The measurement & evaluation of sponsorship...

Updated: Jun 1

“If you don’t invest 5% of your budget in research, you don’t know what you’re doing”

This was the headline that caught my attention from a recent article for Marketing Week by

Mark Ritson.

He wrote, when he shared the article on LinkedIn; when you invest 5%...

“... the remaining 95% will work much better, much harder than a mindless 100% spent on execution without insight.”

Yes. Bingo. This is the whole point of measurement & evaluation (M&E). It’s something I’ve

been saying for years and even wrote the very same back in May 2019

Good M&E is not to be feared – it should be embraced, because it:

Provides confidence, reassurance and direction as it positively informs planning and decision making which all but guarantees improved performance.

In other words; Investment in good M&E powers the performance of your sponsorship, making it more effective and efficient.

Evidence from running M&E’s for multiple brands shows that the ‘much better, much harder’ that Mark Ritson refers to above, are significant improvements to brand and business outcomes, e.g. brand equity, stakeholder relationships and in some cases sales.

These outcomes are achieved because of better insights.

Insights that lead directly to more realistic objectives, better strategies and more meaningful and attention-grabbing and engaging communications and activations.

Unfortunately, the sponsorship sector has always had, and continues to have, a pretty relaxed attitude to M&E.

This does a considerable disservice to the very brands that underpin it.

Luckily, achieving a good M&E programme is not difficult. It just requires:

1. The Right Mindset:

This is the start point. It’s a choice between wanting to justify your decisions were right

or wanting to learn and improve.

I highly recommend the mind-set advocated by the Prof. Byron Sharp. When he was asked to identify the best traits of a marketer, he suggested they adopt;

‘an open and sceptical mindset and demand evidence even for things they themselves believe and be willing to change their minds in light of evidence...’’

Sure, it’s much easier and cheaper to find the metrics and methodologies that prove or validate what a wonderful investment you’ve made.

However, having the confidence to learn, to be challenged and identify both the good and the less good will ultimately deliver more for you and your business.

2. Objectivity & Independence:

Put simply:

- Avoid using parties with a vested interest in the outcome of the M&E (e.g. rights owners, sales or activation agencies) – there’s little value in them marking their own homework

- Avoid flawed methodologies that have an in built positive bias e.g. assessing brand metrics through the lens of people aware of your sponsorship and comparing them to people not aware.

Measuring aware v unaware may seem intuitively correct and enlightening. But, when you unpick how this works, it’s not. Take note of the ‘Rosser Reeves Fallacy’ which I explain in more detail in an earlier UP Yours post

Further, to optimise learnings and improvements, your good M&E programme will consist of more than market research.

All aspects of your programme should be assessed to provide context and direction. As a starter this will include; your objectives, strategy and messaging as well as activation and amplification programmes and associated outputs.

Leave no stone unturned as 80% of performance improvements are derived from more effective strategies and planning!

3. A Proper Budget:

If spending 5% of your budget on effective M&E enabled the other 95% to work much better and much harder, why wouldn’t you spend it?

But don’t worry because 5% will be at the very top end of requirements. The start point should always be to optimise the data sources available to the brand, before rushing out and buying more. ​ If the brand has a robust tracking study, other customer and stakeholder surveys as well as access to a whole raft of digital data and broadcast data then a large element of the expense is already covered.

Utilise what’s available and supplement to add diagnostic capabilities. If there’s a robust brand tracker an additional 2 or 3 questions (asked correctly and in the right place) is a great starting point.

By way of example. When British Gas were sponsoring British Swimming between 2009 and 2015 annual expenditure on a continuous M&E programme averaged c.2% of activation spend.

4. Actionable Recommendations

Finally, your good M&E programme will provide you with a series of evidenced based strategic and tactical recommendations. Clearly, you can choose to ignore them. However, if you’ve adopted the mindset advocated by Byron Sharp, you will act on the results and improve the performance of your sponsorship.

Good M&E is not particularly threatening or expensive and it has the capability to transform outcomes. It should no longer be a discussion avoided or treated as an after-thought.

Sponsorship M&E should be treated as an investment and discussed and budgeted at the planning stage.

It should be embraced, welcomed and encouraged and it’s high time that brands demanded it and that the sponsorship sector championed it.

Ian Thompson is an Independent Sponsorship Auditor & Strategist

PS. He has written before for the Unofficial Partner about M&E check out; Sponsorship’s Biggest Challenge & Too Self-interested to Change