Today's post continues with part two of a two-part Q&A with writer Michael J. McDermott for his article on improving the effectiveness of event sponsorship for ANA Magazine, a publication of the Association of National Advertisers. You'll find Part 1 here.
Michael J. McDermott (MJMcD): How should marketers measure the success of a sponsorship campaign? What metrics should they be using and how accessible is the data they need?
Gail S. Bower (GSB): Businesses market for only 2 reasons: to build awareness and to generate sales. So these are the fundamental metrics.
What many marketers become confused about is how to evaluate sponsorship using these metrics and often resort to one of the only measures they know – cost per thousand – which is inappropriate.
Sponsorship is a qualitative medium – not a quantitative one, like advertising. The most important characteristic of sponsorship is that it is experiential. It allows marketers to have face-to-face interactions with customers or clients in a more relaxed setting and in ways that foster higher degrees of emotional resonance and connection. Think relationship-building, conversations about products or services, and sensory experiences of a product. Or communicating something highly nuanced.
Therefore, marketers must be very clear about what their objectives are from the outset and work with their partners to co-create the sponsorship opportunity so it is designed to meet these metrics. Don’t make the property guess. (Unfortunately many corporations have silly online applications, which prohibit the quality co-development of an opportunity.)
If a company needs sales results, traffic building (either online or to a retail location), or product usage, for example, as a measure for success, the property (sports team, event, cause, festival, etc.) needs to design the opportunity accordingly.
Then it will likely take time to build equity into the effort, refine and evolve the execution, and see truly meaningful results. Marketers should build quality relationships with their partners and intend to grow and evolve the sponsorship over time. Conversely, investing in a one-day or one-weekend event and expecting sales miracles is unrealistic. All internal parties – from the C Suite to the retail level – should be educated about what to expect, how to participate to really bring forth the results, and why being passive is ineffectual.
The marketer should expect the property to have an understanding of its audiences, hopefully based on research; a solid branding and marketing strategy and operation; and competence to assemble its assets in a way that addresses the marketer’s objectives. In addition, the property can provide documentation of how the sponsorship was executed, but it’s really up to the marketer to measure results.
MJMcD: Can you suggest an example of a sponsorship opportunity that has worked well for the sponsoring marketer and discuss why it has been successful?
GSB: Automotive sponsorships are great examples. I’ve worked with Subaru, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Chevrolet, and others over the years, both directly and indirectly. It’s no secret that people can have an aversion to the whole car-buying experience – pushy sales people; big, costly investments for which many people lack sufficient knowledge to make; and it can be stressful (fear of buying a lemon etc.). Most people I know do not relish the idea of going to a car dealership.
However, when an automotive company sponsors an event, if it’s executed well with an onsite experience of the car – ranging from displays to actual test-drives – the dynamic changes entirely. Eventgoers want to sit in the car, look under the hood, touch all the doodads in the car, and even ask the representative questions. The eventgoer may not buy the car on the spot, but the marketer has enhanced its chances for consideration when the big purchase time comes around. It’s very powerful.
MJMcD: Can you provide an example (real or hypothetical) of a sponsorship campaign that has not (or probably would not, if hypothetical) work out so well and discuss why?
GSB: Sponsorships that don’t work are in one of the following broad categories:
- Poor alignment of strategy and/or branding. One example that comes to mind is KFC’s recent breast cancer sponsorship, Buckets for the Cure. In this cause marketing effort, consumers were encouraged to buy pink buckets of grilled or fried chicken. Neither is a particularly healthy eating choice, and the benefactor organization had information on its web site stating that midlife weight gain can contribute to higher risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. I wrote about this on my blog: here and here. [NOTE: Since the interview occurred, a new KFC example has come out: buy a $2.99 "mega jug" of Pepsi at KFC and $1 goes to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Wow!]
- Confusion about sponsorship. Marketers are inundated with sponsorship requests, thus the online application process. I’ve heard recently about companies sending all such requests to philanthropic/foundation offices, even if the sponsorship is marketing in nature and/or executed by a for profit entity. Marketers need a better understanding of what sponsorship is and how it differs from a corporate gift. If it’s marketing-driven, execute it as I’ve mentioned above and in the previous post; if it’s a gift or strategically philanthropy execute that appropriately.
- Failure to execute; being passive. Building on what I just said above and earlier, sponsorship or philanthropy can each drive business results in particular ways. Many corporations send off checks, do little else to take advantage of their investments, and then seem confused about ROI.
MJMcD: In brief, what would you say are the four or five (or whatever number) of best practices marketers should keep in mind when considering, executing and evaluating the performance and ROI of a sports/event sponsorship?
GSB: See this PDF of Best Practices for Corporate Sponsorship: Download Best practices for marketers