With only 3% of sponsorship budgets devoted to research, several companies can’t answer the following questions with any certainty:
- What was the impact of the sponsorship program?
- Did it work?
- What was our return on investment?
There is no point investing a penny in sponsorship if, as an organization, it’s impossible to confirm whether or not the set objectives were met. Of course, the efforts invested in measurement tools should reflect the importance of the sponsorship for the organization. The bigger the sponsorship, the greater the need to measure the results.
To measure the impact of a sponsorship, it’s important to understand every piece of the puzzle, and to keep in mind that the criteria will change depending on the company and the sponsorship. But you don’t need to be a business analyst or a numbers person: when you understand how the process works, measuring sponsorships becomes an instinctive tool that you can build upon as you go.
A little reality check before we continue: budgets often leave no room for research, and companies often don’t have the specific expertise required to build a program to measure performance. Here is a brief guide to help out in that regard.
Every partnership has a role to play. In fact, sponsorship as a whole is managed in a proactive way much like a financial portfolio. Sponsorship can be structured to achieve different objectives with different target audiences. It is crucial to identify these objectives at the outset and to validate them periodically, especially when agreements are up for renewal and when new properties are signing on.
There are as many different objectives out there as there are companies, but they generally fall under five major categories: visibility, awareness, brand image, consumer affinity and sales.
You can then choose a precise target for each of the objectives. For example, tickets or hospitality initiatives can be used to generate sales or to thank existing clients.
Many sponsors measure the impact of their partnerships by quantifying the output: the visibility of the logo, the traffic on site, the TV or web audience, the media coverage, the number of interactions with the public, etc. All that data is great—and it’s important to measure it—but it must be tied back to the bigger picture so you can determine if your sponsorship met your set objectives. Otherwise, you just have numbers without any context.
To determine the impact for each objective, you’ll need to establish the indicator for success. A little further down, we’ll look at the tools to generate relevant data for analysis.
Examples of objective-related measurements
Value of visibility (media)
Media mentions (PR)
Get your brand or product known
Awareness with target audience
Knowledge of products and services
Improve brand image
Opinion of the brand
Reputation of the company
Appreciation of the activation
Relevance of the property/brand
Identification with the brand
Purchase intent / Unsubscribe intent
Changes in sales vs. comparable period
Percentage of coupon use
Keep or motivate employees
Conducting research with the target audience is a key tool to measure impact. It can be done by research firms or with internal survey tools.
For the company’s bigger sponsorships, allocate a minimum research budget of $15,000 to $20,000 from your activation budget. This will enable you to conduct direct surveys with your clients, with the public attending the event or with the people who participated in the activation to test the results.
For smaller sponsorships or when you don’t have the resources to conduct in-depth research, you can also use web survey tools to gather data in house. To do that, you’ll need to build a questionnaire with a series of questions and a corresponding measurement scale.
To complete the picture, you can collate internal data (like sales figures or other in-house research) together with data coming from your media firm or from the property. In fact, when negotiating with a property, it’s a good idea to consider sharing the cost of research and doing it jointly.
A lot of the data gathered on site doesn’t require in-depth analysis. You can draw your own conclusions based on the findings. However, some correlations can be more difficult to establish than others. If it’s hard to draw clear conclusions, consult a research firm or consider getting in touch with a department of the organization handling commercial research. There are also lots of students in marketing programs or in business intelligence who can be of service if your budget is limited.
The best kind of dashboard is a simple one. Ideally, you should be able to read and understand it in a single glance. It should also make it easy to compare different sponsorships.
It is useful to build an individual dashboard per sponsorship as well a summary for all the partnership events. A program like Keynote or PowerPoint is ideal for arranging the elements and adding relevant graphics, as per the attached example.
An efficient dashboard should include the measurements that have an impact on the objectives of the company and that will ultimately influence the decisions of upper management. For example, if your primary concern is visibility, we’ll focus on the number of people reached, the value of the media plan and the amount of visibility offered by the property. If, on the other hand, you’re concerned with improving your brand image, we’ll focus on consumer affinity, the participation rate in the activation and consumer appreciation. If sales are your key concern, be it with a business clientele or with consumers, we’ll focus on the number of potential clients, changes in sales or sales made directly on site during the sponsorship.
Measuring performance is an ongoing process that is constantly being refined. The key is to start simply and layer in more complexity as you get comfortable with the process. In-house measurements are better than no measurements at all—even if the model isn’t perfect.
Canadian Sponsorship Landscape Study, 2014.