What Should a Rightsholder Include in a Year-End Sponsorship ROI Report?

sponsorship measurement reportNothing. Measuring sponsorship is not your job.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “If I can’t prove what the sponsorship delivered, then they won’t renew”. And to an extent, you’re right. If the sponsor doesn’t know what they accomplished, they’re not going to renew.

But it’s not your responsibility to measure returns, and more to the point, it’s impossible. In this rewrite of a vintage blog, I’m going to show you why, and what you should do instead.

Rightsholders can’t measure results

The only organisation that can measure the returns against a sponsor’s objectives is the sponsor.

When a sponsor invests in sponsorship, they are investing in opportunity, not results. It’s the sponsor’s leverage program that provides the results against their objectives. In effect, the sponsor isn’t measuring what they buy from you, but the results from their leverage program.

You don’t own the objectives. You don’t own the benchmarks for those objectives. And you’re not carrying out the leverage program. How can you possibly report meaningfully on any of it?

What you can report is limited and largely irrelevant

As a property, the only two things you can realistically report to a sponsor are:

  1. Whether you delivered all of the benefits you promised.
  2. Sheer mechanisms, like exposure, clicks, etc and whether your targets for attendance, etc were met.

Neither of these tell a sponsor anything about whether they achieved their objectives. You may have got them 5000 engagements on your social media, but did that deepen target market alignment with their brand? They may get a million impressions, but does their target market trust them more? You may have got 200k people at your event, but did that change their purchase intent?

Valuation reports are bloody expensive

One of the main things espoused as a requirement in year-end reports is a media equivalency-type figure, usually called something like a valuation report. These are generated by outside agencies, using ever more amazing technology to create staggeringly out-of-date and useless reports.

First off, there is absolutely no correlation whatsoever between sponsorship brand exposure or sponsorship awareness and changes in perceptions and behaviour. That was shown categorically in a major university study way back in 1991 and the results have been replicated over and over since then. Plus, these reports can be extraordinarily expensive. So you want to spend a ton of cash on something that’s providing insights that were out-of-date in the early 90s? Yeah, me neither.

For more on this, read: Should We Hire a Sponsorship Valuation Service?

Sponsors know better

Why do they want these reports? Oftentimes, it’s simply because they’re looking for a way to keep you accountable, and they don’t even bother to read whatever you’ve managed to cobble together.

Good sponsors now realise that their job with sponsorship is no different than their job with any other marketing media, and that is to change people’s perceptions and change their behaviours, and to deepen the alignment with target markets. The thinking is now ROO – return-on-objectives – and even if you wanted to, there is very little information you can provide that will help them measure against their own objectives.

You may be able to provide them with access to a few, mechanism-based metrics which will help them define the “funnel” of people that they then track – for instance, if the clicks off your website hit a special landing page on their site, they can track how many of those people make enquiries or become customers. You may also be able to add a couple of questions to your marketing research. In any case, make no mistake about it, sponsorship measurement must be driven by the sponsor.

So, why do they want these reports? Oftentimes, it’s simply because they’re looking for a way to keep you accountable, and they don’t even bother to read whatever you’ve managed to cobble together. The answer isn’t to keep doing it, however. The answer is to shift any expectation of measurement away from you, while proactively making yourself more accountable to them than ever.

What to do instead of a year-end ROI report

There are a few strategies I recommend to all rightsholders, as they are more realistic, adjust sponsor expectations, and shift the responsibility where it belongs.

Talk about sponsorship measurement early

Rightsholders need to discuss measurement with the sponsor early in the relationship. This is not so you know what to measure, but to clarify what overall marketing objectives they are trying to achieve and how they will be measuring those objectives, as well as to put the measurement ball firmly in the sponsor’s court.

The questions would be:

“What perceptions and behaviours are you trying to change with this sponsorship?”

“Who are you trying to align with?”

“How will you be measuring your results against those objectives? Have you developed targets off of benchmarks?”

As for your sponsors who may be reading this, please stop expecting your partners to measure for you. It’s simply unrealistic and, frankly, unfair.

Talk about sponsorship reporting early

In your first meeting after closing the deal, you need to discuss how you’ll be reporting on the sponsorship. Be clear that you’re not in a position to be reporting on their results, against their benchmarks, for their objectives. Then tell them that they can expect a monthly (or bi-monthly) emailed report from you that covers the following:

  • Short overview of activities undertaken in the past month (literally, no more than a few sentences)
  • Benefits delivered in the previous month
  • Added-value benefits delivered in the previous month (freebies)
  • Any upcoming dates, deadlines, or events
  • Any outstanding issues to be resolved
  • Upcoming payments due
  • Details of your next meeting

The whole thing will be maybe half a page, but doing it this way will provide them with timely, actionable updates, which will be much more useful to them than a heavily-padded, end-of-year report that doesn’t give them any meaningful information. If you need to give them something at the end of the year, you can attach all of the monthly reports with a short, one-page overview.

Teach them how to measure

Creating year-end ROI reports is time-consuming and can be expensive, especially if you provide media valuations. Why not reallocate some of those resources to hiring a really good consultant to teach sponsors how to measure their sponsorships properly? Could you do it yourself? Well, you can certainly try… but sponsors might be more open to education from someone who is not their partner.

As an example, I deliver my Advanced Leverage & Measurement Workshops to groups of sponsors all over the world. The major benefit to the sponsor is that they will leave with new skills, a new approach, an actual sponsorship leverage program (which they developed on the spot, with their team), and they’ll know how to measure real results.

The three main benefits to the rightsholder are…

  • The sponsor will be more engaged, creative, and self-sufficient with their leverage programs.
  • The sponsor will no longer expect the rightsholder to do the measurement for them.
  • I kick the sponsors’ arses – in the nicest possible way – while making the rightsholder look like a genius.

Need more assistance?

For all you need to know about sponsorship sales and servicing, you may want to get a copy of The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition. I’ve also got self-paced, online sponsorship training courses for both sponsors and rightsholders. Get the details and links to course outlines and reviews here.

You may also be interested in my white papers,  “Last Generation Sponsorship Redux” and “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“.

If you need additional assistance, 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.

Please note, I do not offer a sponsorship broker service, and can’t sell sponsorship on your behalf. You may find someone appropriate on my sponsorship broker registry.

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

If you liked that post, then try these...