: Player Sentiment

Let’s say you have a video campaign planned where you’re featuring an athlete in your organization in each video.

If bad news breaks that day about that player, you don’t want to add fuel to the fire by sharing a mistimed feel-good post about that player—especially if that post is tied to one of your sponsors.

By using social listening and sentiment analysis tools, you can make sure you’re avoiding any intended consequences.

Here’s a hilarious piece of player-driven content from Liverpool FC. But they wouldn’t want to post it soon after one of the players in the video made a costly mistake for their team.

On the flip side, if a player is trending for positive reasons, it may be the perfect time to pull an older piece of content on that player out of the archives.

Audience Analytics

Your sports social media campaigns will only be made stronger the more you learn about your audience.

By using the native analytics tools in the social media platforms you’re using for your campaign, you can track audience metrics like:

  • Countries
  • Language
  • Gender
  • Keywords
  • Devices

Example Use Case: Multi-Lingual Campaigns

By using audience analytics, you may learn you have a growing demographic that you should tailor more of your content to.

Because they’re located in a southern US state with many Spanish speakers, the Arizona Coyotes launched Spanish versions of all of their social media accounts in 2019.

They would have been able to justify that decision in advance by using audience analytics on their English-only accounts.

Influencer Analytics

Engaging with your team’s top fans is an amazing way to make fans for life.

By inviting influencers into your sports marketing strategy, you’ll give them a platform to share their authentic passion that’s sure to resonate with your wider audience.

Example Use Case: Targeting New Demographics

By using Keyhole’s influencer tracking tools, you’ll be able to identify, compare, and measure potential and existing influencers with all the metrics we’ve already mentioned above.

For example, if you’re looking to reach a demographic that your audience analytics say you’re not currently reaching, you can seek out influencers whose content clearly resonates with that exact demographic.

Other Business Metrics

Actual ROI

Of course, the truest and simplest way to track your ROI is to track the financial cost of your strategy compared to the overall gain of your strategy.

But tracking your financial gains isn’t always easy.

If you know the financial value of a single follower, you could estimate revenue gained from gained followers.

Or if you can link landing or renewing a particular sponsorship to your marketing campaign, you can consider that your financial win.

Website Analytics

You can also turn to your website analytics to prove the effectiveness of your campaign. Did your website traffic go up after your campaign started? Did it go down once it stopped? 

Linking your marketing campaigns to other metrics outside of social media shouldn’t be ignored!

Sports Marketing ROI Case Studies

The Special Olympics

The Special Olympics are a huge sports endeavor—with nearly 5 million athletes with intellectual disabilities participating worldwide.

At that scale, tracking the ROI of their social media campaigns is a tall order.

Ryan Eades, Director of Digital and Social Engagement at the Special Olympics turned to Keyhole to track the ROI of their social media efforts.

They sorted their audience by follower count and engagement to identify their most influential ambassadors.

Once they linked up with model and actress Brooklyn Decker, they used Keyhole to track engagements and conversions linked directly to her posts.

SportQuake, the Data-Driven Sports Marketing Agency

Sports marketing agencies have the most to gain from tracking ROI.

As they’re not in-house employees, they have to prove the potential and actual benefits of every campaign they run for any organization.

They need as much data as they can get.

SportQuake is one of those agencies. They are often in a position where they’re trying to recruit influencers to aid in marketing campaigns.

But they look beyond follower counts. They want to make sure the influencers they work with are actually likable.

That’s why SportQuake uses Keyhole’s sentiment analysis metrics to monitor the audience sentiment towards a particular influencer—allowing them to have a data-driven approach to choosing the right fit for their campaigns.

MELT Atlanta’s Cool Approach to Analytics

MELT Atlanta is a sports marketing agency that connects major brands with top athletes and athletic events.

For example, their most recent project is a marketing campaign connecting Coca Cola with athletes in the 2020 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

To MELT, tracking the success of their campaigns is crucial to proving ROI for their clients.

“Having a reliable number of impressions and reach for the hashtag that we are able to get within seconds of logging in has definitely solved our biggest pain point,” said Jenna Cook, their Digital & Social Media Manager.

With Keyhole, they track brand accounts, athlete accounts, hashtags, their most engaging posts, best posting times, follower insights, and more.

By having an easily accessible dashboard with their most crucial metrics, they can easily answer whether or not their clients are seeing ROI on their campaigns within seconds.

How to use Keyhole to Track Your Sports Marketing ROI

No matter what your goals are for your marketing campaign, you’re going to need to prove your campaign’s effectiveness with hard data.

By using Keyhole’s advanced social listening tools like hashtag analytics, influencer monitoring, keyword tracking, sentiment analysis, and more, you’ll have a wide range of metrics to prove the success of your marketing campaigns.

Ready to get started? Start your FREE Keyhole trial today.

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