You can find droves of people working for Twitter, Facebook, Snap, Instagram and other platforms whose jobs are to establish partnerships with sports rightsholders and marketers.
Those companies view themselves, essentially, as media partners, much in the same vein as old-school broadcasters and new-breed streaming services. Their partnerships are content partnerships, delivering all kinds of video produced by athletes, teams and leagues to audiences eager to consume it—and sometimes generating revenue for both parties in the process.
Their younger counterpart, TikTok, has joined the fray, entering into collaborations with content producers and brands, such as hosting “The Last Dance” after-show “The Encore” in partnership with Jordan Brand in addition to building on its deserved reputation for creating authentic connections between fans and athletes like JuJu Smith Schuster and Paul Millsap.
And it could be argued that TikTok is doing their competitors one better. Why? Because it is going beyond being a content distributor and also becoming a marketing partner, as evidenced by its sponsorship stakes with the UEFA European Championship and the New York Yankees, and last week’s agreement to put its name on the jersey sleeves of the MLS Portland Timbers and NWSL Portland Thorns.
Unlike the other platforms, TikTok apparently recognizes the unique benefits it will accrue as a sponsor, and, more importantly the statement it is making to fans—namely that it wants to actively contribute to their experience, not just profit from it.
In particular, TikTok has spoken about supporting the soccer community through its UEFA and Timbers/Thorns partnerships, which it will do through in-stadium moments, player appearances and other activations, in addition to content.
In Portland, the platform also is demonstrating commitment to gender equity through the first joint patch sponsorship of a professional men’s and women’s soccer team in the U.S., and has committed to working with the Timbers’ Stand Together initiative to ensure a portion of proceeds from each jersey sold is donated to select Portland-area nonprofits.
TikTok sees the added value in sponsorship that most other media platforms have long missed. It also recognizes that sponsorship’s true worth isn’t in logo exposure on signs and jerseys, but in demonstrating real commitment to fans, communities and the sports they love.