In today’s world of corporate accountability, rightsholders need to do all they can to help sponsors justify their investments.

One practice that can go a long way: providing post-event fulfillment reports.

According to the 2011 IEG/Performance Research Sponsorship Decision-makers Survey, fulfillment reports are the most important property-provided service, valued more highly than providing assistance measuring ROI and research on consumer attitudes towards sponsors, among others.

“Every property should be accountable for what they have delivered. Post-event fulfillment reports help us make decisions on what we should be doing in the future,” said Fred Koplin, director of marketing communications with Yokohama Tire Corp. which sponsors the MLB New York Yankees and a handful of other pro sports teams.

In addition to justifying an investment, recap reports help sponsors obtain another goal: building internal support for a partnership.

“A lot of folks who manage partnerships have a hard time explaining to their higher-ups what a partnership is about and what was delivered. We try to give them as much information as possible in our post-event reports,” said Jack Trompeter, director of corporate sales with Fox Sports Enterprises.

“Fulfillment reports are probably as important as a contract,” he added.

In addition to building relations with sponsors, recap reports give properties another important asset: A sponsorship renewal tool. Properties can use the reports to set the stage for renewal discussions, promote unsold inventory and pique the interest of potential partners.

Below, three trends in post-event reports.

Trend #1: Increased Frequency
While recap reports have historically been delivered at the conclusion of an event or sports season, a growing number of properties are offering mid-season recaps and other updates throughout the relationship.

That is the case with the NHL, which provides mid-season updates in addition to post-season recaps. The goal: To ensure partners are up to speed on the status of the relationship and that the partnership is working as planned.  

“It’s a gut check. We want to make sure our partners are meeting their expectations and that we are collectively doing what is needed to drive their business,” said Susan Cohig, the NHL’s senior vice president of integrated marketing.

The open line of communication also helps ensure the league and its sponsors have enough time to make any necessary adjustments, she added.  

“If you don’t know on an ongoing basis how you’re delivering for a partner, it will be too late for any make goods at the end of the season.”

Other properties also have placed more focus on offering multiple reports.

“There has definitely been a shift in the frequency of post-event reports. You have to provide the documents on a much more frequent basis,” said Chris Maragno, vice president of corporate partnerships with the NBA Miami Heat.

The Heat delivers reports based on the needs of each sponsor, he said, noting that the frequency can be quarterly, monthly or after a major promotion. 

Trend #2: Growing Demand For Third-Party Research
With return on investment and return on objective playing an increasingly important role in the sponsorship evaluation process, properties need to take an active role in helping sponsors measure success.

A growing number of properties are helping measure success by including third-party research in post-event reports. The research can range from placing a value on media exposure to tracking changes in brand perceptions.

“Post-event reports can’t just include feel-good information. They have to be backed up with actual data,” said Scott Paddock, president of Chicagoland Speedway and Route 66 Raceway.

As the former director of sports marketing at Gatorade, Paddock knows the importance of measurement data. “Given the economic situation over the past several years, we needed every ounce of data we could get our hands on to cite ROI and justify a sponsorship to senior leadership.”

Further demonstrating the growing importance of third-party research, the NHL recently hired research firm IMI Int’l to help measure the impact of consumer activation programs for its major U.S. sponsors. 

“The data provides more depth to our recaps,” said Cohig, noting that the league last year used the firm to measure the impact of Tim Hortons Inc.’s activation programs around its title of the Heritage Classic.  

Trend #3: More Format Options
The growing number of software providers and online management tools has given properties more options in compiling and delivering post-event reports.

For example, companies such as eBrandedSolutions, Inc. offer post-event reporting software, while Turnkey Sports & Entertainment’s Turnkey Intelligence unit last year rolled out Activator, an online system that properties can use to service sponsorship relationships.

Properties also are rolling out their own sponsor servicing tools. Case in point: The Int’l Society of Automation last year launched an online dashboard to keep sponsors up-to-date on the status of their relationships.  

While online tools can go a long way in keeping sponsors in the loop, many properties believe old-fashion print recaps are the best way to go.

“There is nothing more compelling than a print document,” said the NHL’s Cohig, noting that documents are easier to distribute and more likely to be read by senior management than online content.

Tips on Creating Post-Event Reports. Below, IEG SR shares tips and best practices on creating compelling post-event fulfillment reports.

Dedicate staff resources. After a relationship has been established, properties should identify internal stakeholders who will be charged with collecting data. That responsibility should be relegated to staffers charged with servicing corporate partners.

Make it an ongoing process. Properties should collect information before, during and after an event or pro sports season.

That information can include traditional exposure (mention in media coverage, marketing collateral, etc.) as well as nontraditional visibility. For example, The Hampton Classic horse show last year included photos of a board member ringing the closing bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange, one of its corporate partners.

Customize for each partner. Where possible, reports should be tailored to the marketing objectives and hot buttons of each sponsor.

Properties should organize reports so that the most important elements are emphasized at the beginning of the document. Case in point: If a company’s primary goal was media exposure, the document should discuss media visibility before hospitality and other sponsorship deliverables.

While customization is the preferred option, some properties do not have the budget or staff to create tailored reports for each sponsor. In that case, a one-size-fits-all document can suffice.

That is the case with The Hampton Classic. “We have 80 sponsors, and it would be cost prohibitive and too time consuming to provide recaps for every sponsor,” said Shanette Cohen, the event’s executive director.

As a result, the event produces a glossy document that lists media coverage, on-site visibility and other information on all of its sponsors.

(To view The Hampton Classic 2010 post-event report, click here).

The document also works as a sales tool: The Hampton Classic uses the document to gain the interest of potential partners. 

“We could not use a custom report due to proprietary sponsor information,” said Cohen. 

Keep reports succinct. While recap reports can come in many shapes and sizes, properties should try to keep them as short and sweet as possible.  

“The more succinct a recap is, the more valuable it becomes. I don’t want to wade through a document to find the information I need,” said Koplin.

Consider the different audiences. When drafting reports, properties need to make sure the document includes the appropriate information for people not familiar with the sponsorship. That includes ROI information for sponsorship managers who need to justify the sponsorship, as well as senior executives or new personnel that may not be familiar with the program.

Choose the appropriate format.  Properties should ask partners at the beginning of a relationship what format they prefer: print or electronic.

Most sponsors contacted by IEG SR prefer a print document that can easily be shared with coworkers and senior executives.

Deliver report in a timely fashion. Properties should deliver post-event reports at soon as possible after an event or the conclusion of a sports season.

Generally speaking, event reports should be delivered within two months, while year-round partners should receive quarterly reports.

Indeed, the timely delivery of a recap report can open the door to sales call when the event or sports season is still fresh in a sponsor’s mind.

“We use the report to thank sponsors and start talking about next year. It’s a great opportunity for opening the door,” said Cohen.