Nearly six out of 10 sponsors report they are looking for an early exit to at least one of their sponsorships. That statistic was the most remarkable finding from the 17th annual ESP Properties Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey.

In typical years, less than half of sponsors say they are looking to drop a sponsorship prior to its being up for renewal. In 2016, 45 percent of those surveyed said they were seeking to end a sponsorship prior to the contract term, a number that rose to 58 percent this year.

IS YOUR COMPANY SEEKING TO DROP OUT OF ANY CURRENT SPONSORSHIPS?
IS YOUR COMPANY SEEKING TO DROP OUT OF ANY CURRENT SPONSORSHIPS?

Source: ESP Properties 2017 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey

A possible explanation: Sponsors may be dissatisfied with rightsholders that are not keeping up with changing priorities in terms of the benefits they offer their partners.

Properties may still be focused on benefits such as on-site signage—which fell from second to sixth this year among survey respondents when asked to identify the most valuable sponsorship benefits—instead of presence in rightsholders’ digital, social and mobile media—which rose from sixth to second.

HOW VALUABLE ARE THE FOLLOWING BENEFITS TO YOU?
HOW VALUABLE ARE THE FOLLOWING BENEFITS TO YOU?
Percent of respondents who ranked the factor a 9 or a 10 on a 10-point scale, where 10 is extremely valuable
Source: ESP Properties 2017 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey

Brand marketers also reported changes in the importance of various objectives for sponsorship. Among the most significant, the ability to stimulate sale, trial and/or usage of products and services is now the fifth most important goal for sponsorship, with 30 percent of decision-makers rating it a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale of importance. In 2016, it was tenth in importance, with only 21 percent rating it a 9 or 10.

HOW IMPORTANT ARE THESE OBJECTIVES WHEN EVALUATING PROPERTIES?
HOW IMPORTANT ARE THESE OBJECTIVES WHEN EVALUATING PROPERTIES?
Percent of respondents who ranked the factor a 9 or a 10 on a 10-point scale, where 10 is extremely important
Source: ESP Properties 2017 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey

The objectives of showcasing community or social responsibility, as well as accessing a platform for experiential marketing, were both lower in importance compared to last year, falling from third to seventh and sixth to tenth, respectively.

Spending Indicators
For the most part, sponsors will continue to invest in activation to achieve their objectives.

Respondents said they will spend an average of $2.20 on activating sponsorships for every $1 spent on rights fees, matching 2016’s ratio, which was a high-water mark in the survey’s history. That was despite the fact that the number of sponsors who said they spent no money on activation increased from 12 percent to 19 percent.

WHAT IS YOUR COMPANY’S TYPICAL PROMOTIONAL SPENDING RATIO?
WHAT IS YOUR COMPANY’S TYPICAL PROMOTIONAL SPENDING RATIO?
Source: ESP Properties 2017 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey

Four out of 10 sponsors said they would increase their budgets for activation spending in 2018, compared to just 35 percent who planned to spend more last year. Although 14 percent said they would lower the amount they spent on activation—up six percentage points from last year—45 percent indicated they will spend the same promoting their sponsorships in 2018 as they did in 2017.

HOW WILL YOUR 2018 LEVERAGING AND ACTIVATION SPENDING COMPARE TO 2017?
HOW WILL YOUR 2018 LEVERAGING AND ACTIVATION SPENDING COMPARE TO 2017?
Percentages do not total 100 due to rounding
Source: ESP Properties 2017 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey

The picture is not quite as rosy for the dollars going directly to properties to acquire sponsorship rights. Although nearly half (47 percent) of sponsors plan to allocate the same amount of money for sponsorship in the upcoming year as the one just ending, one out of five intend to cut sponsorship spending and only one-third plan to increase it. In last year’s survey, only 12 percent planned cuts and 39 percent looked to boost spending.

HOW WILL YOUR 2018 SPONSORSHIP SPENDING COMPARE TO 2017?
HOW WILL YOUR 2018 SPONSORSHIP SPENDING COMPARE TO 2017?
Source: ESP Properties 2017 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey

Whether they plan to grow, shrink or hold the line on sponsorship spending, 68 percent of sponsors said they will be in the market for new deals in 2018. That two-thirds figure compares to three-fourths of respondents who said they would be considering new sponsorships in last year’s survey.

IS YOUR COMPANY CONSIDERING NEW SPONSORSHIPS IN 2018?
IS YOUR COMPANY CONSIDERING NEW SPONSORSHIPS IN 2018?

Source: ESP Properties 2017 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey

Sponsorship accounted for 17 percent of respondent’s marketing/advertising/promotion spending this year, down two percentage points from 2016.

WHAT PORTION OF YOUR MARKETING BUDGET IS SPENT ON SPONSORSHIP RIGHTS FEES?
WHAT PORTION OF YOUR MARKETING BUDGET IS SPENT ON SPONSORSHIP RIGHTS FEES?
Source: ESP Properties 2017 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey

Once again, social media topped the list of activation channels, with 98 percent of sponsors using the medium to promote their sponsorships.

WHAT CHANNELS DO YOU USE TO LEVERAGE YOUR SPONSORSHIPS?
WHAT CHANNELS DO YOU USE TO LEVERAGE YOUR SPONSORSHIPS?
Source: ESP Properties 2017 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey

Facebook remained the social platform that more sponsors turned to for activation than any other, with 95 percent of respondents touting their partnerships on its pages. While Twitter was again the second most relied upon social channel, the number of sponsors utilizing it dropped from 90 percent to 80 percent over the past year. Although Snapchat is not yet a go-to social platform for most sponsors, it saw significant growth in the number of sponsors using it--from 17 percent in 2016 to 26 percent in 2017.

WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU USE TO PROMOTE YOUR SPONSORSHIPS?
WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU USE TO PROMOTE YOUR SPONSORSHIPS?
Source: ESP Properties 2017 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey

Sponsors Continue To Look To Properties For Performance Measurement
The most valuable service properties can provide to their partners is help in evaluating whether the sponsorship is meeting its goals, according to survey respondents. Half rated such assistance a 9 or a 10 on a 10-point scale of value, with nearly the same number (46 percent) rating fulfillment reports equally valuable.

HOW VALUABLE ARE THE FOLLOWING PROPERTY-PROVIDED SERVICES?
HOW VALUABLE ARE THE FOLLOWING PROPERTY-PROVIDED SERVICES?
Percent of respondents who ranked the factor a 9 or a 10 on a 10-point scale, where 10 is extremely valuable
Source: ESP Properties 2017 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey

Sponsors also showed increased interest in activation and leveraging ideas based on properties’ knowledge of their audiences, with the number of respondents rating such a service as highly valuable growing from 23 percent in 2016 to 32 percent this year.

Properties who want to help their sponsors with measurement should note the shift in which metrics were deemed most valuable. The amount of positive social media activity was the second most valuable consideration, with more than three-fourths of sponsors rating it a 4 or 5 on a 5-point value scale. Measuring sales of products and services resulting from a sponsorship rose to the fifth most valuable metric from eighth place last year.

HOW VALUABLE ARE THESE METRICS IN EVALUATING SPONSORSHIPS?
HOW VALUABLE ARE THESE METRICS IN EVALUATING SPONSORSHIPS?
Percent of respondents who ranked the factor a 4 or a 5 on a 5-point scale, where 5 is extremely valuable
Source: ESP Properties 2017 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey

Conversely, measuring awareness of a sponsorship dropped from second to fourth on the list of most valuable metrics, while the amount of media exposure generated dropped from fourth to eighth.

On a bright note, the number of sponsors who did not know how their return from sponsorship was trending dropped to 14 percent in 2017 from 22 percent in 2016.

HAS YOUR ROI INCREASED, DECREASED OR STAYED THE SAME?
HAS YOUR ROI INCREASED, DECREASED OR STAYED THE SAME?
Source: ESP Properties 2017 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey

However, the number who reported they spent nothing on measuring their return increased from 27 percent to 31 percent and the percentage allocating more than one percent of a sponsorship’s budget to measurement dropped 10 percentage points to 21 percent.

WHAT PERCENTAGE OF A SPONSORSHIP’S BUDGET IS SPENT ON MEASURING RETURN?
WHAT PERCENTAGE OF A SPONSORSHIP’S BUDGET IS SPENT ON MEASURING RETURN?
Percentages do not total 100 due to rounding
Source: ESP Properties 2017 Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey

The survey was conducted online earlier this month and received 100 responses.