Imagine this: you're a rising company looking to establish a powerful brand name in shipping. To help build brand awareness, your company agrees to pay the hefty sponsorship tag for a college football bowl game - the Hawaii Bowl, specifically.
While not a premier bowl game, the sponsorship is sure to plant your company's name and logo into the minds of college football fans. You work with the event planners and bowl organizers to arrange fun in-game ways to promote the company further. It's all coming together quite nicely. That is, until disaster strikes.
Days prior to the event, one of the teams has to withdraw with a lack of available players. With such short notice, no other team is available to replace the dropout. The game is ultimately canceled, leaving a massive loss for the campaign your marketing team has built around this televised event.
This is the exact situation rising shipping company EasyPost found itself in after agreeing to a three-year sponsorship agreement for the Hawaii Bowl.
What do you do?
Many would simply pack it in, cut their losses, and move on to their next marketing plan. Write it off as a lost opportunity. EasyPost's marketing team decided to take a different route. With travel arrangements already set and paid for, why not generate some content out of it? What transpired next over the next few days is nothing short of modern-day marketing brilliance.
The lemon grows
Every Christmas Eve, there is typically only one major U.S. sporting event on television: the Hawaii Bowl. This year's contest was slated to pit Hawaii against Memphis. However, Hawaii pulled out of the game when COVID cases started to rise within the program. With such short notice, no replacement team was available to make the trip. Ultimately, the game was canceled, leaving Memphis with a free island vacation.
While the Memphis football team enjoyed their new free time, the game's sponsor had a decision to make. What do they do with their now-canceled game?
Pressing the lemon
After deliberation, EasyPost decided to send their social media guy to Honolulu to at least get pictures of the field and stadium adorned in their logo, even if it was entirely empty. They then began live-tweeting their experience, adding a dash of fun and personality along with the tweets.
As the tweets started rolling in, college football fans began flooding to EasyPost's twitter, desperate to watch more unfold at this unprecedented event. With momentum behind them now, the company leaned entirely into the crowd.
They began to live up to their word - by live-tweeting an event that did not, in fact, actually occur. Complete with check-ins after each quarter.
Next, they decided to amplify things even further by bringing in accounts with big followings - like former NFL punter and media star Pat McAfee.
As you can see, this tweet generated over 130,000 views!
Now, one might argue what value bringing in a bunch of college football fans on Twitter has to a shipping company like EasyPost. The purpose of marketing is to build awareness. You want your company at the top of the consumer's mind when they have a need for your product or service. Hundreds of thousands of college football fans (whom all have day jobs, btw) now not only know the brand EasyPost but have banked a lot of positive memories with the brand! On Twitter alone, EasyPost generated over 11.6 million impressions from the event, a value far exceeding whatever dollar amount was spent on sponsorship.
Taking the next step
It would be really easy for EasyPost to simply go back to their "regularly scheduled programming" on their social media following the game, but doing so would have undone all the positive momentum built up from this endeavor.
People don't follow brands for advertisements. They follow for information and entertainment. The team at EasyPost knew this and made sure to follow up with more fun content that would maintain their new following, including some clever memes and engaging with other, big-name bowl games.
In short, don't be afraid to have fun with your business's social media outlets and don't be afraid to spend up for expenses that might seem frivolous. The silliest ideas can generate good content, drive engagement and ultimately build a loyal following and strong customer base. In the end, that's all you can ask from your marketing team.