As recent reports from the likes of PWC, SponsorUnited and others have documented, spending on sports sponsorships—not to mention partnerships in entertainment, arts & culture and other segments—continues to grow steadily each year, as it has for most of the last four decades with only a couple of recessionary and pandemic-related exceptions.
While spending growth is undeniably a positive, reports on the tens of billions of dollars invested worldwide mask the reality that sponsorship practitioners at many brands continue to fight for their programs to be viewed equally with other elements of the marketing mix and fully integrated into corporate strategic planning and budgeting.
In other words, the business of sponsorship is doing okay but it could be doing much better.
With myriad examples of the power of sports and entertainment partnerships to achieve positive results, as well as the success of marketers such as AB InBev, Mastercard and others that have given sponsorship a proper seat at the table, why is it so difficult for partnership marketing to break out of its silo at so many other companies?
The answer to that important question can be found in a comment in a recent Sports Business Journal story about layoffs at partnership measurement specialist MVPIndex.
In discussing why independent sponsorship analytics firms may face an uphill battle, industry veteran Michael Neuman, co-head of Playfly Sports Consulting, commented,”The problem is the generally cyclical nature of that [analytics] business, when it comes to consulting. It’s not seen by all as a must-have resource all the time, like digital, social, or mobile…Most agencies long in the consulting game have built up in-house capabilities, but when business is good, insights can be overlooked.”
Whether he intended it or not, Michael’s last eight words deftly summarize sponsorship’s biggest problem.
For 40 years, most brands, agencies and rights holders have been content to ignore sponsorship measurement, or skate by with one-dimensional metrics that offer no real insights until economic or other pressures force them to better justify their partnership investments. Once those pressures abate, it’s back to business as usual.
If partnerships are to take their proper place as full-fledged components of corporate marketing programs, everyone involved in sponsorship must embrace accountability and adopt consistent evaluation practices that take advantage of the insights that can be derived from advanced data analytics.