Friday, February 27, 2009

Measuring the decline in sports sponsorship


Yesterday afternoon the Aviva yacht sailed past the office here on the South Coast of England and while I don’t necessarily want to give extra publicity to one of my clients rivals it did get me thinking about RBS's recent announcement on its sponsorship deals. This Wednesday’s RBS said it plans to drastically cut back its sports sponsorship commitments, something which won't be good for the sports and is bound to have negative implications for the UK's PR industry.

Sports sponsorship is an invaluable supplement to many sports peoples existence and with the clock counting down to London 2012 Olympics it looks likely that last Summer’s medal haul will not be easily re-enacted. With the current economic contraction playing out there is little public appetite to make up for RBS (and others?) scaling back of support.

Obviously I am not commenting on Aviva’s sponsorship commitments – I am not aware of any changes with them, but I do feel there is an issue surrounding the measuring of success for sponsorship. A crucial element of any sponsorship campaign is measuring the media generated, with a view to generating some form of ROI.

While media output is not directly linked to attitudinal outcomes (or buyer behaviour) it is a powerful proxy - but just how powerful?. My concern is that, as companies revise sponsorship budgets, so they will dispense with output measures. We can argue over how accurate the link is between output and outcomes and undoubtedly this is one of the most controversial aspects of PR measurement.

From my work as one of the awards judges for the CIPR over the last couple of years I have been struck by how ingrained opinions are on media outputs and crucially the percieved closeness of its connection to outcomes. Campaign results are often outlined as a series of media hits with little attempt to address consumer out-take, let alone outcome.

Online however is mixing it all up and conventional off-line metrics don't transfer well online. I am bound to say that this does not mean it can't be done but the dynamic of the medium is necessitating a more dynamic solution.
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