We’re all probably a bit tired about hearing of Richard Sherman and his outburst in the NFC Championship game. His seemingly angry rant rankled a lot of folks and stirred endless debate both online and offline. But let’s look at what he did.
Did he curse? No. Was he incoherent? No, not really.
He was cornered for an interview immediately after making a big play and was pretty amped up. And it showed. That’s called passion for what you do for a living and that’s a great quality to have.
As Ben Shpigel (@benshpigel) of the New York Times points out, Sherman’s own family thought this level of celebrity was “‘destined to happen'” as he was a firecracker growing up, with a 4.2 high school GPA, and then graduated from Stanford. He came out of the school with a degree in communications, so he knows his way around a mic. Look at his post game interview (below), bow tie and all. He knew what he was doing.
Things aren’t always as they seem. This was not your average player running at the mouth and caught in the act on national TV. The NFL still seemed to think that was the case and handed down a $7,800 fine. But this all may have been a calculated risk as he’s about to ascend the biggest sideline of them all at the Super Bowl this weekend. What brand wouldn’t want to align themselves with passion like that?
Why should brands pay for the rights to be an anchor sponsor of an NFL, MLB, or NASCAR property? Can these properties defend their rate cards that afford brands the rights to communicate with their fans via the property’s venue, television, radio, website, social media, special events, and logos/marks?
“We have been very successful showing the success of sponsorship to build brand equity, and in turn firm value, which has been harder for those trying to use impressions to capture ROI.” ~Anne Rivers, SVP, Global Director of Brand Strategy, BAV Consulting
Sponsorships activate the brand in the minds of passionate fans across multiple channels to achieve brand objectives. If it were just about buying media and exposures to gain a particular audience, there are typically cheaper (CPM) options than sponsorships. But, exposures can be important, because it gives some idea about the potential to reach passionate fans. What it doesn’t tell us is if they are paying attention.
So, the question becomes less about media and more about meaning.
Brand managers are smart. They know single exposures (or even a few) of a brand message have no meaningful impact on consumers. They know people pay more attention when they are highly engaged and passionate, which is what people are about their favorite sports, teams, and players. They also know consumers think, feel, and act more positively toward a brand if the message is received and reinforced through multiple channels.
This brings us to the sponsorship question of the day: Is paying the property for the rights to use their assets worth it?
Evidence for rate card support
[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”350px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ] “Brands have had an overwhelmingly positive response to our analytical approach to measurement. Our ability to provide our partners with measurable, goal-oriented results is invaluable and allows us to truly be a solutions provider.” ~ Matt Webb, Director, Corporate Partnerships, Cleveland Browns[/dropshadowbox]After years working with brands such as AT&T, TXU Energy, HEB, and a variety of other brands in cooperation with The Marketing Arm, this past year I began working with clients in NASCAR, MLB, and the NFL to determine if anchor sponsors receive more bang for the buck than mid or lower level sponsors.
We learned two simple lessons that we’ll complicate with colored charts and graphs.
#1 Attendance means nothing. Engagement means everything.
Fans can spend up to 36 hours over three days at a NASCAR racing event. And many do. But the number of hours at the track has no significant correlation with whether or not fans recognize the activation of brands like Ford, Coke, Sprint, and SpeedTV. Instead, it’s the frequency of engagement with sponsors–which we measured using RFID tags connecting fans with sponsor activation locations–that predicts whether or not fans distinguish the brand as a sponsor and not its competitors.
#2 More channels increase relative brand equity.
With our partner, BAV Consulting, we measure a brand’s energized differentiation (see inset) for not only the sponsor, but also competing brands who may be sponsors or ambushers. In short, sponsors routinely outperform non-sponsors (see our MIT Sports Analytics paper). But, what about anchor sponsors versus secondary sponsorships?
Working with our NFL and MLB team partners, we compare multiple categories of anchor versus secondary sponsors in terms of fans’ recognition of the sponsors’ use of property assets: stadium signage, stadium messages, special game promotions, website, social media, television, radio, and use of team marks in advertising/POP.
If you’re the kind of stats nerd that attends and understands the data analytics presentations at the MIT or Wharton conferences where we’ve presented, then the charts below are for you. If not, here it is in words:
Activation not exposures. How often the fan attends, watches or listens to games increases the odds of recognizing the brand’s sponsorship activation (the green boxes), but does not have a direct effect on the brand’s energized differentiation (the red boxes). This reinforces our NASCAR findings: Just being there doesn’t count. The brand must be activated in the minds of the fans.
Multi-channel communication. The greater the multi-channel activation among the property’ eight assets, the greater the energized brand differentiation of the sponsor (dark green boxes).
Anchors = activation. Fans recognize anchor sponsor communications across more channels than they do for mid-level or low-level sponsors in the same categories (tan boxes). In other words, the additional assets pay off with greater activation of the brand among fans.
Brand equity effects. For the eight categories we tested, each additional effective channel increases energized brand differentiation by 6-7% (the regression equation in Table 2 is an example of one anchor sponsor for the NFL team). Overall, the number of effective channels explains over 90% of a brand’s asset value in the minds of fans. This is a big number.
Some might still say, “So, what? Where’s the big payoff?” We’re glad you asked.
Consistent with our findings in each category, the chart below shows what happens to market share among those fans who recognize activation across multiple channels between the anchor sponsor and the low-level sponsor in the same category.
Both sponsors are national brands with otherwise strong brand equity according to BAV Consulting. But, the payoff for being the anchor sponsor for the NFL team brings substantive market share increases (4.4% ) for each additional effective channel.
If your team or brand would like to learn more, please tweet (@kirkwakefield) below or email. Happy to help!
As organizations continue to utilize sports sponsorships and activation within their marketing mix, they are also faced with the ongoing challenge of ensuring activation is relevant, measurable and engaging for consumers.
Leveraging digital marketing and media strategies will enhance sponsorship initiatives in three ways:[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”curled” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]
Expanding the reach of your activation to a broader audience
Extending the activation beyond the actual event time
Engaging fans in relevant and measurable experiences[/dropshadowbox]
At Academy Sports + Outdoors, we’ve found sharing content and generating exclusive content supporting the partnership is a great way to extend the reach of activation initiatives. Our long time partnership with the Houston Texans greatly evolved this year thanks to both teams’ commitment to digital integration within core sponsorship assets. Leveraging our shared fan bases on multiple social media sites, executing a calendar of content that engages Academy customers and Texans fans, and tailoring that content to the various social media platforms is a win-win for both of us.
”Collaborating with Academy on social media promotions this season, including promoted posts on Twitter, generated a lot of interest for our in-store player appearances and raised the profile of our partnership with Academy” says Nick Schenck, Houston Texans director of integrated media.
“Through my partnership with Academy, we’ve probably had the most fun with the digital components of our relationship”, says NASCAR driver Danica Patrick. “I’ve live tweeted with their fan base from one of our TV shoots, filmed behind the scenes footage and shared workout tips for use on their tablet app. Academy supports me throughout the racing season and even helped me get voted NASCAR’s most popular driver in 2012. I’ve helped to support their annual fitness campaign and drive new followers and entries into their Pinterest contest through my social media sites.” [/dropshadowbox]All professional sports partners are constantly innovating new ways to provide fans with insider access, and we are always seeking additional avenues to drive sales, traffic and deeper engagement with our customer base. In many cases, we’ve found a way to meet both goals through digital only events, which are spontaneous and often only shared via social media. Digital-only events are easy to execute, low cost additions to any activation strategy that (a) expand the reach for partners and (b) create opportunities for content generation.
Sharing content with consumers before, during and after an event is a great way to extend activation length. Live tweets, contests, and appearances all generate opportunities for our team to capture unique and exclusive content making the activation more powerful. We also take the approach of supporting our partners in their key initiatives and ask they do the same in return.
One of the major challenges sports sponsorships often face is relevant, measurable activations.
Third party profiling, audience attendance and participation at an event or over a season are key measurements that marketers use to measure value. Digital marketing brings another key dimension to the table as sponsors are continually challenged to not only drive customer engagement but also measure the benefit. While traditional logo and designation rights support brand awareness and often brand affinity, social media and digital media integration into fan initiatives drives customer engagement and allows both sponsors and sports entities to assess value of shared consumer bases and engage directly with consumers.