If you are a marketing or sponsorship director at a company, you are most likely doing everything you can to avoid being asked the above question. You work your tail off to cover all the deal points and execute great partnerships with all kinds of sports properties, but deep down, you know you’ll have to justify that spend.
There are two critical elements that you should store in your top desk drawer and always have ready: quantifiable methodology, and criteria tailored to your brand.
I’ve written about the evaluation methodology portion here before … today, we’ll focus on the criteria.
So without further ado, and because everyone loves Top 10 Lists (especially sports marketing ones), we present the Top 10 most widely used criteria for why brands sponsor sports, and how that criteria is valued.
The fun part of this is that this is actual criteria, not simply research, that brands have entered into their own sponsorship evaluation tool, and we’ve extracted the most popular and what’s most valuable to brands.
Results are based on over 3,600 questions asked by 120 brands to sports-based rights holders. Listed in order of least popular to most:
10. Geography/location If you look around the sports landscape you will undoubtedly see in-market brands sponsoring their local teams, with the most visible example being naming rights (e.g., Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia). If you want to own a specific market, then location matters. Our data shows that only 1% of questions asked to rights holders are surrounding geography (beyond simply capturing location of team/event).
9. Attendance/reach 2% of the 3,600-person sample asked about size of attendance and how many people the sponsorship will ultimately reach. Seems like size may not actually matter … that much.
8. Media Coverage of your sponsorship, which in sports is often not up to you as the sponsor, as well as the possible PR support offered, shows up at 3%. How brands are able to leverage media is playing a larger role.
7. Cause/community An area of growth is how brands are purposefully blurring the line between traditional sponsorship and community investment or philanthropy. Over 4% of questions to rights holders are now focused on how a cause can be integrated into the sports sponsorship.
6. Advertising Often we see in sports that brands sponsor an event or program specifically for the right to be able to use trademarks/logos for new and/or included advertising. In fact, 5% of brand criteria include this topic.
5. Brand awareness This topic includes how brands focus on image, perception, and recognition of their sponsorship in sports. Brand tracking takes place among fans, customers, stakeholders and other channels, and having the opportunity to align this with the event is important.
4. Social media I am coincidentally presenting at MediaPost’s Mobile Insider Summit this week (tune in for the stream here) which is all about the use of mobile technology within sports. A very large portion of that usage is social media, and sports marketers have dramatically increased the ability to leverage social media activities in their plans surrounding sports. 7% of all evaluation criteria (pre-sponsorship) mention social media.
3. Target demographic Sponsorship messaging has to be focused to the right recipients. Finding rights holders in sports that can deliver that right customer is key (e.g., Home Depot potentially talking to DIYers) and brands are investigating those audience demographics with over 8% of their questions.
2. Assets and benefits Be it signage, tickets, hospitality or special presentation (e.g., brand rep throwing out the first pitch), sponsors still want to create a presence for themselves. This area has become much less about on-field/court signage and much more about creating content or digital assets, but, regardless, clearly the data shows (9%) that tangible opportunities are still on the minds of marketers.
And the number one, most widely used criteria used by sports sponsors is …
1. Activation/measurement Brands, by a demonstration of 20% of their questions going towards this area, care most about how they will bring their sponsorship to life. Be it by sampling their product at a race, owning an area within a stadium, or creating a pre-event branded experience, sponsors are defining success by how well they can measure this portion. Ultimately, measuring how well the above criteria, or any for that matter, is met is the true key to sports marketing success.