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Measuring sponsorship: From Lewis Carroll to Einstein

It’s with some trepidation that I write a piece on measuring sponsorship. Why?

For many years, finding a true standard measurement for sponsorship has challenged brands and agencies alike. The reality is that it doesn’t exist.

Don’t worry though, it is possible to measure sponsorship and in such a way it can prove its value to the business, but it can sometimes feel complex due to its multi-channel multi-discipline nature, so there is a fundamental need for flexibility. Sponsorship presents a unique opportunity for brands and businesses to connect with stakeholders drive growth and build their brand. Sponsorship provides an activation platform for many other marketing disciplines.

This can present complexity in terms of tracking and measuring success, but it is essential that brands do measure their sponsorship to track the sponsorship effectiveness, benefits to the business and ensure return on investment.

Proving the business value of sponsorship
The European Sponsorship Association (ESA) held its annual Sponsorship Summit last week, and ‘Proving the Business Value of Sponsorship’ was a hotly debated topic.

There was some great debate and I think it also was the death knell for the long over-used and often irrelevant media value metric. In addition, the discussion was nicely bookended with two insightful quotes.

The first quote is a salutary reminder of the need for clear objectives and KPIs:

Rob Mitchell 1

So, the usual rules of marketing apply to sponsorship. It is imperative to set clear objectives and KPIs, otherwise you will almost certainly deviate from your course, in terms of your strategy, activation, measurement and, ultimately, what success looks like.

Sponsorship can’t set one standardised measurement like the advertising world because it’s different. It tends to have a number of objectives and multiple stakeholders and audiences (often each audience will have different objectives set against them), is activated in a number of ways, and as such, one definitive measure does not and cannot exist.

Instead, brands need to focus on their sponsorship objectives and understand how they want to measure success in a way that will be meaningful to the business.

Measuring the wrong things
Quite often we see sponsors measuring too many of the wrong things, wasting time, money and effort. So we get confused. For example, campaigns that say they were successful because they achieved an equivalent advertising spend on the exposure achieved when they actually needed to measure brand awareness is wrong.

Brand exposure and brand awareness are fundamentally different. This mistake crops up in award entries all the time. And how many times have we seen the number of facebook likes and twitter re-tweets cited as a goal? Why? Unless you know the precise value of a ‘like’ to your business it’s meaningless.

Here are a few fundamental considerations:
1. Objectives: are they the right ones and meaningful to the business?
2. Measurement: are you measuring the right things?
3. Value: is your sponsorship adding value to your brand and business? (see 1)
4. Timing: measurement should not be pre- and post-campaign, but needs to monitor and track continually, so that plans can be updated and revised to ensure efficiency and effectiveness

Let’s remember that the purpose of measuring and valuing sponsorship is to help us make better decisions. As such, it’s alarming how little is invested in research and measurement in an overall sponsorship campaign, and yet this is very area that will help you achieve and prove success.

We can measure, track and count lots of different things:

Capturing the commercial results using existing corporate and brand measurement tools for:
• Sales: incremental and comparative sales results
• Event sales: incremental sales driven by created events
• Customer retention & loyalty: net value of customer acquisition and retention
• Promotions: redemption, sales uplift, product impact of promotions
• Value: cost per acquisition, customer value

Brand Health KPIs
Tracking impact and role of sponsorship on brand trust scores using continuous brand tracking surveys.
• Brand & sponsorship awareness, leading to consideration and commitment
• Brand trust
• Brand affinity
• Consumer advocacy
• Employer favourability scores

Exposure and Engagement
Measuring audience engagement and the brand activation programme efficacy:
• Brand exposure & audience analysis: monitor and valuation of brand exposure across media & PR, including reach, audience, equivalent advertising value (see above)
• Onsite & Experience: event attendees and participants; hospitality guests (numbers and stakeholder group); fan park attendees; sampling; number of gifts distributed

• Statistics & Web Analytics: tracking the number of people signing up online; data opt-ins; online traffic, likes, re-tweets, followers, frequency and conversion. [This data must be used for CRM purposes to affect the commercial measures.]

So what is important?
If you strip it all back, we must be more commercially focused. Focus on how many customers you acquire, retention rates, average cost per customer, sales and profit. “The rest is just fluff”, says Matt Rogan, managing director of Two Circles. Quite right! I would also incorporate brand health metrics such as awareness, consideration, advocacy, affinity and trust, but these are only important if you can link these brand metrics to the more commercial metrics above; and if you can’t, they’re just fluff.

So, it’s essential to keep asking the ‘why’ question. But don’t worry, if the flexibility is a concern, and you feel bogged down measuring, monitoring and counting everything. It’s just not necessary. I reckon Albert Einstein had the measure of sponsorship.

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This is an ongoing debate in the sponsorship industry, so it would be good to hear any thoughts you may have.

By DMA guest blogger Rob Mitchell, Sponsorship and Marketing consultant at RJM Consulting and member of the DMA Brand Activation Council

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