Approximately $65.8 billion was spent on sponsorships in 2018 according to the World Advertising Research Center (WARC), not including additional associated costs. And the numbers, though large, seem small when considering the multitude of sponsorship opportunities available. From a local ballet company’s production calendar to a universities’ philanthropy event to a national organization’s convention to international sporting competitions, the brand sponsorship opportunities never end. Companies can choose to support events locally, regionally, nationally, or even internationally.
But how do companies determine the best brand sponsorship opportunity? Should they support the same annual events or invest in new opportunities? Only weigh the cost-benefit analysis? Is there a more certain way to select? The answer: market research.
“Brand awareness” is the most important sponsorship objective according to 73% of advertisers in WARC’s 2018 Global Ad Trends Sponsorship Survey. This goal could include increasing a brand’s awareness, maintaining top of mind awareness, or developing an emotional connection between the brand and the event. However, only 19% of respondents could confidently measure the return on investment (ROI) of their brand sponsorship campaigns. If most advertisers do not measure or feel confident in their current tracking systems, then these professionals must feel confident in choosing the correct opportunity for maximum benefits. But, how do professionals ensure the fit between the consumers and the opportunity? This is where market research, qualitative or quantitative, can assist.
Market research can measure the appeal to determine if the brand sponsorship opportunity is a good fit or not. Appeal assesses a customer’s opinion of the opportunity, the product, the customer’s likelihood of attending the event, perceptions, and so on. High appeal could signal a higher ROI, while low appeal implies a disconnect between the consumers and the product. Sponsoring a low appeal event could cause confusion among attendees (for example, Tiffany’s sponsoring a professional rodeo). Additionally, with a larger sponsorship opportunity, pre and post brand and its awareness research measures the likelihood to purchase and brand consideration. This ROI research provides information to be utilized in future brand sponsorship opportunities or other strategic brand strategy decisions.
Most marketers encounter more low-cost or one-time brand sponsorship opportunities than multi-year occurrences. In these cases, companies could conduct their own market research by answering the following questions:
If the answer is ‘yes’ to these brand sponsorship questions, then the company should invest in the event.
In 2017, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBS) asked MDRG to determine perceptions and appeal of BCBS sponsoring a bike share program in New Orleans. Through both qualitative and quantitative research, MDRG found the concept had high appeal among respondents. BCBS maintains a favorable reputation in the community due to their focus on healthy lifestyles, and commitment to other community organizations. Therefore, BCBS was viewed to be a great fit for the bike share program. BCBS agreed to be the title sponsor when the program launched in 2017 based on MDRG’s findings. The bikes, branded with BCBS’s logo, are highly visible in articles appearing in The Advocate, Go NOLA, and on the city of New Orleans’ website. Almost a year later, the blue bikes continue to be highly noticeable and widely used around New Orleans. Further research conducted by MDRG will determine the impact of sponsorship on BCBS’s brand.
Businesses, when undertaking long-term brand sponsorship agreements, should feel confident in their decisions. Market research can guide businesses toward choosing mutually beneficial sponsorship opportunities.
For more information on MDRG’s brand research process, please fill out the following information form: