Sponsorship can be an exceptional way to drive brand awareness and business outcomes as part of an overall marketing strategy. Depending on the sport, a sponsorship, whether for a single event or an entire season, can place a brand in front of tens of millions of consumers. Thrusting a brand into the public spotlight through sports can grow brand recognition almost instantly.
Sponsorship value is often seen as an ambiguous, if not downright untrackable metric for brands though. It’s not like a paid search campaign where you can track direct or view-through conversions and attribution. If your brand marks or message are on the hood of stock car, stadium signage, or even a player’s jersey, how do you measure the ROI and value from that?
Some organizations have unique internal systems, 3rd party companies offer proprietary tools and metrics they’ve created, but at the end of the day, there’s no easy way to track ROI. While there’s no perfect tool for tracking and calculating ROI in sports sponsorships, there are metrics that every marketer should be watching.
Why do brands become sponsors?
A sponsor by definition refers to
“a cash or in-kind fee paid by an organization or individual to a property or entity (e.g. sports, entertainment, or non-profit event or organization) in return for access to the leverageable marketing resources associated with that property/entity.“
You (the brand) pay a fixed amount In exchange for being able to be associated with a team, league, or athlete.
What makes a brand cross the boundary from advertiser to sponsor? Traditional advertising in conjunction with sports allows brands to piggyback off the excitement and social buzz that surrounds sports. Making the jump from peripheral advertiser to direct sponsor brings a wide range of benefits for brands. Becoming aligned with a sports property or event allows a brand to tap into the emotional connection fans have with that sport, team, league, or athlete. It’s an opportunity for consumers to interact/engage with their favorite team or player via a shared connection with a brand.
In many sponsorship deals, a brand has access to leveraging a team or leagues logo or an athlete’s name, image, and likeness. While incorporating NIL into a sports marketing strategy creates a whole new host of potential complications, being able to use a team’s logo (marks) or say that you’re an “official partner” of a league in marketing material can allow a brand to resonate with a much wider audience and drives home brand trust.
How are brands measuring sponsorship metrics?
The short answer is a lot of brands aren’t. In most sponsorship engagements it’s on the brand to do their own measuring and analytics, and nearly 50% of sponsors don’t have a system in place to track sponsorship ROI. With brands spending almost $50 billion per year on sponsorships, that means almost $25 billion per year is being spent with marketing teams not measuring the impact.
Measuring these metrics at a granular or meaningful level often becomes a secondary objective or just completely lost in the noise of other priorities. Different stakeholders may have vastly different goals for sponsorship, all of which can’t be measured in a single spot. It also may be nearly impossible to fully measure all outcomes. Without a direct attribution channel, marketing departments can be at a loss to execute sponsorship opportunities and justify investments to stakeholders.
So what should brands be measuring?
Every brand is going to have different outcomes that matter most to them, but in almost all cases, increased revenue is the end goal. Put in $1 and get $2 back. Unfortunately sponsorship activations aren’t always that cut and dry. With that in mind, KPI’s that actually can be measured in a sponsorship activation may not always be direct revenue, but instead can be about the metrics that lead to future revenue. Put in $1, get $2 back tomorrow, next week, or next month. Ideal? No, but it’s the reality of ROI in a many sports sponsorships.
Brands should understand their total addressable market (TAM) for activations or events. How many people do you think you can reach, and how many did you actually reach? Understanding your actual reach in a sponsorship activation can help set expectations for other metrics.
Eyes on your message is great, but engagements are far better. Engagements lead to outcomes. Whether your sponsorship activation was a physical product, digital product, physical promotion, or digital promotion, consumers can be engaged with it in some fashion.
Time Frame Visitors
How many visitors came to your site or digital properties in the time frame immediately following your message or logo being shown? These visitors can demonstrate an engaged audience.
Ideally, a brand should be tracking their mentions already, but a free or paid social listening tool makes it easy to track who’s talking about your brand and how they’re talking about you in the time after activation.
New social followers during or shortly after an activation show an audience who’s interested in what your brand has to say and present an opportunity for further marketing.
Measuring growth in new social followers is easy, but you can also measure the growth of remarketing audiences during and after activation to see how much of the audience met certain behavior parameters and market to them again.
Activations incorporating features like text to subscribe or direct CTA’s for signups can be measured in real-time during and after activations. This metric can and should be monitored for a period of time following the activation as well.
If your ultimate goal is driving new leads from sponsorship, most focus is going to be on the number of marketing qualified leads generated. While that’s important, an often-overlooked metric is changes to the scoring of existing prospects or quality of new leads following an activation.
Localized or National Lead/Sales Lift
The holy grail of sponsorship campaigns. Tracking a spike in direct sales during or following an activation can show a strong correlation in sponsorship to sales. It’s important is to get as much of a baseline ahead of time so that spikes can be accurately attributed.
If your organizations marketing dollars are part of that $50 billion per year spend on sponsorship marketing, don’t be part of the $25 billion that can’t be tracked. Every dollar can be measured towards a metric that leads to growth and business outcomes.