Determining Sponsorships’ Return on Investment – Why Your Organization Can’t Afford to Not Measure the ROI of Your Sponsorships

What’s your Sports Sponsorship ROI?

Sports fans have come roaring back to their favorite sports this fall, with the NFL, WNBA, and U.S. Open posting record viewership across platforms.

WNBA sets audience record for 2022
US Open on ESPN averaged 1.2M viewers, up 50% from last year
NFL ‘s Patriots-Packers game drew nearly 25M viewers in Week 4, while Amazon’s Thursday Night Football continues to score big this season

Sports sponsorship sophistication is rising along with these growing audiences now that marketers can measure ad effectiveness at every step of the customer journey. In this multi-channel, connected environment, data-gathering (and interpretation) is becoming the new gold for rights holders and their sponsors.

During the past two years, CPG Brands have been very active in sports sponsorship activities, with some entering the arena while others terminated under-performing deals. As part of the NFL’s revised agreement with AB InBev, for example, it added new alcohol category sponsorships for wine (E&J Gallo) and spirits (Diageo). But Pepsi and Gatorade didn’t renew their NHL and Super Bowl Halftime Show sponsorships, respectively.

These decisions were likely fueled by data-driven insights as to how these sponsorships influence bottom-line sales and return-on-investment. By connecting purchase data to ticket sales, digital behavior, and TV and streaming viewership, marketers can anonymously connect real transactions to real audiences for an accurate view into Return on Investment (ROI) and Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). Through partnerships like Catalina’s with FanAI, brands can measure engagement and evaluate key metrics like brand awareness, purchase intent, and leads generated.

In short, now CPG marketers can measure what I like to call their Return on Sponsorship. This levels the playing field – pun intended – for brands with nearly any size budget or geographic footprint. Whether you’re a billion-dollar brand like Pepsi or a regional favorite like Perfect Snacks:

1. Set your objectives
Connect consumer affinities and engagement to offline purchase activity, loyalty, and incremental sales. Rights holders can effectively target untapped opportunities by creating new and more personalized solutions based on brand objectives.

2. Level set your budget
While the number of sponsorable assets has increased significantly, the ratio of branding rights versus activation rights has remained largely unchanged. Through the Catalina-FanAI partnership, CPG marketers can benchmark sales ROI across a brand’s portfolio to identify both strong and weak markets for a sponsorship, helping to inform the renewal value as well as decisions on where to allocate activation dollars.

3. Find your audiences
Start to build audience targets that correlate to the sponsor affinity and your brand’s purchase history. For example, Catalina can help you build an audience of lapsed brand-buyers who are fans of the team you sponsor to help you precisely target and deliver personalized messages to re-engage them.

4. Test drive your messaging
You can now target tailor-made to specific customer groups, both demographically and geographically. It’s possible to A/B test your messaging across digital channels in real time to understand which creative is working best.

5. Measure performance
Optimize the media channels your brand is using to amplify your sponsorship association with real-time sales conversion activity and measurement studies to identify opportunities for improvement and to rebalance your spend. By partnering with Catalina and FanAI, CPG brands can connect audience insights from ticket sales, digital behavior, and TV and streaming viewing exposure, with anonymized shopper purchase data. They can connect these real transactions to real audiences to better drive sales and garner an accurate view into the ROI delivered by their sports sponsorship investments.

Indeed, sponsorships are no longer just about building brand awareness and loyalty; CMOs that include them in their marketing mix must demonstrate their measurable ROI and optimize performance more rapidly. They can now leverage data-driven insights-- from exposure metrics across channels to offline and online sales transaction insights--to maximize their sponsorship investments and advertising spend. As CMOs demand this level of ROAS analysis, most will soon be asking for a Return on Sponsorship spend to justify those investments and renewals.

Brian fulfills his passion for sports by serving as president and board member for the La Costa Canyon Pop Warner Football and Cheer Association.