What Sport Sponsorship Needs to Learn From Adtech


By Brian Kim, CEO at Relo Metrics

In the world of digital advertising, data is now the dominant currency.

With cutting-edge AI and data analytics tools at their disposal, most large brands are able to deliver millions of online ads every day and continuously measure and optimize the performance of their campaigns, driving more efficiency and return on investment. The innovative nature of digital advertising is a key part of why the sector continues to enjoy double digital annual growth.

But this commitment to innovation and data-driven thinking isn’t found at every level of the marketing ecosystem. Take sports sponsorship. Despite the huge value of campaigns and brand partnerships in this space, the way that they are measured today has changed little over the last decade.

When a brand receives, at best, one or two reports per season and it’s coming from the same partner who sold them the sponsorship, it leaves little or no opportunities to change anything because the data comes too late and typically tells a skewed story, showing a lot of the good and none of the bad.

This lack of innovation is perhaps why growth in sport sponsorship is being left behind by its digital cousin and there are signs that this gap could get even larger. With marketing teams under pressure to justify the large sums spent on sports sponsorship post-pandemic, the danger is that budgets will continue to flow to adtech-enabled sectors which can demonstrate measurable ROI.

Turning the Digital Tide

Luckily, we live in a technology-advanced world that is innovating at lightning speed. And thankfully, these technologies are solving challenging problems like how to enable marketers to measure and optimize their sponsorship performance and spend in real-time.

What used to be done via humans and stopwatches can now be solved using machine learning AI and computer vision and data that used to take months to organize and present can be provided in days. Along with this, decisions that could only be made on a yearly basis, for example, understanding the viewability of your sponsorship creative, can be adjusted in the middle of a season to impact performance and increase return on investment.

Data is only valuable if it is actionable and whether you rely on an agency, your own methodology or partner reports, you should ask yourself, are you getting the data you need in an actionable way? Brands like Stanley Black & Decker are bucking the norm and demanding data to be part of their sponsorship investment, as well as owning their own data.

By doing this, the brand was able to spot at the start of the season that their signage for a leading English Premier League soccer team was obscured by a goal post. They were then able to quickly make the necessary changes so the logo would be visible.

Elsewhere, in the NFL, a key brand sponsor was able to double the value and viewability of its signage by analyzing how its sponsorship was performing on social media and zeroing its efforts on Facebook, where performance was highest among their partners. Without real-time analysis, these issues would have lingered throughout the lifetime of the campaign, leading to huge wastage in spend.

New Viewability Standards

One of the key issues holding back the wider adoption of real-time measurement in sports sponsorship is the lack of standardized industry metrics.

The digital ad industry has moved a long way beyond simplistic click-based measurement and towards KPIs that recognize the prominence of an ad and the amount of time a viewer actually looks at it. Sports sponsorship needs a similar form of standardized measurement on how long a sponsor’s logo is visible on screen as a proportion of viewing time.

Any new metric would also need to incorporate a measure of prominence on social feeds and streaming to reflect how viewing patterns are changing.

With standard metrics that everyone can follow, the mainstream adoption of these technologies will become much easier and brands will be able to see exactly what kind of ROI sport sponsorship can deliver.

After all, sport offers unique value and reach that even digital advertising can’t. Audiences are deeply passionate and dedicated and viral moments can provide positive associations that last for a lifetime. Is there anything in digital advertising that can rival the power of the Super Bowl or a World Cup Final?

With these inherent strengths backed with the very best in real-time measurement tools, there’s no reason why sports sponsorship can’t reclaim its position at the top of the marketing hierarchy.