Select your partner: Why we choose one partner in each category

Which of these approaches to measuring sponsor recall do you think is best?

Best practice: Select one sponsor and two non-sponsor competitors in each category. Ask for “the” correct partner (Option A).

Why not select two sponsors if the category is not exclusive? Suppose you have two casino/resorts as partners. Why not ask about both at the same time?

  1. Specificity/Validity: Asking which brand is “a” corporate partner is a different mental process than asking which is “the” corporate partner.
    1. Asking which is “a” corporate partner using check boxes (as many as apply) induces more guessing and second-guessing.
    2. It’s like the dreaded test questions you had in school with “all of the above,” “none of the above,” or “All of the below are true except….”
    3. The best multiple choice questions that measure what you say you’re measuring have one correct answer.
  2. Results: Respondents develop different guessing strategies that may actually reduce recall results under conditions of greater uncertainty.1
    1. With years of experience experimenting with myriad methods of measuring recall, we found allowing for multiple correct choices reduces recall levels.
    2. Many will guess one or the other (not both) sponsors when they would have most certainly selected the correct brand against two non-sponsors.
    3. More respondents also guess the wrong brand. (“Hey, maybe I just didn’t notice or have forgotten?”) Since no penalty exists for guessing extra sponsors, they add choices they otherwise would never consider.
  3. Cognitive load: We reduce cognitive load with one correct answer that stands in contrast to two incorrect answers. Providing two potentially correct answers (sponsors) increases cognitive load and leads to mental errors.
    1. Asking respondents to identify the single correct sponsor allows it to stand in contrast to the competing non-sponsor brands, thereby enhancing brand equity effects.
    2. Having two major sponsors in the same category is like asking a mother to evaluate which is her favorite child. The question is much easier, requires less cognitive resources, to compare one sponsor (or one’s own child) to others that do not belong.
  4. Contrast effects: The elements of brand equity will stand in more stark contrast to non-sponsors, but will diminish when compared to similar others. In other words, the brand lift will not be accurately measured versus non-sponsors (viz., where the brand would be without the team) if we include more than one actual sponsor.

Finally, for business purposes, we offer and price reports based on one partner in each category. Adding a second partner within a category would mean another report. This adds additional programming for us and additional cost to the team. If both partners in a category would like to compare how they are doing with each other, then we simply replicate that category in a separate set of surveys–using the same non-sponsor competitors if desired. Then, we’re comparing apples-to-apples and we know respondents were not confused. We’re measuring what we say we’re measuring (validity) and we know if we repeated the measures in the same way, we’d get similar results (reliability).

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.