I read a report last week which was released by the Association of National Advertisers and the Marketing Accountability Standards Board titled Improving Sponsorship Accountability Metrics.
Based on the North American market, the study outlines the key factors surrounding the sponsorship industry and success measures that brands have in place to assess their partnerships.
There are some great insights and takeaways from the study which clearly asked some insightful and pointed questions. Some of the results are concerning, albeit not surprising, and of the 12 major points in the report, there are four key points that rights holders and brands can address in order to set themselves apart from the field in terms of sponsorship best practice.
Four key points
1. Return on Objectives Metrics
Whilst the findings on ROI metrics through media exposure and sales are not surprising, the ROO metrics of awareness, attitude, and volume of exposure surprise me.
ROO runs much deeper than that and these common metrics show that whilst the way brands are measuring their partnerships is evolving, the motivation for sponsoring still sits clearly on the brand awareness and brand exposure objectives line.
From what we see in the market, this is also starting to change as audience engagement growth, loyalty growth, and engagement levels are all starting to fall into measurement conversations and are all measured from a combination of size of audience and benchmark. To me, this shows a shift by brands towards taking a borrowed audience and making a strategic attempt to turn that audience into their own.
2. Sponsorship Measurement Focus
The lack of budget on sponsorship measurement (and management) points to an immaturity in the market around sponsorship as a strategy. For me, this is an exciting statistic as it shows how much growth and success is still there in our industry. As a result, those who take strategic partnerships seriously, and take and utilize assets which are directly aligned to objectives, will realize opportunities to set new standards of best practice.
3. Increase in Focus on Validated Results
In stark contrast to the focus on sponsorship measurement, brands are crying out for assistance in validating their decisions to sponsor. Whilst brands can help themselves, by focusing more on strategic measurement, there is an obvious need for rights holders to work with brands and take their reporting seriously in order to work together in validating partnerships.
4. Concern over Non-transparent Practices
Flowing directly from my third point, more than half of respondents in the study have concerns around transparency within the industry. The concerns focus directly on the rights holder rather than the third parties who may be involved. This shows that brands need, want, and are waiting for rights holders who will work with them as true partners to deliver results rather than those who sit behind a list of assets and simply delivering what was sold and moving onto the next task.
What is next?
As I mentioned, some of the findings are not surprising and, over the years, I’ve seen much anecdotal evidence supporting them. However, what can we do about it? What is next?
1. New Age Measurement
The results from the survey, whilst pointing to current practices still relying on traditional (or what has become traditional) methods to evaluate success, show me that there is a desperate need for a different valuation landscape. We are starting to see this with the likes of Turnstile speaking about IP valuation and Nielsen Sports providing a wide variety of evaluation options from IP to digital and even now direct benefit values.
From an ROO perspective, there are opportunities, through systems like ours at SponServe, for rights holders and brands to build their own data sources and evaluate trends, success, and areas for improvement so as to capture ROO in a straightforward way and which is based on individual business strategy and objectives.
2. Renewed Focus on Success Metrics
Pre-determined success metrics can be seen in the future (I feel like a clairvoyant!). Using proven B2B methods, which sit outside of the sponsorship industry, to kick-off, review, and renew partnerships, so that both parties can work together for success, is exactly what brands are crying out for.
3. Automated and Internal Tools
The emergence of internal tools to derive information, self-service reporting, and success metrics, and to create and deliver reports where all parties have a clear and unified vision of data which is relevant to them, all generated from a central source of truth, has arrived and will only become a stronger requirement.
Like the currency Repucom created when it took the world by storm, the next horizon is in the technology space and it, for me, is where those who want to excel will lead rather than follow.
4. Transparent and Collaborative Process
This is really the result of the points above being achieved. Sponsorship as a strategy calls for collaboration and partnerships. No more delivering what you sold and using what you bought. That is too transactional. Partnerships are about working together to drive mutual success, being open about what is and isn’t working, and pulling together to make success achievable and affordable.
Where I Sit
SponServe is a business we started to assist rights holders with the tools to better manage, assess, report, and deliver their sponsorship programs. Over a relatively short three-year period, the focus and need of brands to step-up their game in the same areas has been surprising.
Over the past three months, we have seen a noticeable increase in brands looking to utilize a combination of our tools, and some of the “what’s next?” features I listed above, to raise the levels of assessing, reviewing, and improving their partnerships and portfolios.
I am excited about the future of our industry. As the report states, we currently sit in a strong 12-figure industry and growing. Technology improvements make connecting with independent audiences better than ever before, providing an even greater opportunity for sponsoring brands. Further, the competition in the marketplace means there are places and means for more people than ever before to be successful.
Our industry is on the up! Insights and studies like this only improve it and I am excited to sit along on the ride and one day leave it in a better place then I found it!
Mark Thompson // Managing Director
Mark specializes in sponsorship and diversified income strategies and has used this expertise across the Community, Semi-Professional and Professional Sports sectors. He combines hands-on experience in managing the expectations and obligations of sponsors with marketing and stakeholder engagement to deliver outstanding results.
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