The Heat is on to Prove Sponsorship ROI

What we heard over and over again at the IEG 2017 conference: the pressure is on. The sponsorship market is bigger than ever, and 80 percent of marketers report the need to validate sponsorship results has increased significantly.

The problem? Marketers aren’t responding to that pressure yet. Only 35 percent of marketers consistently measure the effectiveness and impact of their sponsorship activations, and 25 percent don’t gather or use any data at all in their decision-making—they’re going off “gut.” One last stat: of the marketers who do have some form of measurement, less than half have a standardized process for that measurement.

REGISTER: How Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment Supercharges Sponsorships

With marketers growing increasingly sophisticated, they now have the opportunity to not only show value to their sponsors, but create meaningful connections between sponsors and fans.

“Brand alignment” is no longer enough

In the early days of sponsorships, companies would turn to a team because they were local or because they wanted to align their brand with a particular sport. Those days are fading and gone. While sponsorship deals have gotten bigger, the pool of sponsors has gotten smaller. And with more teams vying for less sponsors, those teams are going to have to deliver more results than the next team or venue.

Historically, teams gave measurement and value back to sponsors in the form of a) media impressions from sources like Repucom or b) basic attendance numbers to impressions of in-venue signage (i.e., eyes on signs). Sponsorship spends were relatively overlooked compared to the constantly measured and scrutinized spending in advertising, That’s no longer the case. Brands now demand not only more data, but proof of return on their investments. That means that property owners need to get much more creative and up-to-speed to show their sponsors success.

The key to measurement

Digital inventory has made big waves in the sponsorship world. This is because digital can expand maxed-out physical inventory, and offers sponsors a way to engage with fans with a 1:1 relationship. Of course, the other benefit of digital is data: impressions, engagement, video views, coupon downloads and anything else someone does on their devices.

What falls into the “digital inventory” bucket? Digital inventory includes:

  • Sponsored banner ads on web or app pages

  • Sponsored posts on different social media posts

  • Snapchat filters localized to an event

  • Wi-fi logins

  • Engagement campaigns like trivia, contests and more

Using digital inventory that requires some kind of opt-in or authentication (e.g., Wi-Fi logins or more creative campaigns) is where property owners can make the most headway in showing value.

Leads, not impressions

The most readily apparent way to show value is to provide sponsors with lists of actual fans. This can start with emails of fans who opt in with a sponsored campaign and interact with a brand, but can get more sophisticated. If your sponsor is a car dealership and the activation is a contest to win a new car, when the fan is entering the contest, you can collect data like “When are you in the market for a new car?” and “What style of car do you prefer?”

From a campaign like that, you can work with the sponsor to define the value of a lead. If a campaign provides X number of leads and Y of those leads convert, you can prove the value of that inventory both for that sponsor, and show the potential value for sponsors in the future.

Unprecedented insight into fans

The value of a sponsorship, however, can go far beyond the direct sales from a specific campaign. With a first-party DMP to collect and bring together your fan data, you can give detailed data to sponsors about who interacted with their brand. This is more than impressions or downloads—it’s demographics, geographic data, affinities for specific brands, actions they’ve taken at events, etc.

Finally, you can show how affinity for that specific sponsor grows among your fan base over the course of a year or a team’s season. This can be done by measuring brand affinity from your audience before a series of activations, and then see how that affinity grows over time.

Brand affinities from a demo Umbel property

Example of brand affinities within a property’s audience

Globally, sponsorships are a $60 billion dollar opportunity. For property owners to make headway, they’re going to have to explore new ways of engaging fans on the digital channels they now live on. To truly take advantage of sponsorships, they’ll have to figure out the worth of all that new digital inventory, and that’ll require consistent and constant measurement.

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