The 12th annual IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey indicates that sponsors are letting go of some of the more traditional and less engaging ways to communicate and evaluate their partnerships.

In terms of activation, traditional advertising was used far less as a leveraging tool than in any previous year. Although 72 percent of sponsors still buy media to activate, that figure is a long way from the high of 86 percent in 2005.

Chart 1: Which of the following marketing communication channels do you use to leverage your sponsor programs?
IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey

The survey added social media as an activation channel this year and not surprisingly it appears as one of the five most popular leveraging tools, alongside public relations, internal communications, advertising and hospitality.

Hospitality was significantly more popular this year (75 percent of sponsors using it vs. 63 percent last year), pointing to its resurgence after falling out of favor during the recession, especially among financial services companies.

Another old standby that fell somewhat out of favor this year was on-site signage. Just over half of respondents said it was a highly valuable benefit (giving it a score of 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale) compared to 63 percent in 2011.

Chart 2: How valuable are the following benefits to you?
IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey
Percent of respondents who ranked the factor a 9 or a 10 on a 10-point scale, where 10 is extremely valuable

Another exposure-related benefit—identification in the property’s media buy—fell out of the top 10 benefits this year, replaced by the right to promote co-branded products and services. Category exclusivity remained the most valuable sponsorship benefit.

Also, generating awareness is no longer alone at the top in terms of how sponsors are evaluating success. Two other measures—attitudes toward the brand and sales—moved into a virtual tie for the top spot among most valuable metrics.

Chart 3: How valuable are the following metrics to you in evaluating sponsorships?
IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey
Percent of respondents who ranked the factor a 9 or a 10 on a 10-point scale, where 10 is extremely valuable

Also of note, measuring televised logo exposure fell out of the top ten metrics, replaced by the response of trade/channel partners.

Finally, when assessing the importance of various objectives, increasing brand loyalty joined creating awareness and visibility as the top goals of sponsors.

Chart 4: How important are the following objectives when evaluating which properties to sponsor?
IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey
Percent of respondents who ranked the factor a 9 or a 10 on a 10-point scale, where 10 is extremely valuable

When asked about their 2012 plans, sponsors demonstrated the cautious attitude noted in IEG’s projections of slowed spending growth this year.

Although still a majority, the number of sponsors who said they were considering new sponsorships in 2012 dropped six percentage points from 2011.

Chart 5: Is your company considering new sponsorships in 2012?
IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey

Similarly, the number of decision-makers who indicated they were looking to drop current deals not up for renewal rose six percentage points from last year, although remained in the minority.


Chart 6: Is your company seeking to drop out of any current sponsorships?
IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey

Responses about the direction of 2012 spending were nearly identical to 2011’s, with just about half of sponsors holding budgets steady, while 36 percent will spend more and 17 percent plan to spend less.

Overall, spending on sponsorship fees—not including activation—will account for a smaller portion of total advertising, marketing and promotion budgets than last year—17 percent versus 19 percent.

Chart 7: How will your 2012 sponsorship spending compare to 2011?
IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey

When asked specifically about activation spending, about half of sponsors said they would shell out the same for leveraging this year as last, while 42 percent will allocate more money and 11 percent will lay out fewer dollars.

Chart 8: How will your 2012 leveraging and activation spending compare to 2011?
IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey

The average ratio comparing activation spending to the amount spent to acquire sponsorship rights rose for the third year in a row to $1.70 on leveraging for every $1 spent on rights fees. In 2011, the comparison was $1.60 to $1.

Chart 9: What is your company’s typical promotional spending ratio?
IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey
Percentages do not equal 100 due to rounding

Despite other signs that sponsors are growing savvier about sponsorship, the survey reveals that more than one out of five still spend nothing on activating their partnerships.

More sponsors than ever indicated that their return from sponsorship was growing, with nearly six out of 10 seeing better results over the past few years, while just five percent saw a decline in their return.

Chart 10: Over the past few years, has your return on investment from sponsorship increased, decreased or stayed the same?
IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey

Another one out of five sponsors reported they had not determined whether their return was improving or not.

That’s despite the vast majority of sponsors who say the need for meaningful results continues to grow.

Chart 11: Over the past few years, how has your company’s need for validated results from sponsorship changed?
IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey

Continuing a long-term pattern of wanting better measurement but not allocating resources for it, this year’s survey found nearly one-third of sponsors allocating no money to measure the success of a given partnership, while another 44 percent spent an amount equal to one percent or less of the sponsorship fee to evaluate their return.

Chart 12: What percentage of a sponsorship’s total budget is typically spent on concurrent or post-event research to measure success?
IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey

As for how properties can best service their partners beyond delivering the rights and benefits committed to, sponsors placed more value on property-provided research into audiences’ attitudes toward and images of sponsors, as well as research on the audiences’ propensity to purchase sponsor products.

Chart 13: How valuable are the following property-provided services?
IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey

Chart 14: During which time period does your company determine its sponsorship budget?
IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey

The survey was conducted online in February and received 105 responses.