Sponsorship Measurement: How to Measure What’s Important

 width=A while back, I read a blog by Seth Godin. In it, he asked a question that has stuck in my head ever since:

Do you measure it because it’s important,
or is it important because it’s measured?

Our industry is guiltier than most of the latter, and that is one of the biggest factors that keep sponsors from performing at their peak. The fact is that once we have worked out what constitutes a “success” – what we are measuring that “success” against – we work to that measure. The result is that how we measure sponsorship is critical to the true results we accomplish.

A frighteningly large proportion of sponsors still measure mechanisms, often the same mechanisms they’ve measured for years. How much exposure have we got? How many people can name us as a sponsor? Sponsor who use those measures of success are the sponsors that get pedantic about where there signs are placed and whether some other sponsor’s logo is two millimetres bigger on the sponsor thank you page.

These are the sponsors who revolve their whole leverage campaign around being the loudest, most visible, and most memorable sponsor at a given event, in the hope that their awareness levels go up. Okay, so you’ve annoyed people into remembering you… has that changed their propensity to buy? Loyalty? Perception of your brand? Alignment to your brand? Advocacy? Sentiment? Anything at all?? Probably not, but who really knows? Awareness measures have nothing to do with results. It’s like judging the quality of a cake based on how many people walked past it in the shop window or stopped to have a look.

For some sponsors, all they want to know is if they’ve got a bargain. What would those benefits have cost us a la carte? What are they “worth”, individually? They are concerned about getting “bang for their buck”, but that “bang” isn’t tied to real objectives at all. For these sponsors, it’s all about the deal – “what have we got for our money?” not, “what have we accomplished with this investment?” This is like judging the quality of a cake based on whether the whole cake cost less than it would have cost you to buy the ingredients. The cake could be crap, but at least it was a bargain!

I could go on and on about those objectives that really aren’t – those inconsequential mechanisms that are taking the place of real objectives in so many sponsorship portfolios, simply because they are easy to measure or it’s a legacy expectation.

Instead, let’s talk about those real objectives and how to start measuring what’s important.

Step 1: Choose your objectives

Note, I didn’t say “create your objectives”, I said “choose”. That’s because you don’t create sponsorship objectives. Each sponsorship should be achieving a subset of overall brand marketing, sales, loyalty, and other business objectives. Work with stakeholders across your business, to understand their objectives. For any given sponsorship, you can then determine with them the objectives that apply.

Step 2: Determine the benchmarks

Once your stakeholders have chosen the relevant objectives, don’t let them off the hook until they’ve specified the existing benchmarks they have, and how they’re measured. You can’t possibly know what you’ve accomplished if you don’t know where you started.

It’s all well and good to say you’ve moved 10,000 cases of cereal in a given market where you’ve got a sponsorship and some on-pack or in-store activity, but if you have no benchmark, how do you know if you’ve actually changed purchase behaviour?

I would be delighted to hear that purchase intent of people who had participated in your sponsorship leverage activity had hit 56%, but only if you could show that was an improvement over your ambient purchase intent, as measured in ongoing or recent brand tracking research.

Step 3: Set realistic targets

You’re still not done with your stakeholders! Based on the objectives selected, and the benchmarks nominated, what would those stakeholders consider a success? What mechanisms will they use to measure those results?

Yes, stakeholders will be measuring their own results. They have the mechanisms to do that at their fingertips, and your company has already decided they trust in those measures. Having anyone but Sales report on sales, retail, or promotion figures is just silly. Having anyone but HR report on employee satisfaction, pride, or retention is in the same category. Every stakeholder that is impacted by a sponsorship is in the best position to measure against objectives in their area. Period.

Step 4: Measure

Reporting isn’t about mashing all of this good, solid, benchmarked information into some kind of neat little number. (I’m talking to YOU, all of you people who try to create dollars-to-dollars ratios!) Reporting is about collating the data into a multi-faceted report that tells the real story of the success of a sponsorship.

Once the planning has been done, measurement becomes very straightforward. Most of your stakeholders will be measuring against multiple objectives in multiple ways, all against benchmarks, and at the end of the day, will provide a realistic set of data from which you can create a complete, defensible report.

Step 5: Reporting

It’s about using the data you’ve got and reflecting it against both benchmarks and projections, and because that data has come from the stakeholders who “own” those pieces of your business, it will be credible.

As someone who has created many, many of these measurement reports for corporate clients, I can tell you with hand on heart that even the most die-hard, ratio-loving, C-level executives would much rather read a multifaceted report, which reflects the credible results of a multifaceted marketing endeavour, than try to make themselves believe that a nice looking ratio means anything at all.

Need more assistance?

You may be interested in my latest white paper, “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“.

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 capacity-building service for large and/or diverse organisations.

Please feel free to drop me a line to discuss.

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