TicketManager | Is Second Best Really Good Enough for Sponsorship Measurement?

The topic of partnership performance evaluation in sports and entertainment marketing constantly returns to the same themes year after year. They include: how to do it right, why more brands don’t do it right and at what point will they start doing it right.

On a macro level, we know sponsorship is an effective marketing and business-building tool when selected, managed and activated properly. But the ability of sponsorship managers to secure continued funding for programs—and of sponsorship sellers to renew relationships and secure new partners—relies on individual brands being able to prove that a partnership met or exceeded its goals. That is why the subject of sponsorship measurement is so important and why continued gaps in marketers’ evaluation capabilities are of such concern.

The recent launch of the latest sponsorship measurement solution to hit the market—Dentsu Sports Analytics’ Sponsorship.BI—raises the question of whether this new product, or any other tool for that matter, will gain traction where others have yet to.

Sorry to say, but the countless evaluation discussions I have been involved in over decades leave me skeptical of the chances for great success. This is not because I have any reason to doubt the quality of the new service.

Its marketing materials suggest that Sponsorship.BI is the result of a lot of thoughtful work into how to best address a critical industry need, specifically connecting the dots between top-of-the-funnel outcomes such as brand awareness and consideration to actual behavior, such as visiting a store or purchasing a product. As the Dentsu team puts it, “What ultimately matters to sponsors is not exposure, it’s sales—short-term sales impact, as well as long-term sales from improved brand awareness and brand equity.”

But even though the bottom of the funnel clearly matters, most brands have so far been unwilling to pay for measurement tools that can show tangible behavior outcomes from partnerships.

I equate my many measurement conversations over the years to a common situation most people who own a home or property face at some point. Something breaks and a contractor provides two options: replacement at a significant cost or repair at a much lower cost.

Just as many homeowners with budgets stretched thin will choose the lower-price option knowing it does not provide the full benefit and guarantees of the alternative, brands make the same calculation that a less-than-comprehensive evaluation effort will be good enough in the short term.

Neither the homeowners nor brands are making an unwise decision, per se. They are making a practical choice of how to allocate limited financial resources. Under those circumstances, most will continue to make similar decisions in the future.

But making that decision must come with the knowledge that going with the “second best” solution carries risk. In the marketers’ case, the most serious risk is that without proof, uncertainty over the true outcome of a partnership will lead to its premature demise—in which case the ultimate result could prove more costly than the solution that at one time was deemed “too expensive.”