The sponsorship industry has advanced a great deal since the time the phrase “sponsorship can’t be measured” typically went unchallenged. As all aspects of the industry have grown more sophisticated, and as the dollar value and prominence of partnerships has grown substantially, the need for accountability has become vitally important.
We are hearing questions such as: Can I measure the impact of my sponsorship activation? What is the return on my venue naming rights deal? As a property, how can I demonstrate return to the sponsors of my event? And the list goes on.
Existing approaches to measurement – which merely transfer advertising surrogates such as media equivalencies and impressions to sponsorship, or use intermediate metrics such as awareness and attitude shifts to gauge performance – miss the mark. They don’t consider either the differences the sponsorship environment requires or the inherent flaws in the way advertising is measured.
Another issue is the challenge of measuring something for which there is no standard measurement. There is simply no escaping the fact that sponsors must customize the way they evaluate to their own situation.
Truly measuring what we call ROS – return on sponsorship – means linking expenditures directly to real investment returns.
Buyers of sports and other sponsorships must – and can – assess their partnerships based on actual outcomes rather than intermediate outputs. Instead of measuring the amount of time a sponsor’s logo is visible, ROS measures how, if at all, the visibility impacts fan behavior.
Another departure: ROS is an end-to-end solution with strategic and global capability, measuring return against a client’s specific, ranked objectives.
ROS contributes to the performance of any sponsorship, enhances the legitimacy of sponsorship and its standing in the internal policy debate, and provides the justification for budget increases.
The following are strategic, organizational and process-related best practices for measuring sponsorship:
- Measure outcomes not outputs: We tend to measure what’s easy to measure rather than what matters. This means we end up measuring outputs – what a sponsor got or did – rather than outcomes – what a sponsorship actually produced.
- Define and benchmark objectives on the front end: Defining objectives at the beginning of a sponsorship shows which indicators to track.
- Measure return for each objective against pro-rated share of rights fee: This allows for fairly measuring multiple objectives around each sponsorship.
- Apply the assumptions and ratios used by other departments within your company: Base measurement on metrics already used and accepted internally.
- Measure behavior: Retool objectives to align them with the core drivers of value for the business. No matter the brand prestige or business category, behavior shifts are critical to measure.
- Measure the emotional connections: In addition to behavior numbers, accurately reflect the contact value between your brand and your target audience.
- Include cost savings in your ROS calculations: Not a calculation of how much money was saved by cutting sponsorship expenses, but rather any real savings generated on sales, marketing and recruitment activities that would usually take place outside of sponsorship.
- Research the emotional identities of your customers: Successful sponsorship begins with an understanding of your customers – not as demographics, but as people.
- Identify group norms: Psychological connectedness to a sports team or event represents an important aspect of self-identity, and the more a consumer identifies with an organization the more likely they are to support its sponsors.
- Slice the data: Client experience reveals that sponsorship does not work equally well with all customers. It works best with those most committed, whether to the property being sponsored or to the brand.
- Capture normative data: Sponsors have a dual need for both a comparative, across-the-board analysis of sponsorship activities, as well as individual program evaluation. Incorporate a two-phase structure, addressing both the primary set of objectives (affecting all sponsorships) and the secondary levels, which may be property specific.
Larry Albus is senior consultant at IEG, LLC and member of the IEG ROS team. He has more than three decades of experience in sports and entertainment marketing and executive sports management. His experience includes collegiate and pro sports, event ownership and corporate sponsorship consulting. At IEG, he has led projects for major corporate sponsors and properties including JVC, ING, BP Fuel, Castrol, NCAA, Fuel TV and TD Bank. Reach him here.