The issue of measuring sponsorship return on investment has plagued the sponsorship industry for more than two decades. There has been a perception that sponsorship is difficult to measure and that the methodology has been the issue. Often, it has been claimed that research providers are not delivering the type of metrics needed to justify significant investments by sponsors.
Sponsors had claimed that they need a better sense of ROI for their investments that media measurement or other claims of ROI that properties were providing to sponsors. In short, sponsors were demanding that the properties be responsible for providing the ROI to the sponsors. The issue has manifested itself in several measurement approaches that by default let sponsors not become involved in the measurement process. In no way are the sponsors clearly sharing their objectives to the properties, yet at the same time demanding better measurement of the ROI.
The fundamental problem is that sponsors need to take ownership of their own objectives. They need to ensure that their sponsorship objectives are clear and align with the companies overall marketing objectives. This sounds obvious but it is the critical point to which the issue and challenge of sponsorship measurement revolves. If a sponsor lacks clear sponsorship objectives, then they place the onus of measuring sponsorship ROI onto the property. They would therefore expect a property to provide sponsorship ROI on their behalf. This immediately puts the property in a position where it needs to second guess a sponsors key business objectives and motivations for their investment.
How would a property know the business objectives of a sponsor? Virtually no sponsors include properties in their company strategy meetings or in a company plan. Properties simply do not have the insider view of a sponsors objectives and it is unrealistic to expect them to know the sponsors business.
Given a lack of clear objectives, the default measurement approach has been to traditionally use media valuation and sponsorship scorecard systems. Both these methods can be easily used as they are not based on the sponsor’s key business objectives. Hence, properties use these methods in providing sponsorship ROI to sponsors.
The main criticism of the sponsorship ROI by sponsors is related to these measurements not being sufficient to demonstrate sponsorship ROI. The sponsor wants to know if a sponsorship is selling more cars or beer for example. It is a big ‘so what’ if all the sponsorship ROI is about is about counting a logo or rating the sponsorship on a scale of 1 to 10.
It has to come back to the ownership of the ROI measurement process. Only sponsors can really measure their sponsorship ROI, as they know the business objectives and are in a better position to ensure that any ROI justification is in a language that demonstrates a sound understanding of their business. Properties are not in a position to really provide the insight that a sponsor needs, instead they should be focused on doing what they do best which is engaging with fans and providing a marketing opportunity for a sponsor.
Sponsors need to step forward and take ownership of the measurement process as this is not something that a property should have to provide to a sponsor. The methodologies are available for market orientated sponsorship ROI but this is only something that the sponsors can drive forward, never the properties.