In recent years, sponsorship has grown well beyond simply putting signs up at sporting events. With increased spending and activation, it’s more important than ever for sponsors to focus on their objectives through their partnerships, and ensure that they are communicating the right messages to their target audiences. Sponsors and properties are also placing a higher priority on measuring the effectiveness and ROI of these partnerships to ensure that budgets are well spent. To ensure the effectiveness of this process, keeping each sponsorship’s objectives in mind when both developing the sponsorship plan and measuring ROI is critical.

Sponsors should (and often do) have specific objectives that drive the decisions behind what types of advertising and activation they do with a property. The ROI research done by both sponsors and properties should center on the sponsorship’s success against these objectives specifically. For example, if a brand chooses to sponsor a section of club seats and suites in order to reach business decision makers, ROI research should be focused on that goal and not, say, tracking changes in brand awareness and perceptions among average consumers. Another example: if a brand focuses their messaging on their new products and how innovate they are, they should not expect ROI research to show that fans also see them as, say, environmentally conscious.

When measuring sponsorship effectiveness, it’s typical to focus on the effect on key performance indicators (KPIs) such as brand awareness, familiarity and opinions of the brand, and consideration or purchase intent. Often, the attributes that brands would like to be associated with are also measured. However, sponsors frequently want to include a wide range of additional brand characteristics in this step, despite the fact that they have no messaging addressing these traits.

At Turnkey, we strongly recommend that our clients be selective when coming up with a list of attributes to measure. It is tempting to measure every attribute that a brand would like to be associated with, which can quickly lead to lists of 15 to 20 attributes. A sponsorship is unlikely to effectively drive change on all 20 attributes, and as a result, the research can have disappointing results when all but one or two of the attributes show improvement. However, is there really any value in showing that a sponsorship did not make the brand seem more “prestigious” when the messaging was only intended to make the brand seem fun?

Brands often utilize other sources, such as tracking studies, to understand overall perceptions of their company and products. Sponsorship ROI research is not meant to duplicate these efforts; instead, it should focus on exactly what the name suggests – measuring specifically what the brand hopes to gain in return for its sponsorship. This approach gives brands the best chance to truly determine whether they’re getting their money’s worth.