Cracking the Code: Measuring ROI from Live Event Sponsorships

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How do you connect the results of live event sponsorships to real customer transactions? It’s a challenge that brands have spent years trying to overcome with varying levels of success.

Now, as festivals and sporting events return after two years of cancellations during the pandemic, brands are once again investing in sponsorships as a marketing opportunity — and grappling with the challenges that come from trying to measure the results of those initiatives.

“As CMO’s get challenged to show ROI on every dollar spent, being able to quantify incremental sales tied to sponsorships has become an emerging goal,” says Brian Dunphy, senior vice president of strategic partnerships at Catalina, a shopper intelligence firm.

A new strategic partnership between Catalina and FanAI could present brand marketers with a creative solution. The two companies are working together on a program that will connect audience insights from ticket sales, digital behavior, and television and streaming viewing exposure with anonymized shopper purchase data, so marketers can link real transactions to real audiences and garner more accurate views into the ROI delivered by their sponsorship investments.

FanAI offers a data platform that provides sponsorship insights for major brands in sports and entertainment. The company uses proprietary technology, matched with business data, ticket, merchandise, and audience exposure data to show clients what’s working based on their current spend.

The partnership between Catalina and FanAI leans heavily on Catalina’s real-time purchase insights and scaled U.S. shopper household graph to provide FanAI clients with sales lift measurement analysis.

“Brands will also be able to benchmark sales ROI across portfolios to identify both strong and weak markets for sponsorship and access insights into the distribution of customers and spend to support their acquisition, retention, and basket size goals,” Dunphy says.

FanAI CEO Johannes Waldstein says that unlike in the past, marketers today are looking to go beyond just brand building and awareness with their sponsorship deals. They want to drive measurable business outcomes, like loyalty and incremental spend. Leveraging Catalina’s real-time purchase data and third-party data will allow FanAI to meet those expectations and provide national and local level sponsorship measurement and sales lift measurement analysis to its clients.

“​​Covid sent a huge shock wave through sports and brand sponsorships. Every brand took a step back and thought ‘If there are no sports what should I do? What make good should I get? What do I do differently when sports come back?,” Waldstein says. “And now, with sports back, CFO’s are asking their CMO’s why are we putting $100m+ into sponsorships? What does that do for us? How do we get more value out of that?”

Dunphy attributes much of the shift in expectations among brand marketers to the advent of multi-channel, smart, connected digital devices. With connected TVs and content, he says brands can finally start to connect sponsorship and consumer engagement to offline purchase activity.

“With brand managers now able to connect consumer engagement activity, such as addressable TV viewership data or location visit data to a sponsorship, along with offline-and-online conversion data, they can begin to quantify a sponsorship’s value beyond brand-awareness to actual incremental sales at a household-level,” Dunphy says. 

Going forward, Dunphy sees data-driven, digital fan engagement becoming a crucial marketing tool for brands. Having closer cooperation between the rights holders and their sponsors is a win/win proposition that he’s eager to be a part of.

“Both parties want to gather as much data as possible. With this data they can measure brand engagement and hence evaluate key metrics like brand awareness, purchase intent and leads generated,” Dunphy says. “Rights holders are continually coming up with creative ways to slice and dice their sponsorship rights to maximize sponsorship revenue, so understanding their fans’ affinities to specific brands or categories will help them justify sponsorship valuations.”

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.