Calling Our Shot: Predicting The Future Of The Sponsorship Game

By Lyndon Campbell, corporate SVP of sports and brands at MarketCast

This article is sponsored by MarketCast.

This year, sponsors will spend more than $20 billion with sports leagues in North America and more than $60 billion globally. The appeal for brands sponsoring live sports is simple: It remains one of the few categories in entertainment that can still drive massive fan bases to “appointment viewing,” while also providing flexible, creative options to integrate their branding and messaging into the game itself.

Unfortunately for the mega-brand sponsors, methods of measuring sponsorship effectiveness are innovating at a slower pace than me running a 40-yard dash. The most accepted form of sponsorship measurement today is media valuation, which uses a range of content recognition technologies to analyze how long a brand’s logo appears on screen to determine its fair market value. While measuring logo impressions provides an indication of how much a sponsorship might be worth, it does little to tell sponsors if their investments are making an impact on the bottom line or even improving brand awareness.

As CMOs and brand marketers face increasing pressure to justify their sponsorship investments, the need for a measurement transformation has never been more critical. Here are our five predictions for the future of sports sponsorship measurement and research:

  1. It’s game over for logo counters

For many of today’s sponsorship measurement companies, the days of relying solely on counting logo impressions and calling it a marketing result are over. Brand marketers require real results to justify their multimillion-dollar, multi-season sports sponsorship investment decisions, which means they need to be rooted in sales lift and other hard business outcomes. In the future, we predict logo tracking tools will remain important data signals to help measure sponsorship impact rather than as a single source of truth.

  1. Sponsors and leagues will understand – and demand – lift metrics

Digital advertising ushered in new attribution methods to connect the dots between audience targeting and sales ROI. The same innovations should be available to sponsors to determine whether their investments are succeeding season-over-season. Many sponsors already expect them. And it’s not just the sponsors who will want outcome measurement: We predict we’ll also see the top sports leagues in North America embrace outcome-based measurement to understand how their proprietary assets, from sideline signage and jersey patches to official partnerships, are driving business for their sponsor clients.

  1. Fandom segmentation becomes critical

Not all sports fans are weighted equally from a marketing perspective. Some devote every waking hour to their favorite players and teams; they obsess over starting line-ups and share and evangelize their passion with anyone who will listen. Others lapse when losses pile up, scroll only the highlights, and pick and choose key moments to watch every season. Understanding fandom segments and how they engage differently with sports and sponsorship content will be key to planning, launching and measuring sports sponsorship campaigns in the future.

  1. Brand reputation stays vital, but gets combined with behaviors

While new sponsorship measurement innovations will be based on business outcomes, brand health metrics remain critically important. The holy grail of sponsorship measurement brings together the right balance of two types of data: behavioral data about consumer outcomes and research on brand reputation and health – all from a single source. This combination will help marketers understand how sponsorships drive fan affinity, consideration, intent and behaviors.

  1. Live sports will maintain a strong pulse

Live sports will remain the last bastion of appointment viewing across any form of media. While audience ratings dropped in 2020 due to a wide range of reasons, we are seeing a return of large fan bases for the 2021-22 season, both in-venue and across viewing platforms. Coupled with bidding wars for sports distribution rights, live sports remain a powerful force in the world of content. This is great news for rightsholders and sponsors who spend billions annually.

The sponsorship measurement revolution is here, and it will be televised, streamed and shared. But like any revolution, it will come neither fast nor easy. Many marketers and rightsholders will be reluctant to embrace new methods of measuring sponsorships immediately – but those who do will gain more insight into the success of their investments than ever before. Game on.

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