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Abstract: Basic research can make the difference between a successful sponsorship association and a significant marketing failure. In this paper, the importance of using benchmarking is discussed in order to help determine the likely success or failure of any particular sponsorship. It is suggested that between one and two per cent of the total sponsorship budget should be spent on research. The value of such research is demonstrated by a case study of Green Flag's sponsorship of the England national soccer team.
Keywords: Sponsorship research, sponsorship evaluation, benchmarking, Green Flag
The harshest criticism that used to be levelled at sponsorship was that it was a very inexact science and, if it formed part of an integrated campaign, isolating the effectiveness of one specific element was virtually impossible. This paper shows how time has moved on, and how with ever-greater sums being devoted to this medium sponsors rely on accurate research to track effectiveness and plan future strategy.
How to benchmark
Benchmarking is an essential first step in determining effectiveness as it informs the sponsor of its current situation prior to beginning the sponsorship. Ideally, it should be put in place prior to the sponsorship starting and any pre-promotional material. Realistically, it often happens once the sponsorship has started and hence the lowest possible exposure time is selected for research. For example, if a sponsorship has been running for a year without any prior benchmarking, then research could be carried out in the "off" season. If, however, a campaign has been running for three years, then it is probably too late for benchmarking to be effective.
There are many ways to benchmark, depending upon the objectives of the sponsorship. Benchmarking can be used to assess:
* awareness levels - if taking over from a sponsor, the new sponsor must find out the levels of awareness that the previous sponsor achieved. From then on, the new sponsor can set objectives for awareness;
* image - again, a sponsor must check what residual images are left by the previous sponsor. In addition, the new sponsor must look at its own objectives and benchmark its current image among the new target market for its brand (with no relation to the sponsorship);
* sales - obviously sales figures beforehand should be measured in order to act as a benchmark against which the sponsorship can be measured.
Setting measurable objectives
In order to benchmark effectively, it is important that some measurable objectives are established at the outset of the sponsorship. Such objectives can include media exposure awareness of association, image transfer from the property to the brand, impact of support marketing or sales targets. The key element is to know why the sponsorship is being adopted and set objectives accordingly.
The need for the above depends very much on timing and budgets. Ideally, if a sponsor is using anything that is new -- for example, advertising, broadcast sequence, merchandising, or straplines -- it should be pre-tested. Also the link between the sponsor and the property should be checked as well as the fit with the target market.
Sponsorships that happen over a long period (e.g. leagues over one or more seasons) should be tracked to pinpoint specific peaks and troughs in the sponsorship. This will provide the sponsor with useful information when it comes to try and establish how the sponsorship can be enhanced.
Post testing is most commonly carried out in order to re-negotiate a deal. However, a vital component of this is the position that the sponsor was in before the sponsorship -- in other words, benchmark.
Isolating elements of the sponsorship
This is very difficult to do. If other brand marketing is going on that is not linked to the sponsorship, it becomes even more difficult to determine the effectiveness of the sponsorship. However, it can be done and can be very useful in ensuring that budgets are not being wasted on exercises that have no impact. Qualitative research is very useful in this area.
Budgeting for the cost of research
It is difficult to say how much money should be budgeted for sponsorship research. Realistically, it comes down to the emphasis on research within the organisation. In general, a large sponsor may spend less than one per cent of its budget on research on major sponsors, but for small sponsorships the rate is likely to be proportionately more.
Research in the field
The best way to check the validity of sponsorship research, of course, is to look at a company that has invested in it. Green Flag, …