The Digital Media Value of Title Sponsorships & Promotions

Google trends for sponsors

Naming rights get plenty of media mentions, but what about directly tracking consumer engagement? What’s the relative payoff?

Including the effects of digital and social media in conjunction with the use of the team’s marks, we measure specific effects brands want fans to take as a result of sponsorship. These include what fans think, feel, or do because of the sponsorship, such as awareness of the Verizon Up campaign, preferring Heinz over Hunt’s, downloading the AT&T app, or owning a Toyota, Mercedes-Benz or Ford.

Tracking Media Engagement

But, one easy, free way to capture or track media engagement is through Google Trends.Entering key terms, we can find how frequently people search for information regarding the team and its sponsor. This speaks to the importance of the title sponsor promoting offers, deals or events connected directly to the team, so that fans search for “Lions” and “Ford” together. Of course, brands and teams get some co-branded search naturally. The question is, what can the brand do to promote more co-branded search?

People search for what they are interested in.

Comparing Naming Rights by Region

We can compare how AT&T’s sponsorship of the Cowboys fares against other naming rights in Texas–and compare it across time.  America’s most valuable team does produce more engagement than others in the state, but the Astros fare about as well and at times when the Cowboys are not in-season (and vice-versa). This chart illustrates the need for sponsors to establish complementary portfolios to reach consumers via passion points year round. (Hover over a point on the graph to see relative scores.)


Compare Naming Rights by League

We can compare with other NFL naming rights. Compared to the Patriots and Gillette, AT&T’s sponsorship of the Cowboys still reigns throughout the season, but the Patriots run lasts longer–right to the Super Bowl. Somewhat surprisingly, Ford’s sponsorship of the Lions fares about as well as the Gillette/Patriots and AT&T/Cowboys until peaking on Thanksgiving.


Compare Promotion Effectiveness

Google trends can also help track the success of promotions compared to other major promotions that might drive search behavior. This comparison shows that the Saints promotion with Verizon and the Texans promotion with the Texas Lottery drives consumers to get online to search for more information on behalf of the brand. Although on a smaller scale, the Lions promotion with Uber to help avoid traffic congestion also drives search behavior.


We continue to look for new ways to capture digital media value. Experienced marketers know the value is not in the exposure level. Everyone has heard of Ford, Verizon, Mercedes-Benz and Uber. The real value is in what people do because of the sponsorship. Measuring search behavior is one step in the right direction.

Brand preference: Why regard, relevance, differentiation and trust matter

The overarching goal of partnerships is to use the assets of the property to increase brand preference and use among fans of the team.

The route to brand preference and purchase is well-established in theory and practice. It’s all about relationships. Brands are like people. And, people are brands, for that matter.

Who do you prefer?

The steps to who–people and brands–you prefer to spend time, money and effort with are the same:

  1. I know who you are.
  2. Based on your behavior & associations, I hold you in relatively low or high regard.
  3. Because of shared relationships, you become more or less relevant.
  4. If you clearly align with my deepest passions, I see you as differentiated from others. You stand out.
  5. Now I can trust you.
  6. I prefer the brand with the highest regard, relevance, differentiation and trust.
  7. I buy the brand I prefer.

And Survey Says….

We can reliably predict brand preference for NFL partners if we know how fans feel about the brand’s regard, relevance, differentiation and trust. Our data from over 100,000 consumer opinions of over 120 brand partners among seven NFL teams (charts below) verify the importance of taking each step to build fan-brand relationships.

Why brand equity–regard, relevance, differentiation and trust–matters

For a brand that fans say is “the one I would prefer,” consider these indexed scores compared to brands they “would never use.”

Brand Equity Index Prefer/Never
Regard  +118% 5.83/2.66
Relevance +242% 5.01/1.47
Differentiation  +376% 80.34/16.87
Trust  +323% 81.96/19.37

Brand Preference = Brand Usage

Across all 120+ brand partners, if fans say the brand is “the one I prefer,” then 78.8% use that brand.

Preference Leads to Use

Why isn’t it 100%? Some categories are slow burns, like insurance, telecom, and banking. Fans of the Chicago Bears have high regard, relevance, differentiation and trust for PNC Bank–and the next time they have a banking decision–they will consider or use PNC Bank services. Fans of the Houston Texans have the same positive feelings about Verizon and the next time they have to decide which service to use, Verizon is in prime position. In any case, the property has done its job of building brand preference.

The brand partner brings it home when it makes unmistakable connections with fans and offers clear opportunities to do business with the brand in conjunction with the partnership.

HEB Brings It Home