The Dos and Don’ts of Sponsorship Research

The Dos and Don’ts of Sponsorship ResearchWhile there are lots of ways to measure sponsorship, how to conduct sponsorship research is often the most vexing.

The thing is, sponsorship research isn’t actually that complex, but the way it’s been done, for literally decades, is so entrenched that sponsors often can’t see past it. But to get good data, sponsors need to not only look past the way it’s been done, but sprint past it, and blow it to smithereens on the way by.

Below, I’ve outlined some of the most important factors around sponsorship research, and how it factors into a multi-faceted measurement strategy.

Don’t ask questions about sponsorship

“Can you name the sponsors of this event?” “Would you be more likely to buy from a company because they sponsor this event?”

Please, please, please do yourself, your brand, and our industry a favour and stop asking questions about your sponsorships. They are leading, inaccurate, and tell you nothing about the actual performance of your sponsorship. In fact, a study was done a while back that looked at how people answer the “can you name all of the sponsors of this event?” question. They concluded that…

  • People mentally list the categories of sponsors who typically sponsor that type of property.
  • To that list, they add airlines, banks, insurance, and telecommunications, because those categories sponsor everything.
  • Then they list either the category leader or the one they use.

In other words, the data that comes from asking that question is useless.

Your job as a sponsor – as a marketer – is to change people’s perception, change their behaviours, and build brand alignment. You don’t want to know whether they can remember seeing your branding, you want to know whether their preference has changed, whether they are more loyal, whether they’d advocate your brand to others, whether they believe your brand aligns with their lives and their needs.

Which brings me to…

Do use existing research as your benchmark

You do brand research. (Please, tell me you do brand research!) Whether it is ongoing or just reasonably recent, consider that data to be your benchmark.

Now, choose a selection of those questions – ones that relate to the perceptions you are trying to change with that sponsorship. Ask the same questions of people who have varying degrees of involvement in whatever it is that you’re sponsoring – attend the games, fans of the team, fans of the sport – and your leverage program around it. What you will get is a multi-faceted measure of how perceptions have changed and the relative impacts at different levels of involvement, and you can compare that to ambient figures.

Important: Do not change the wording of those questions in any way, or you won’t have an apples-to-apples comparison.

Don’t get hung up on statistical validity

If you talk to professional research organisations, many of them will tell you that you need to survey a minimum percentage of your target market in order for the research to be valid. Not to put to fine a point on it, but talk about making a rod for your own back!

You don’t need statistical perfection to get the answers you’re looking for. Sure, you’ve got a bigger +/- if you ask 400 people than if you ask 4000, but you will still get a very strong indication – particularly if you ask several questions across several groups – and it won’t cost the Earth. Think about it. Your other options are to go back to pointless questions about remembering your branding, or not measuring changes at all.

Do consider a range of response mechanisms

While you don’t need to be hung up on getting huge numbers of responses, using a range of response mechanisms will help you get a critical mass to compare to ambient numbers.

  • Online surveys – These are great because you can drop links into newsletters, your website, social media, and more, and many are free. The downside is that you generally don’t get a good spread of respondents.
  • In-person surveys – Getting a crew to ask a short compliment of questions on-site is pretty straightforward, and with the kinds of tablet apps available, compiling the data is simple.
  • Phone or chat surveys – If you have access to a database (yours, your partner’s), you can arrange for some surveys carried out via the phone or a chat bot.
  • Piggy-back on partner research – If your partner is doing market research, you should ask if you can include a couple of brand questions. You could also add a couple of questions to their forms (eg, a marathon entry form).
  • Add qualifying questions to ongoing research – You could add a couple of qualifying questions to your ongoing research. For instance, you could ask if people are fans of a team or sport (or whatever). That way, you can compare results for people with interest with your ambient numbers, without asking them about a specific sponsorship.
  • Mini-surveys – There is a trend toward using pop-up mini-surveys to get market info. Use one qualifying question and one or two other multiple choice questions. It’s not perfect or complete, but because it’s so fast and easy, you can get quite a lot of responses.

At the end of the day, sponsorship research isn’t that difficult. What it requires – like so much else about best practice sponsorship – is a willingness to let go of “how it’s done” and think about it strategically. What are you trying to accomplish? How do you measure that right now? What are the ambient numbers? How can you measure against them? Anything else is overcomplicating things.

Need more assistance?

You may also be interested in my white papers,  “Last Generation Sponsorship Redux” and “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“. I’ve also got self-paced, online sponsorship training courses, covering the whole sponsorship process, with lots of inclusions. Interested? Check out the Corporate Sponsorship Masterclass for sponsors and Getting to “Yes” for rightsholders.

If you need additional assistance with your sponsorship portfolio, I offer sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, sponsorship training, and sponsorship coaching. I also offer a comprehensive Sponsorship Systems Design service for large, diverse, and decentralised organisations.

Please feel free to drop me a line to discuss.

© Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. To enquire about republishing or distribution, please see the blog and white paper reprints page.

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