Using Location Data to Gauge the Efficacy of MLB Stadium Sponsorships

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Naming rights at sports stadiums have traditionally been a coveted—albeit, expensive—investment for major brands. With baseball season in full swing, and marketers beginning to demand more from their sponsorships of sports teams, Gravy Analytics leveraged foot traffic to examine whether the sponsorship investments made by brands at popular baseball stadiums around the U.S. are worth it.

Using location data, Gravy analyzed visits to baseball stadiums in the U.S. during April of this year, looking to see how baseball fans compare and whether the brands that sponsor each stadium are capturing the attention of the right customers. For ease of comparison, Gravy indexed all stadiums against Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York.

“MLB sponsorship spending topped $892 million last season,” says Gravy Analytics CEO and Founder Jeff White. “It made me wonder if these brands’ investments are really moving the needle in awareness, influence, and future sales.”

Looking at stadium sponsorships at top baseball stadiums across the country, White and his team found that companies from just a handful of industries—alcohol brands, automotive brands, and financial services firms—represent an outsized portion of major stadium sponsors.

Citibank and PNC Bank both sponsor fields in their home cities of New York and Pittsburgh, and based on Gravy’s findings, both banks know their customers well. Gravy found that visitors to PNC Park in Pittsburgh are significantly more likely to visit PNC Bank than visitors at every other stadium. Similarly, visitors to Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, are more likely to have recently visited a Citibank location.

Another smart investment, based on Gravy’s analysis, was the Boston-based brewer Samuel Adams’ move to become the official beer of the Red Sox in late 2017. Gravy found that baseball fans at Coors Field, Wrigley Field, and Fenway Park are the biggest beer lovers. Fans at those same three stadiums also over-indexed for visits to bars and happy hour events, suggesting that they enjoy the occasional drink (or two). Ketel One chose to sponsor Dodger Stadium, and Jim Beam sponsors several different stadiums, including Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, and PNC Park.

“There’s a great opportunity for brands and marketers to assess how well their sponsorship dollars are performing—and what they can be doing differently to maximize their reach and future ROI,” White says.

Visitors at Dodger Stadium and Fenway Park were more likely to be in the market for a new car than visitors at any other stadium on Gravy’s list, making Lexus’ decision to sponsor Dodger Stadium a savvy one.

Comparing two automotive brands head-to-head, Gravy found that visitors at the Lexus-sponsored Dodger Stadium are also more likely to have recently visited a Lexus dealership than visitors at the Hyundai-sponsored Citi Field.

“By helping brands and marketers to understand who is in the audience, they can make more informed decisions about their stadium sponsorships and better meet their marketing objectives,” White says.

For example, an automaker like Hyundai might choose to sponsor a stadium in an area where the company dominates sales, in order to really solidify its presence in the market.

“Conversely, a brand looking to grow their market share might want to put more sponsorship dollars toward stadiums where the audience isn’t as familiar with their cars to build brand awareness,” White says.

More broadly speaking, White hopes brands can look at Gravy’s analysis and see that they have opportunities to use location data and other forms of consumer intelligence to inform their marketing decisions. And while there is no guarantee on a good return on investment with sports team sponsorships, location data can be a good starting point.

“Their spend doesn’t have to be a guessing game—it can be done with greater smarts and confidence,” White says. “Location intelligence is an extremely valuable tool that helps brands make more informed decisions about where, when, and how much to invest in sponsorships.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.