Moving Social Media Measurement in Sponsorship from Vanity to Value

Closing the Telegraph’s Business of Sport article on ‘The importance of social media in sport’, Synergy CEO Tim Crow says rightsholders “need to focus less on selling price and impressions and much more on delivering engagement and value”.

He's right – value metrics are the future. And with more words set to be published on twitter in the next 2 years than in all books ever printed, the cost of getting social media measurement wrong – by using vanity metrics such as “likes” and “clicks” – is set to skyrocket. This blog aims to provide a quick guide to moving sponsorship towards better social media measurement.

social media channels

The majority of data points available in off-the-shelf analytics packages are what author of The Lean Startup, Eric Reis, calls Vanity Metrics – they might make you feel good, but don’t offer clear guidance on what actions to take. Put another way, they do not help make decisions on how to drive value. Since around 80% of companies use vanity metrics, it’s clear that sponsorship must move from vanity to value in social media ASAP.

“But how?” I hear you ask.

Social media is very different to other channels in terms of data accuracy, frequency and availability. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can offer a wealth of data on user actions to the very second at which they took place, and the rise of real-time is set to transform the way we estimate and track value beyond what I can imagine. That means a move to value metrics in social media will have to leverage some of the most advanced measurement tools and techniques out there today.

Future Dashboards

We can understand value creation through Social Media with a simple framework for understanding social media value:

Reach – the number of unique impressions (organic & paid) made on the audience. Put another way, it’s the number of people who actually see an ad pop up in their newsfeed on Facebook or Twitter, or the pinboard of Pinterest users.

Engagement – directly purchasing a promoted product or interacting with and sharing brand content. Fundamentally, it’s the people who “like”, “share”, or “comment” on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Advocacy – sentiment of the users who engage with the ad. In other words, the degree to which they are positive, neutral or negative towards the ad.

Purchase – the number of users who see the ad who, are converted to sale. In simple terms, it’s the people who have, one way or another, seen the ad and parted with their cash because of it.

Sales – Cost = Return on Investment (ROI)

Job done!

Or not, as it turns out. Analytics experts reading the above (I’m sure there are many…) will have noted the “simple” approach above is perhaps a bit too simple. Reach and Engagement are indeed hard to measure. There is, in fact, a relationship between impressions and interactions: the greater the Engagement level, the more users interact, the larger the resulting Reach. Put another way, albeit making an inference about causality, more engagement can drive more impressions – social media users who engage with and share brand ads are growing the number of people ‘impressed’.

Analysis has shown the correlation coefficient between impressions and engaged users to be +0.83

Transitioning to an approach like the one outlined above, and addressing the interaction across stages, would be represent a significant step forward for the sponsorship industry.Learning from Social Media

While data frequency in more traditional channels such as live-event, TV or Radio broadcast may never reach the levels seen in social media – it does not need to – brands should push for the same level of data accuracy and availability. The key is to transform their respective vanity metrics, like branded mentions and views, into value metrics.

Further lessons lie in the dashboards and user-interfaces used to visualize social media metrics today. In an age of big-data, it is easy to get lost in a sea of information without getting to insight. Social media platforms like Facebook – and behind-the-scenes Facebook Insights – are a step ahead of other sponsorship channels in tracking user data pre-, during- and post-campaign. We must learn from them.

So what next?

With only 1% of companies currently being “socially native” – meaning (among other things) they have measurement to match business objectives – the sponsorship industry has a long way to go. But a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I hope this blog will help the industry take it.


If you need a nudge or some guidance on social media measurement please do send Synergy an email at and, if you haven’t already, take a look at how Synergy think about sponsorship value in our Synergy Decisions white paper here.

Valuing Rugby World Cup 2015 Sponsorship: A 5-Step Guide to Sponsorship Event Measurement

It's not long now until Rugby World Cup 2015 kicks-off and sponsors start to see a significant return on investment...

…at least that's what they hope.

If you already know whether their event sponsorship endeavors will be likened to a World Cup win or group-stage knockout then you can stop reading now. Otherwise, this 5-step guide to sponsorship event measurement should help you understand how to deliver, measure and evaluate a high-ROI event sponsorship of any scale.

RWC Image 2

So, using Rugby World Cup 2015 as a case study, let’s outline an approach which could help…

RWC Partners Image

By the way, this guide brings to bear much of the thinking already shared in the Synergy Decisions white paper.

Step 1: Understand the Pathways to Value

In the context of event sponsorship and Rugby World Cup 2015, this means understanding that the event could deliver value through different Pathways. Brands like Canterbury and Heineken will have similar rights, but will be using them to deliver different objectives. The rights will drive different levels of value accordingly.

That said, let’s consider some of the Pathways through which Heineken could drive value:

  1. B2C Brand Awareness (e.g.pitch-side branding to reach a global audience via extensive TV coverage)
  2. B2B Hospitality (e.g. hosting and building relationships with trade contacts to increase listings in the on and off trade)
  3. Data Capture (e.g. recording fan contact details through at-event activations)
  4. Experiential (e.g. campaigns to connect with fans at the stadium)
  5. Pouring rights (e.g. increased sales at all 48 matches at the expense of competitors such as Guinness)

Heineken Experience

Step 2: Identify the Value Drivers for Each Pathway

This is crucial. Rugby World Cup 2015 sponsors must know which metrics influence how much value is being created within each specific pathway. Sponsors should ask whether their value drivers are, for example:

1 - Talking to business customers – If so, how many do we need in our hospitality suite at each match? Of the business clients who join, what share do we want to be “high” value? Of those who are “high” value, how many do we need to convert into sales?
2 - Data capture – If so, how many details do we need to collect at each match? How many are attending each match? What is the likelihood that a new contact converts to a sale? What is the value of that sale? How quickly do we need to follow up?
3 - Maximizing at-event sales – If so, how many sales do we need to make? Where can we sell at the ground and how many sales staff can we deploy? At what cost?
4 - Etc. … (In the interest of time I’ll refrain from listing the 30+ different Value Drivers we’ve worked on at Synergy over the last year, but you get the idea!)
The earlier brands map out these questions, the easier it’ll be to:

• find where and how value could be created pre-campaign
• change course and track progress during-campaign
• evaluate performance post-campaign

Step 3: Build a Model

Having successfully navigated Step 2, it’s time to enter Excel and use the value drivers to create a model which helps us understand the value created within each Pathway. Let’s say that Heineken, for example, is trying to understand the Data Capture Pathway. The global beer brand’s model could be structured to make calculations using inputs like:

• # matches at which we have experiential rights
• # attendees (by match)
• % attendees engaged in experiential
• % attendees engaged who share data / contact details
• % post-match contacts converted to sale
• £ lifetime value of average contact converted to sale

Step 4: Find the Best Possible Inputs and Assumptions

With a strong Step 1, Step 2 and Step 3 in support, finding and measuring the metrics that matter should feel less like a scrum and more like a kick from under the posts. Whether it be through consumer surveys, brand trackers, data records on the ground, web analytics, or a combination of all of the above, the key to sponsorship measurement is inputs and assumptions you can adjust but believe in.

Dan Carter

With our Heineken / Data Capture example in mind, imagine that they have one pop-up activation per match. Heineken could then track performance through, for example, conducting consumer surveys at each of the 48 Rugby World Cup 2015 matches.

Step 5: Interrogate the Model

Once the detail is done and dusted, better decisions can be made more easily with the help of a user-friendly dashboard, which could look something like:


As any Rugby World Cup-winning team will tell you, most of the hard work is done before the main event. Tough questions are asked, different tactics tested and weights lifted before the Final event itself.Likewise, sponsorship event measurement must be grounded in strategic analysis ahead of time, and a commitment made to analyse and gather the necessary data to find scenarios, sensitivities and breakeven points. With a clear sense of how to drive maximum value, CMOs and Sponsorship Managers alike can send staff out onto the marketing field-of-play confident their team will perform.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick guide on how to take a more structured approach to understanding the value of event sponsorship. If you’d like to talk in more detail feel free to email Synergy at

Sponsorship Valuation: 4 Challenges Facing the Industry Today

It’s 8am. Coffee in hand, a CMO commences her Monday morning inbox clear-out when an enthused Head of Marketing Strategy appears, asking for a budget boost to accommodate a new sponsorship opportunity. The CMO makes clear that she’ll give approval upon proof that it’ll drive "measurable profitable growth".

So what now? How does one prove the potential for “measurable profitable growth”? And what challenges might be faced along the way?

The good news is that measurement is a hot topic, with the Synergy Decisions white paper the latest piece of literature to put sponsorship valuation under the microscope. It appears that the challenges in sponsorship valuation are better understood today than ever before.Since an ANA survey revealed 65% of client-side marketers are not taking the necessary steps to determine the results of sponsorship and event marketing programs, the ‘holy grail’ that is sponsorship measurement has been in the spotlight. McKinsey & Company, the management consultancy, outlined five metrics crucial to scoring sponsorship in any marketing ROI program. Self-proclaimed “industry leaders” have gone one step further with the launch of evaluative measurement tools which are starting to plug the measurement deficit. Indeed, over the past year, Synergy has been implementing this approach with clients to drive quantifiably better outcomes, in one case saving a client around £400k during negotiations for a new property by identifying which rights would (and would not) drive maximum value.

However, the headroom for improvement is vast. In the aforementioned article, McKinsey & Company also highlight that executives who implement a comprehensive approach to gauge the impact of their sponsorship can increase returns by as much as 30%.

To do so, sponsors need to apply a rigorous and credible measurement system which answers the (largely unaddressed) challenges facing the industry today:

1. Making Measurement Value-Based

Using cost-based measures like media exposure equivalency, most tools on the market today only hint at understanding sponsorship value. Calculating equivalent advertising spend for elements such as hospitality, access to talent, the use of a logo and exhibition space is a cost – not value – based approach.

Effective sponsorship measurement cannot use cost-based measures to calculate value. Instead, models must isolate the value of incremental sales, profitability and overall net present sponsorship value.

2. Understanding Sponsorship Value is Contextual

A sponsorship property's value is entirely contextual; not inherent or intrinsic. Most people are asking the wrong question. For them, it’s about "What is this sponsorship property worth?" rather than "What is this sponsorship property worth to my business if I use it in this way?". The fact is, the exact same property would be worth £A to Aviva, £B to Budweiser and £C to Cisco. And it goes without saying that the exact same property would be worth a lot less if you did nothing with it, as opposed to if you activated it heavily through all available channels.

Effective sponsorship measurement cannot value a menu of “stuff” including IP, naming, branding and hospitality. To truly understand the value of rights on offer brands must understand how those rights enhance their ability to create a brilliant campaign and tell their brand story through all available Pathways to Value (the different ways that a company is using sponsorship to create value).

3. Capturing and Comparing the Ways Sponsorship Creates Value 

Sponsorship is not a channel in its own right, like advertising, PR, digital, mobile or experiential; rather, sponsorship is an asset that is used to make all those channels more effective. It creates value across a multitude of channels for which there is no common measurement mechanism. This is a challenge, since not all Pathways to Value are obvious and different channels have different accepted principles and measurement metrics.

Effective sponsorship measurement cannot compare and aggregate the value of sponsorship based on different channel metrics. To reach an apples to apples comparison across different channels requires knowledge of the key channel KPIs (e.g. accounting for the impact of passion and engagement, identifying true awareness uplift in the target audience as opposed to general population) and a sophisticated approach to bringing them together in a single value-based metric.

4. Focusing on the Process and Not Just a Number

There is no magic number or foolproof formula which can, with certainty, tell a brand whether to invest in a sponsorship asset or not, yet the market approach to sponsorship measurement today is more ‘black box’ than ‘open book’.

Effective sponsorship measurement cannot take place in a ‘black box’. It must instead be used to stimulate strategic discussion with flexible inputs and assumptions displayed in a user-friendly way.

The race is on to close the measurement gap. Industry challenges are being addressed and deals are being done with a better understanding of sponsorship effectiveness than ever before. That said, a material measurement gap remains.

Watch this space.

Why ‘Top-Down’ Is Better Than ‘Bottom-Up’ For Sponsorship Activation

Most brands know sponsorship is a great way to connect their brand to their target audience. Most brands strive to deliver great campaigns and activation programmes. Most brands take a ‘bottom-up’ approach to campaign activation.

Most brands get activation wrong.

But why is this the case? More importantly, what can brands do about it?

In simple terms, a ‘bottom-up’ approach to campaign activation mean brands (in this order);

1. assess the sponsorship rights at their disposal

2. devise the activation programme to leverage those rights

3. articulate a campaign idea to connect the activation programme to the brand

Successful brands take a ‘top-down’ approach to campaign activation, meaning they start from the top with the campaign idea itself. Only once the blue sky thinking has been done do thoughts shift towards grounding the central thought that connects the brand, asset and target audience to an activation programme and sponsorship rights. Implementing a ‘top-down’ approach is the only way to ensure the brand tells a rich, compelling and coherent  campaign story.

P&G’s “Proud Sponsor of Mums” tagline has proven fertile ground for rich campaign ideas to connect brand, target audience and asset. The brand’s global sponsorship agreement with the International Olympic Committee enables the company to take the Olympic Games to the 4 billion consumers worldwide served by P&G brands. For the London 2012 Olympic Games, the consumer goods company created the Nearest & Dearest platform, which supported the friends and family of all the athletes in the lead up to and during the Games. Rights were also put to use in “The Hardest Job is the Best Job - Raising an Olympian” campaign, which brought to life the dedication of mums across the world in helping their kids to achieve their dreams. First channelled through digital and social media platforms 100 days before the Opening Ceremony, P&G leveraged every asset available to maximise the sponsorship.

Capital One’s overarching campaign idea to 'Support the Supporters' has been brilliantly brought to life through their sponsorship of the Football League Cup, better known as the Capital One Cup.

Stepping in to help Shrewsbury Town FC increase stadium capacity ahead of their Round 4 tie against Chelsea is a good example of an activation linked to a great campaign idea.

By its very nature, the League Cup presents Capital One with the opportunity to activate at each round of the competition, helping the brand uphold its commitment to supporting the supporters through great activation.

In another example from this season, Capital One gave Nottingham Forest FC fans the chance to unite and pay their respects to Forest legend Brian Clough. The Nottingham-based credit card company handed out over 1,000 iconic green jumpers, synonymous with ‘Cloughie’, to all Forest fans who travelled on the official supporters’ coaches to White Hart Lane for the tie against Tottenham Hotspur in September. The gesture struck the right chord amongst players, fans and media alike, helping reinforce Capital One’s commitment to the territory of ‘Support’.

BMW’s “Drive Your Team” campaign and branded content at the 2014 Ryder Cup also stood out for all the right reasons. Not only did it represent the brand and product values, it gave fans high-quality, emotive and selective content to help them get behind their team by using the #DriveYourTeam hashtag.

BMW has a rich heritage in golf, sponsoring the Ryder Cup and other golfing tournaments, and kicked off their 2014 Ryder Cup campaign with an integrated social activity, including a full BMW Twitter profile takeover, followed up with a fan competition (for Ryder Cup tickets), live content and finally rounded off the activation with a series of celebratory images.

Brands that put first things first and implement a ‘top-down’ approach will continue to create the showcase campaigns of tomorrow. Ultimately, brands which go ‘bottom-up’ may risk ending up at bottom of the pile…

What Sponsors Need to Know at the Negotiating Table

How do you know if you have succeeded in a negotiation?

Whatever way you look at it, it is impossible to answer this question without understanding value and what you are willing to pay. Imagine Facebook sitting at the negotiating table with WhatsApp with nothing but gut instinct saying they want to pay $19.4bn. What if WhatsApp wanted $20bn, $25bn, or $30bn? Clearly, Facebook will have done their research (strictly speaking, an investment bank will have done their research for them in the form of thousands of pages of analysis). But can we honestly say that the sponsorship industry takes the same approach?

Before entering any negotiation, sponsors should know their:

• target price and terms (what you’re hoping for)
• walkaway price and terms (what you will reject)

Often sponsors go into negotiations with one or the other. Often these conditions are based on a gut feeling; not an understanding of sponsorship effectiveness and expected value.

So how do we know when to walk and what to target? It’s critical to do early research based on firm inputs and assumptions, especially to ensure you don’t overpay for the asset in question. By knowing your own range, better sponsorship decisions will be made.

However, the impact of understanding value doesn’t stop there. Even if a sponsorship represents good value – that is to say the deal price on offer is below the walkaway price – there might be better alternatives. A sponsor should generally not accept a worse resolution than it’s best alternative. So, if you want to be sure you’ve succeeded in a negotiation, you need to understand the value of the rights on the table and what else your money can buy.

The current “here’s the package; here’s the price; and then we arm-wrestle a bit based on gut instinct” approach to sponsorship negotiation has to change. That does not mean every deal must be preceded by thousands of pages of analysis, but it does mean brands must spend more time thinking about value, and what they will pay before walking away.