Does sponsorship work?

Sponsorship spending increased 70% from over the past dozen years (2006-2018) and people still ask, “Does sponsorship work?”

  • Yes, sponsorship works. Sponsorship works when fans make the connection between the brand and the team. We call that sponsorship recall.
  • Why does sponsorship work? Sponsorship works because passion transfers from the team to the brand. The stronger the ties that bind the brand with the team, the greater the passion transfer.
  • What builds strong ties? Brands build strong ties when they share brand meaning through the team via multiple channels of communication.

Average Sponsorship Recall & Brand Lift

Average NFL sponsor recall1 was 38-39% across eight teams over the past two years (2017-2018). Among 11 teams this year the average recall from preseason is up to 43% in the NFL. Adding eight more teams from the NBA and NHL, average recall remains about the same (44%). The increase is due to (a) adding teams measuring strong partnerships, (b) teams selecting more partners above a given spending threshold, and (c) our partners getting smarter in sharing brand meaning with fans. However, with 165 brands represented, it’s safe to say average recall across the leagues hovers near 40% (+/- a few points) over the past three years.

The data visualization demonstrates the biggest differences are across categories. Hover over each category to see the distribution within that group of sponsors. Above average recall comes from the brand’s active use of the team’s marks and often some kind of entitlement or dedicated branded space (gates, training facilities, etc.). Below average recall often occurs in the first years of a contract in non-exclusive categories. Nonetheless, 25% recall among an NFL team’s fan base of four million is still one million passionate fans.

Below the recall comparisons by category we can see the effects on the key brand metrics of differentiation2 and preference3 On average for the NFL, when fans recall brands as the partner of the team, they improve brand relevance, differentiation and preference by over 60%.

Note: All results are based on a scientifically designed sample of the team’s database accurately reflecting season ticket holders, single game buyers and all other registered users. These results statistically infer brand lift without directly asking fans about the relationship between recall and effects (e.g., “If brand X is a sponsor of the team….”).

Thanks to Ian Young for the cool data viz.

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