A combined Think!Sponsorship / Sponsorship Today survey into the use of research in the sponsorship industry has thrown up some surprising results. This includes a belief that sponsors and rights holders have an equal responsibility to research effectiveness, that the industry considers media exposure research to be overrated and that the industry is not effectively measuring social media campaigns.
The poll, undertaken in March/April 2013, was completed by a diverse group of industry experts, the majority of whom were either agencies (42.7%) or rights holders (33.8%) with sponsors comprising 6.4% of the sample. Suppliers and media owners were the other key segments taking part. Full results are displayed below the main article.
Brand awareness was seen as the most common aspect of a sponsorship to be measured with 82.7% citing this as a key metric. This was followed by TV exposure (63.2%), return on investment (57.4%) and print media exposure (54%).
The majority of respondents (71.7%) believe that research should be undertaken on an on-going basis with few stating that measurement should be periodical. Indeed over 90% state that the research process should evolve over the course of the sponsorship.
Sponsorship research budgets cut
Worryingly for the industry, 65% of respondents said that their research budget had been cut since the global financial crisis despite the fact that sponsorship rights fees have continued to rise in the past few years.
On the question of whether there should be a standardised evaluation matrix for sponsorship, respondents were split fairly evenly with 50.8% agreeing and 45.1% saying no. The difficulty many cite is that sponsorship programmes are rarely identical, so creating an evaluation technique that would apply across the board is very difficult.
Over-reliance on sponsorship media evalution
There was a clear majority (70.9%) who believed that the industry had become over-dependent on measuring media coverage and brand awareness. The finding is especially interesting given that this is what the survey group claims as its most used metric. A possible explanation is that in order to produce robust ROI figures, it often requires a detailed media evaluation. Thus all those sponsors that undertook ROI measurement, also had media exposure measured, even though this wasn’t seen as the ultimate test of whether the sponsorship worked. Anecdotally, there are those in the industry who report that senior management in major companies feel reassured by seeing media equivalent values outweigh their rights investment. Most experts, however, would argue that such values carry much less weight given the sophistication of research into ROI.
An example of the changing emphasis of measurement was the 83.8% agreement that the social impact of sponsorship will increasingly be researched as more programmes are integrated with corporate social responsibility activity.
Sponsorship social media research not effective
One of the most interesting findings in the poll is how organisations feel measurement of the use of social media is faring. Only 20% thought that social media activations were being researched effectively and the industry was much more concerned with the quality (80%) of social media than the quantity (14%). Facebook (90%) was seen as the most important social media channel, followed by Twitter (84%) and YouTube (50%).
Among sponsors (and agencies representing sponsors) the majority of respondents (19% : 7.2% of the total survey sample in which sponsors were in a minority) said that the social media activity of the rights holder influenced their sponsorship buying decisions and a majority (16.9% : 12.9%) declared that they compared such initiatives across multiple rights holders.
Rights holders 'should' present research findings
The relationship between sponsors and rights holders appears to be closer than in the past with sponsors declaring that on the whole they share evaluation results and likewise rights holders almost universally reciprocate. Indeed a majority (60.4%) felt that evaluation should be a collaborative effort between the parties.
Finally, most sponsors declared that it was either very important (14.5%) or important (13.7%) for rights holders to present research information prior to negotiations.
Related sponsorship research content:
Report: Sponsorship Strategy & Research
Poll: Sponsors lead in digital activation