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This week’s Sanremo music festival in Italy has seen a social media first: a brand sponsor’s logo, in emoji form, attached to an event hashtag. Although some Twitter users seem upset by sponsored emojis at the moment, they could become an essential part of an eventprof’s arsenal.
Italy's premier mobile network operator TIM has upset music festival fans on Twitter this week. In a unique sponsorship deal, TIM has secured prime position an emoji version of its company logo. The custom emoji will accompany every tweet mentioning the #Sanremo2017 hashtag. This means, every time anyone uses the hashtag, they will be putting TIM's logo right into the timelines of their followers.
The concept of sponsored emoji itself isn't new but this implementation is unusual. What's unique in this case is that the main event hashtag has been sponsored and will carry the branding of the event sponsor, TIM. While event hashtags have carried emoji for a while (think Superbowl's trophy or Wimbledon's tennis ball), this is the first time we've seen a sponsors logo featured on the main hashtag for an event.
Twitter’s head of brand strategy, Alex Johnson made mention of branded emojis in a recent Q&A with PR Week. Johnson states, “custom emojis are a creative tool that offer brands a rich creative canvas for them to stand out from the crowd. People are naturally drawn to using emojis, so combining the use of a hashtag with an emoji provides people with the chance to connect and express their excitement about what they are talking about.”
While TIM might be very pleased about its logo appearing all over people's devices, not everyone feels this way. Some feel that having all conversations and engagement from the event branded with the TIM logo is just a bit too intrusive.
Several users have taken to Twitter in protest, using the hashtag to amplify negative publicity for the brand. However, this could all be a flash in the pan because as the festival gets nearer, many Twitter users are simply using the hashtag with no chagrin at all. Time will tell.
Know Your Audience
While some feel that strong corporate branding is inappropriate for a music festival audience, it could be just right for others. It's likely also that as time passes and this type of advertising becomes more pervasive, broader audiences will gradually get used to it.
The Hashtag Is Here To Stay
Although this form of advertising seems somewhat brazen to us at the moment, don't be surprised if it soon becomes the norm. Hashtags have been helping us facilitate and organise event-related engagement for some time now. This simple addition of a company logo in emoji form could make the hashtag/emoji ad combination an extremely valuable sponsorship opportunity for events of the future.
The Twitter hashtag has always been a useful way for event professionals and attendees to keep track of engagement relating to events. Sponsored emojis, could be a great opportunity to bolster this activity with sponsorship opportunities.