For many successful brands, sports sponsorship is an essential part of the marketing mix. Through its emotional environment, sport offers an ideal platform for brands to emotionally enhance their own brand through advertising, and to achieve the communication goals they have set themselves. Nevertheless, how can sports sponsors measure if, and to what extent, sponsoring measures have an impact on the brand?
Using selected examples from the success case of Indeed (the job search engine that was awarded "Sponsor of the Year 2021" by HORIZONT) we show how the effects of sponsorship can be precisely measured by analysing elementary brand KPIs such as brand awareness, ad awareness, consideration or purchase intention.
The Definition of Sponsorship Goals
Sports sponsorship is booming. In 2020, during the Corona pandemic, investments in sports sponsorship in Germany alone was around 4 billion euros - and the trend is still rising. But why are brands investing millions annually to become the main or premium partner of a football club?
Some reasons are obvious at first glance: for example, to increase their own brand awareness by using the reach of sport, or to benefit from the spill-over effects of the emotional environment of sport and to charge the brand image. However, there are other reasons for brands to engage in sports sponsorship that not only contribute to the external perception of the brand, but also have an effect within the company. For example, the unifying element of sport can help strengthen employee cohesion or, as part of employer branding, attract new talent in recruiting. The development of new sales channels, for example through networking in the business areas of the stadiums, are also among the benefits that brands can gain from a sponsorship commitment.
The reasons for companies to engage in sports sponsorship could hardly be more diverse. With this in mind, the clear definition of sponsoring goals before measuring the success of sponsoring measures seems even more important.
“When the US-based job search engine Indeed announced its main sponsorship with Eintracht Frankfurt in 2017, the initial objective was quite obvious: to increase brand awareness within the German market because, unlike today, Indeed was at most a household name to insiders in Germany.”
Since brand communication measures such as sponsoring rarely stand alone, the greatest challenge of measuring success lies in tracing the effects explicitly back to sports sponsoring. Has awareness or reputation increased - was this due to sponsoring or to the parallel classic advertising measures on TV or online media?
Target group-specific consideration: Higher awareness among football fans
The solution lies in the differentiated consideration of the core target group that encountered sports sponsorship from a control group - for example, the basic population.
If we look at the target group of football fans, the awareness of Indeed at the beginning of the measurement in 2018 was at the same level as in the overall population of Germany. But the longer the sponsorship lasts, the more the awareness curves differ amongst football fans, Indeed's brand awareness has risen disproportionately. If we now look one level deeper and consider the fans and sympathisers of Eintracht Frankfurt, this effect is more noticeable. In October 2021, the awareness of Indeed in this target group was 30 percent higher than in the overall population - a clear indication of the sponsorship’s effect. The fact that the effects are not even higher is only due to the fact that Indeed has now also achieved a high level of brand awareness at the level of the overall population - among other things through the playout of the "Ingrid" commercials, which also won an award.
Consideration follows on - A look at the course of time
Once a foundation has been laid via the increase in awareness, clear effects can also be measured regarding the consideration of Indeed. In February 2022, the consideration of Indeed among Eintracht Frankfurt fans and sympathisers was a whopping 80% (!) higher when compared to the overall population.
In addition to the analysis of the target groups, an observation over time can also be a strong indicator of sponsoring effect. For example, the case of Eintracht Frankfurt shows that during their successful Europa League season 2018/19, positive spillover effects on sponsors can be observed.
“However, it is not only the sporting performance, which lies outside the scope of sponsors, that can lead to measurable fluctuations over time. In the end, it is above all the successful activation of the sponsor itself that generates such positive effects.”
In this regard, Indeed is considered a perfect example. When players from Eintracht Frankfurt suddenly played the leading role in the Ingrid commercial, which had previously been detached from sponsorship.
A comparison with competitors who do not invest in sponsoring can be useful. Even from this perspective, Indeed's sponsoring activities can be considered a success - as the gap between people interested in football and the overall population is not as large for any other brand as it is for Indeed.
Measuring success is indispensable!
The effects of sports sponsorship are certainly not as clearly measurable as in other forms of advertising such as digital marketing. Nevertheless, it can be said that success measurements based on cleverly placed target group observations, observation of time trends and competitor analyses bring insightful and valid results to light - and are furthermore not only important purely for justification purposes, but are above all indispensable with a view to drawing the right conclusions for the continuous optimisation of sponsoring.