Sponsorship research will boost value of deals

Sporting organisations need to prove that sponsorship builds brands if they are to command the highest prices from sponsors.

Sitting on my desk is a pile of glossy brochures offering sponsorship for a range of sports. Each one represents a “fantastic opportunity” which, for some multiple of a million pounds, will provide “excellent value for money” for my clients.

But before handing over a cheque with several noughts on it, my clients will want to know exactly what they are going to get for their money. How well will this deliver their marketing and business objectives? Will it represent a better investment than spending the money elsewhere?

Sponsorship sales documents are usually comprehensive in their description of the sponsorship’s features – how many perimeter boards, how many programme advertisements, how luxurious the hospitality, and so on.

But what about the sponsorship’s benefits – its ability to deliver clients’ marketing and business objectives? Here the evidence is more mixed.

Media exposure information, such as figures for TV audiences and press coverage, is commonly available. But sporting organisations rarely take the next step and show how effective this exposure is – how far it drives awareness and brand image and how positively it helps differentiate the sponsor from competitor brands, for example.

Showing that the sponsorship works is crucial information. Not only will it give brand directors confidence in the sponsorship, but it will also enable them to sell it to a potentially sceptical managing and financial director as a sound investment.

So why isn’t this information made available? The answer, of course, is that – unlike advertising or TV sponsorship – it doesn’t exist.

By not measuring the impact of their sponsorships, sporting organisations are unable to prove that they will work. And in the absence of such proof they are unable to command the highest prices – or worse, they run the risk of clients spending their money elsewhere.

The solution seems obvious. Sporting bodies should routinely research the effectiveness of their sponsorships to sell their properties more readily and to command a higher price. Measurement data will add value to the sponsorship; it will also make sponsorship negotiations a more professional, rational process.

It is in all our interests – buyers and sellers of sponsorship – to make effectiveness research part of sponsorship’s culture, as it is in advertising. (The recent tie-up between Octagon and Millward Brown represents a welcome exception, but this remains exactly that, not the rule.)

I often recommend that clients put an independent research programme in place to measure the return from a sponsorship. This research consistently demonstrates what a powerful tool sponsorship can be.

Sports bodies typically agree to conducting research, but with the rider that there is no budget for it. Until appropriate budgets are set aside, the money saved will be more than outweighed by the potential revenues that are missed.

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