We ran a Google search : sponsorship evaluation the other day – to see what’s new. How brands evaluate is fascinating and in a sea of sameness there is some stand-out practice – it also reflects trends in technology and brand focus.
The results were illuminating – largely for the wrong reasons.
The sponsorship industry is notoriously slapdash with its terminology. One woman’s platform is another man’s asset. IP’s bandied around like a talisman. Even the term sponsorship itself is often substituted with partnership. The only that’s relatively consistent is rights-holder and even there some people prefer sponsee.
Which makes it very hard for Google’s search algorithms and hardly surprising that Google’s search results for sponsorship evaluation produces such a mixed bag of results.
So we thought it would be an interesting exercise to work through Google’s top 100 search results for Sponsorship Evaluation – part review, part signpost, part plea and hopefully part argument for a consistent language.
Let’s start off with some definitions. We distinguish between related concepts with the terms ROI, evaluation, valuation and assessment – let’s see if these distinctions hold up for you.
Sponsorship valuation is the process of calculating a commercial value to a sponsorship property – giving it a ‘worth’, largely based on media or touchpoint exposure for the sponsor. This may be performed by the rights-holder or their agent, to validate a price. Or it may be requested of an agency by a potential sponsor to support a negotiation.
It’s a common practice but either way, even though largely a waste of time as the methodologies involved are so flawed that the figures are virtually meaningless. Our article here works through the methodology – and the flaws.
‘Property valuation’ we use to refer to a projection of commercial value in the context of an acquisition or equity transaction.
Sponsorship evaluation is the process of determining the effectiveness of a sponsorship execution. Usually, it’s an ongoing process – as it’s all but impossible to do properly in retrospect.
There’s some room for confusion in the fact media measurement and sometimes valuation may contribute to the evaluation.
Its aim is to help the sponsor understand if the sponsorship is working and, depending on scope, should relate to bottom line metrics of sales, brand perception and employee engagement.
ROI or ROI analysis or ROMI (Retun on Marketing Objectives) or ROSI (Retun on Sponsorship Objectives) all point to analysis of business impact and suggest a broader scope than sponsorship evaluation.
Finally, we use sponsorship or opportunity assessment to refer to the analysis of a potential sponsorship on behalf of a sponsor. An assessment will consider many dimensions, of which media and audience data may be part – alongside the assessment of customer or member relationships – to determine its likely utility. It could in theory integrate a ‘sponsorship valuation’, although unlikely in practice.
Google search sponsorship evaluation and see for yourself how confusing.
Here’s our map of how it all fits together.
Google’s top 100
Anyways, using these definitions, let’s look at Google’s top 100. First of all, we strip out everything related to child, student or refugee sponsorship – and we’re down to 86! Then we take out misc – the Harvard Business Review’s overview of sponsorship, various sponsorship proposals or corporate guidelines and we’re down to 77.
Academic research accounts for 30% of the top 100. Sadly, only 12 of them were published in the last decade, so no immediate learnings here. The most recent, from the Journal of Brand Management, actually had little do with evaluation but reported positive findings about the potential impact of sponsorship on employee engagement – so an unexpected bonus. Of the rest, University of Maine’s Norm O’Reilly was the most prolific, with two articles and two Amazon listings for his book on Sponsorship Evaluation in the top 60!
The most interesting is actually a round table discussion hosted by Jonathan Jensen of the University of North Carolina. Brands, agencies and rights-holders are round the table and despite being four years old, it’s an informative read.
There are 10 articles on sponsorship evaluation by agencies, with a further three case studies and a couple of PRs.
There’s own article of course on the principles of sponsorship evaluation. Canadian agency Elevent has a good article – and separately also for Valuation. They use the same terminology as us, consistently and as you’d expect from Elevent, intelligent pieces.
Brandfinance has two posts : offering different approaches to modelling ROI and evaluation. The language isn’t consistent but the take outs are solid, although cashflow modelling needs to be viewed with some caution when it’s largely based on reported brand metrics. Normally case studies are self-serving and only maintain a fiction of perfection – but the submission by Iris Worldwide for the Best use of research and evaluation in a sponsorship campaign, conducted for Barclays, is revealing and reflects the real issues brands face in evaluation.
A number of links connect to ROI and valuation services – the familiar names of Nielsen, Kantar, Hookit, Lumency alongside new ‘AI’ entrants – Shikenso Hive, FanAI and YouScan. Of these, Nielsen outlines its approach very clearly here but Kantar adopts the clearest position, with service strands delivering Valuation and ROI, clearly separating the two. The latter four all focus on online logo and product recognition so approach evaluation largely through media. rEvolution also offers evaluation services, and its approach is informative and worth a read.
Eight articles deal specifically with valuation.
Sponsorship Collective’s article walks rights-holders through the process of placing a commercial value on their own property and sponsorship packages – as does Tandem Partnerships. But as sponsorship valuation is essentially based on a simple methodology of touchpoint audits, there isn’t really much discussion to be expected here.
Eight articles deal with assessment and a further three with event measurement.
These tend to be at the 101 level, although Qlutch offers template plans for a range of marketing activity including a simple plan for DIY opportunity assessment. Paine Publishing’s post has plenty of good stuff – but flows freely between assessment and evaluation so feels a little like one of those stream of consciousness novels – you never really know which way’s down. Eventbrite and the Institute of PR both have pieces to measure the success of an event. Kim Skildum-Reid’s powersponsorship.com looks very usefully in her customary punchy style at how potential sponsors evaluate a sponsorship proposal.
Well, Google’s search algorithm needs a crash course in sponsorship evaluation for sure! As to terminology, there’s no need for everyone to use the same terminology but… it has its advantages.