The Chase For ROI In Sports

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, February 19, 2015

We can’t fault you; we’ve all been trained to do it. In every business, large or small, we continue chasing it. When will we realize what we might be looking for, might not be there?

In sports sponsorship, the search to pinpoint direct revenue against rights fees and, therefore, truly identifying Return On Investment is, in most cases, a fruitless act. ROI has been a buzzword in our industry for decades, and unless your brand is activating its sponsorship with a coupon, code or other direct to purchase item, you’ll continue buzzing.

This is not to say that trying to understand a financial spend and recoup philosophy isn’t important. It is, and it has value. In fact, you may have convinced your company that your measurement system is working, and it very well may be, but I can say with certainty that you are only tasting one piece of the whole pie.

Many sponsors around the world have shifted away from the chase of ROI to something they can pinpoint, justify, and document, every time, regardless of how the overall sponsorship is executed. They’ve defined, developed, and weighted their specific objectives, and they are indeed calculating their returns. 

Our methodology is simple yet effective, tried and tested in nearly every global market. A recent successful example saw an internationally recognized telecom break their portfolio of partnerships up by sport. That’s the easy part.

Their sports marketing team, along with their agency partner, developed a long list of objectives they were looking to achieve with each sport. The goals, target demos, and brand metrics were different for golf versus basketball, college sports versus professional, however some criteria existed in each category.

The fun began (remember, this is supposed to be the fun business) at the next stage where they prioritized or “weighted” their criteria by assigning a point value to each criterion. The brand then challenged each of these sponsorships with an evaluation form for the specific sport built entirely out of their weighted criteria (top possible score is 1,000 points).

Already, they had a crystal clear picture on which of the properties in each sport were delivering the highest for them. Overnight, they had created a unique and “benchmark friendly” ranking system with each criterion able to be isolated, examined, and improved.

And it has. As often as they like, the brand revisits criteria and makes adjustments with their partners to continue ensuring success. 

However, they weren’t done yet. The point system needs another critical element to provide the complete view most brands need. So, simultaneously, the rights fees, activation costs, and other related spend is totaled and then divided by the point score (again, out of 1,000 points), thus delivering the cost per point. 

Working in conjunction, the score and the cost per point, clearly demonstrate to the brand the value of what they are doing and what they are reaping through sports.

For this brand in particular, the implementation of the ROO strategy has documented an improvement of over 10%, just in their first year of use, without any budget increase into their sponsorship group. That figure, along with the accompanying data, provides at last (hooray!), the hardcore evidence that sports marketing execs have long struggled to show senior management. And you can surely bet that the sponsorship budget increases as well when such justification and detailed evaluation reporting become available.

So, rest easy, you ROI chasers. Turn your attention to developing weighted sponsorship objectives and a real return for your sports marketing programs. That will be the best investment you’ll ever make.

1 comment about "The Chase For ROI In Sports".
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  1. Guy Powell from ProRelevant Marketing Solutions, February 20, 2015 at 9:21 a.m.

    Great article. I like the points method as a start. We think we can add to that with some very new methods and have found our agent-based modeling approach to be a great addition to determining ROI of sponsorships (

    Thanks for the post.

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