Sponsorship investments come in all shapes and sizes, and are usually guided by a brand’s overall marketing objectives and brand identity. Due diligence is required before pulling the trigger on the selected property, sponsorship level, assets involved, and length of the sponsorship, but once you’ve settled on a good fit, the question then becomes ‘now what?’ In other words, how do we know if our investment is returning the value we sought after?
At Navigate Research, we strive to help our clients during the sponsorship life cycle to determine the impact and effectiveness of a given sponsorship through research and consulting. Ultimately, we work with our clients to determine what success of their partnership looks like and measure KPI’s (key performance indicators) accordingly.
While there are standard practices to measure sponsorship success, such as awareness tracking or brand perception assessments, sponsorship research should be customized to each brand-property relationship. Every sponsorship has a unique marketing goal, and therefore success is defined differently. Moreover, sponsorships are multifaceted and layered with many elements that should be noted on the brand side and on the property side to help identify and manage expectations of a sponsorship, or what success could look like.
When thinking of the brand, things like brand awareness (independent of sponsorship awareness), brand category/industry, existing market share, length of the sponsorship deal, the time in which sponsorship research is taking place based on contract year and seasonality of the sport, and, of course, your targeted audience are all important frameworks to understand brand position and tracking sponsorship changes over time.
Conversely on the property side, history and forecasting are also important, keeping in mind things like performance on the track, personality of the driver(s), car manufacturer, other sponsors on the team, fan affinity, social media interaction and engagement, and so forth.
Regardless of what success looks like for your brand, you should plan to execute primary research in order to make the most of your sponsorship and ensure success is happening. It’s best to think through this process via the classic ‘who, what, when, where and how’ mentality:
- Who: Who is your target audience? This could be generations (millennials, baby boomers), certain types of fans (attendees, casual fans, social media followers), or other segments of the population (moms, college students). Knowing your target audience among fans is key while also identifying relevant sub-groups to design how you will use the sponsorship and ultimately how you’ll analyze it.
- What: What are 2-3 key elements you want to know? Metrics we typically track at Navigate Research include sponsorship awareness, brand consideration, brand perceptions, activation satisfaction, among others. Knowing the most relevant details will guide the types of questions asked and avoid ‘analysis paralysis’ or being too broad.
- When: When should the research be executed? Timing is everything in research, so thinking through the best time to connect to your audience is important, especially as it relates to exposure and whether or not fans have had the opportunity to get to know your sponsorship.
- Where: Is there a specific market you are trying to reach or is this a U.S. nationwide effort? Can research be done remotely, meaning from a laptop computer or a mobile phone? Or are you trying to capture real-time information on site at a race?
- How: Are you trying to reach a large group of people in order to make key decisions? Or are you looking for in-depth attitudes and opinions and only need the input from 25 people or less? This will dictate a qualitative or quantitative method and the way in which information is gathered from your target audience, such as a large survey or a smaller focus group.
- How often: Sponsorships take time to evolve, and tracking the details and changes are important to measure success. Pending your definition of success, research should be conducted routinely to measure performance. At Navigate, we typically recommend a pre-wave of research before the sponsorship starts to serve as a baseline, followed by subsequent waves each year or after major tentpole events to measure the lift over baseline metrics. In general, we know that sponsorship awareness can take anywhere between 3-5 years to take hold among a new audience.