With over 50% of the North American population slated to use smartphones by 2015, marketing agencies, brands, and sport organizations are trying to determine the best strategy to engage with those consumers.

A potential solution? Snapchat.

Snapchat is a photo messaging application used on smartphones to take and share photos, videos, drawings, and text conversations. According to Consultant Marty Conway, Snapchat has more than 100 million monthly active users, two-thirds of whom use the application on a daily basis.

At today’s sporting events, fans are not always paying attention to the entertainment on the field or the atmosphere around them – rather, their heads are buried in their phones. Instead of trying to change this culture, teams should embrace mobile (and, by extension, mobile applications) as an opportunity to interact with fans and sell sponsorships. Snapchat is a potential perfect fit for this approach.

Snapchat initiated a major sports-focused campaign during the 2014 World Cup dubbed “Rio Live”. To execute Rio Live, Snapchat collected World Cup-related images from Snapchat users, who shared the images and videos (“snaps”) with the Rio Live account . Together, the images told the story of the World Cup from the perspectives of a diverse pool of Snapchat users. Snapchat then distributed the snaps to all Snapchat users (whether or not they were followers of Rio Live). In this example, Snapchat literally cultivated the narrative – they selected which snaps to feature via Rio Live, and then distributed them to their entire user base, unsolicited.

A few months later, the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints were the first two NFL teams to experiment with Snapchat as a marketing tool. They elected to do so earlier this year, partially because of the app’s ability to instantly engage a segment of each team’s fan base that traditional marketing methods may not reach.

Prior to their first Snapchat marketing effort, the Saints had 28,500 followers on the platform, nearly 50% of whom viewed every snap that the Saints generated. These highly-engaged fans loved the fact that the Saints were snapchatting them, and providing them with shout-outs and exclusive footage.

The first contest the Saints ran involved fans taking a screenshot of a snap the Saints generated and then emailing that screenshot back to the Saints organization for a chance to win a prize. The team tracked the number of people viewing the snap, taking a screenshot of the snap, and then emailing the team’s Snapchat account. Within the first 24 hours, the Saints recorded 3,500 screenshots and received 3,700 emails.

I believe these numbers are very positive for a growing platform, and, moving forward, teams should begin positioning Snapchat promotions/account access as sellable inventory to sponsors. The ability to drive a narrative, offer exclusive content, and then track how many fans actually view each snap, react to each snap, and engage further with the team (and/or a team sponsor) make the platform an appealing asset. Teams should absolutely be incorporating Snapchat to a team’s social media repertoire, and pursuing Snapchat campaigns (in conjunction with their sponsors) to engage with a new wave of ‘connected’ fans.

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