GeoMarketing: Snapchat Aims To ‘Snap Up’ Sponsors For Real-Time Sports Stories

By Lauryn Chamberlain

Timed photo-sharing app Snapchat, which has run “snap” campaigns for the likes of Lacoste, will take its ad offerings a step further by spotlighting live sporting events as part of its “Our Story” feature.

“Our Story,” launched in July 2014, allows Snapchat to combine photo and video messages shared by willing “Snapchatters,” splicing them together into a multimedia story available to all Snapchat users. First up for a live sports story? The NCAA Final Four tournament.

The company has worked to broker a media-rights deal with both the NCAA and Turner Broadcasting in order to make the “Final Four Story” possible, Digiday reported. Snapchat did not respond to a request for comment at press time.

Show Me The (Snap) Money

The deal could provide a key opportunity for marketers looking to use Snapchat, as the app plans to sell brand sponsorships for this and other upcoming live sports stories. It did something similar in 2014, when Amazon and Hollister co-sponsored a Black Friday Story. According to Adweek, those day-long ads ran at $750,000 a pop.

While 750K for the day is quite a chunk of change, it can be a savings for big brands like the Hollisters of the world if viewed in comparison to TV ad rates. Plus, broadcasting content to users via a Story could give brands a unique targeting opportunity, since the platform is such a hotbed of activity for millennials.

“Snapchat is a unique platform, with a clear focus on younger audiences, especially teenagers,” Andrew Davidson, Managing Director of Search and Social at Mindshare, told GeoMarketing. “And according to comScore, nearly one-third of 18-24 year olds use Snapchat, making it a powerful solution for advertisers trying to reach that segment of the population.”

In addition to its millennial focus, Snapchat’s numbers alone make it appealing; the app now reportedly boasts 300 million monthly active users, which is more than Twitter. But all of this success is still quite recent; the Snapchat of a couple years ago looked like nothing more than a flash in the pan.

From ‘Huh?’ To Huge

Following the app’s 2011 debut, the overwhelming reaction was skeptical, to say the least. Who wants to send photos to their friends that disappear after ten seconds? Plus, the conception of Snapchat as a “sexting” app was tough to shake. But by slowly ‘snapping’ up more users — and making inroads with major brands — Snapchat started to shed its old image. Even now, as the messaging app continues to fight off charges of fostering a sexist corporate culture and the loss of high-profile executives this year, brands are nevertheless excited about the actual service’s potential to help them connect with younger consumers.

“A year ago it was, ‘Wow, you have that creepy thing on your phone?’ This year, people are saying, ‘We have to try it,’” Matt Heindl, senior director of social media marketing at digital agency Razorfish, told Digiday in an interview in January. “If Snapchat can get a brand as conservative as McDonald’s to advertise, it refutes the idea that it’s a flashing porn app.”

Indeed, now that the app has mainstream acceptance, marketers are scrambling to get on board. And with a new real-time event focus — like the NCAA tournament — which is shown to boost sales, Snapchat ad options begin to look even more attractive.

But sales are exactly the question. Can sponsoring a Snap Story or flashing some branded content for a few seconds actually drive in-store sales?

Targeting Remains Tough

“Snapchat does offer a balance of the potential for highly engaging content and scale,” Davidson said. “[But] in the program’s current state, there seems to be limited granular program reporting and minimal targeting — both concerns for large brands that want to understand how their programs perform and tie the spend back to ROI. As the platform and its ad products mature, this is something that should be addressed, so as to provide brands the ability to segment audiences and dive deep into results.”

Essentially, Snapchat’s appeal to marketers so far has mostly been as a way to build brand awareness, sharing some similarities with native advertising on feed-based sites like Instagram and Tumblr. If a teen sees a brand on Snapchat, the hope is that it will seem “cool” and also that it will “pop up” in his or her mind when shopping at the mall — just the same way a Snap pops up on the smartphone screen.

In the future, might Snapchat refine its targeting practices to serve Snaps specifically based on proximity to a given store, and then tie those Snaps to in-store visits? Perhaps, given that the app already broadcasts location-based “Stories” — New York residents and visitors are the only users who can see the curated “New York Story,” for example. But agency insiders acknowledge that Snapchat is still in its infancy when it comes to advertising.

The real-time sports Story sponsorships are an experimental step forward, but for now, they seem just that — an experiment.

“In the early advertising stage for platforms like Snapchat, brands are always very focused on who the initial rounds of advertisers are, the types of content and stories they produce, and the buzz they create within the market — both from the user and the ad perspective,” Davidson said. “Right now, we’re going to see a lot of continuously evolving programs on Snapchat until a ‘norm’ settles in — although that still seems far off.”

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