Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Measuring the Impact of Sponsorship

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Measuring the Impact of Sponsorship

Article excerpt

* Keywords: Event Marketing, Sponsorship, Measurement, Effectiveness


Sponsors are increasingly concerned about what results they are getting for their sponsorship dollars. In the 1980s when sponsorship was the "hot" marketing tool, corporate involvement boomed. Properties "came-a-callin"' and companies were willing to answer that call. Accountability seemed less an issue than the chance for corporate chieftains to exercise their egos. The chance to sidle up to big name stars or to have one's company associated with a major cause or event, irrespective of the value of that alignment to the company, was often overpowering.

As the 1990s draw to a close, the scenario has changed. Big money still chases sponsorships, but with a twist. The value of sponsorships is being called into question much more often than in the past. Every aspect of the marketing mix, from advertising to direct marketing to sales promotion to couponing is under intense scrutiny and sponsorship is no exception.

In fact, sponsorships are under a particularly strong microscope. And no wonder. The cost of sponsorship can be staggering. Olympic sponsorship 20 years ago (prior to the Los Angeles games) could be had for $5 to 10 million. Today, rights fees fetch $40 million. World Cup sponsorship in 1996 was upwards of $35 million. Several years ago, Coca-Cola paid a whopping $250 million to be the official soft drink of the NFL.

Obviously, many sponsorships are not played out on a nationwide or worldwide stage. Rights fees can be much more modest than the multi-million dollar asking prices described above. Nevertheless, marketing managers still have to justify their allocation of marketing dollars to sponsorship.

The cry now heard in more and more corporations is: "Just what are we getting out of these sponsorships, anyway?" Marketing directors and even CEOs are being challenged to justify their forays into event marketing and to quantify the value of their sponsorships.

So, how does one go about determining what a sponsorship is doing for a company? How does one determine whether or not a sponsorship is returning anything to the bottom line?

It seems to us that one difficulty that event marketers have in trying to figure out just what their sponsorships are doing is that they are either unable or unwilling to find out the answer! In some instances, the feeling is that there is no real accurate gauge for determining success, especially if the sponsorship is pursued as a means of "improving relationships" or "boosting employee morale". These seemingly "soft" criteria are considered by some in the field to be impossible to measure.

Yet another reason for avoiding measures of effectiveness is fear! Some event marketers try to avoid solid measurement because they worry that the answer will not be to their liking (a phobia we in the advertising business also suffer from on occasion). They know in their "guts" that the sponsorship was beneficial, but avoid trying to quantify these feelings for fear of being proven wrong.

Ironically, the slower we pursue measuring the value of sponsorship, the quicker we may hasten sponsorship's demise. If we do not provide fair and objective estimates of the effects of sponsorship, there may be less money available for sponsorship activities as marketing dollars are allocated elsewhere -- perhaps to those areas of marketing that can demonstrate effectiveness.

Evaluating a sponsorship is not usually straightforward.

* There may be imperfect or even conflicting evidence as to what happened.

* There may be a problem deciding what is the relationship between cause and effect.

* Because other elements of the marketing mix may be active at the time of the sponsorship, isolating the effects of the sponsorship may be problematic.

* Because one sponsorship may work differently from another there may be no all-purpose solution for measuring impact. …

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