First off, if you haven’t seen “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, it’s entirely probable that this post will make no sense. Actually, even if you’ve seen the movie, I make no guarantees regarding the “logic” of this piece. You’ve been warned.
For as long as I’ve been involved in sponsorship and marketing, accurate measurement has been the industry’s Holy Grail. And, just like finding the Holy Grail, getting a firm grasp of program return-on-investment or return-on-objectives remains extraordinarily difficult, bordering on the mythological.
In reality, the quest for the Holy Grail is more about a journey and the accompanying self-discovery than actually locating the chalice itself. (At this point, you are undoubtedly able to intuit why I made the earlier, emphatic point about Monty Python.)
The same can be said about evaluating sports marketing and sponsorship investments. The ultimate goal of accurate measurement may be always just beyond our reach, but there is much to be learned from the journey to get there.
And so, with some assistance from the classic Monty Python movie, here are recommendations for defining an effective measurement process.
”Join me in my court at Camelot!”
Benchmarks: Know where you are
One things is certain: a Grail quest can’t begin without a clear starting point. The Knights must first be gathered at Camelot. Similarly, effective measurement begins with a clear understanding of where things currently stand. And the more specific the better.
For example, companies that indicate they want to increase “brand awareness” need to further define and benchmark what that means. Increase brand awareness among which
audiences? Which brand attributes should be reinforced? How have other channels impacted brand awareness?
In a perfect world, each of these questions should have a corresponding benchmark associated with it. If the objective is to increase market share among young adults, where does current market share among this group stand?
“What… is your Quest?”
Goals: Know Where You Want to Go
The Knights have gathered about the Round Table, and are ready for action. They just need some direction. And it’s best to be clear with the instructions, as it’s easy to get sidetracked. (They’re not called “wayward Knights” for nothing…)
Assigning specific detail to what we hope to accomplish from a sponsorship or sports marketing investment is critical, as it will be used to determine ultimate success. Using the previous example, we’d need to establish what a successful increase in market share would look like. 1%? 5%? Again, as with setting objectives, the more specific the better.
“He who answers the three questions can cross in safety.”
Strategy: Decide the Best Route
The Knights have been charged with finding the One True Grail. The path forward, however, is treacherous. Carefully plotting a route will help your team steer clear of dangers like the Black Beast of Argh.
Select a sponsorship property (route) that is best suited to help you reach the goals you’ve set. Ideally, this will follow a thorough review of property attributes: demographics, market, reach, avidity, competitors, costs, etc. to determine how well it aligns with your needs.
Of course, CEO prerogative still happens: companies are going to sponsor things that don’t always align with goals because the C-Level wants them to happen. In this scenario, it’s best to set expectations early on and as specifically as possible: identify your benchmarks and goals, and the strategy you’re pursuing to get there. If the C-Level sponsorship fits, great. If not, do your best to exclude it from measurement practices, as no one will like the results.
“Bring Forth the Holy Hand Grenade.”
Tactics: Choose the Right Weapons
Selecting the right weapon depends entirely on your route. For example, if your route takes you past imminent peril such as the fearsome Rabbit of Caerbannog, the right weapon can be the difference between life and death.
In evaluating and measuring your sponsorship programs, assess which measurement tools are best suited to doing so. Because much of the value (and ultimate success) of sponsorship is wrapped around establishing an emotional connection with an audience, a mix of qualitative (interviews, focus groups, etc.) and quantitative (surveys, sales data, etc.) research is strongly recommended.
“On second thoughts, let's not go to Camelot...”
Audit: Know When to Change Your Route
There’s nothing worse than beginning a search for the Holy Grail, and then finding your path blocked by the imposing Knights Who Say Ni or an overly confident Black Knight. In these instances, a slight (or dramatic) change in route may be the best option.
In other words, the best laid plans for measurement may not bear fruit. A regular audit of measurement protocols helps ensure you’re getting what’s needed from your tactics. This rigorous, periodic review of data and other inputs ensures you have line-of-sight into what’s happening, and allows you to make necessary course corrections.
“That was easy!”
Evaluation: When the Quest is Complete, Look Back to See if There’s a Better Way
Sometimes you find the Cup of Christ, sometimes a particularly obstreperous garrison of invective flinging Frenchmen prevent you from completing your quest. It happens.
In either case, a careful consideration of what made your Quest successful (or unsuccessful) helps ensure future effectiveness.
At the conclusion of a sponsorship, it’s vital to take time to reflect on your measurement process. Doing so helps determine how it was effective, where it fell short, how your objectives have changed, and what changes must be made.
Whatever the objectives for your sponsorship marketing are (drive traffic to digital assets, stimulate sales, enhance brand identify, create opportunities for trial, etc.), measurement is an unavoidably necessary part of your planning. And, like the Quest for the Grail, securing the ultimate result can be elusive, frustrating, and faith-testing. However, by maintaining a focus on the process rather than the result, you too can find benefit in the journey.