Is This Sports Sponsorship Worth the Money?



As a former professional sports executive and now a marketing/advertising consultant, I can look at sports sponsorship opportunities from two different perspectives: seller and buyer. The metrics of a sports buy go well beyond the numbers: sports fans LOVE their team, they are loyal, fanatical and will

pay more than the face value for anything team-related.


From a buyer perspective, I have rarely seen an opportunity that wasn't at least somewhat inflated when it came to cost per thousand (CPM) or per person (CPP).


This is where a lot of research and creativity comes into play.


The seller needs to go beyond the numbers to support the buy. Research is invaluable here.


What makes up the psychographics of the audience? Attitudes, values, likes, dislikes. Let’s say I’m looking at a sponsorship for an online jewelry store, whose products are above average in cost, appealing not only to women but to men as well. As part of the sponsorship, my client has the rights to

put the team logo on several items, including watches and pendants.


Female buyers account for 60% of the jewelry company’s business, low by industry standards. I know that the team (let’s say basketball), number-wise, has comparable demos: 55% of the in-arena audience is male; 62% of the TV audience is male. That’s pretty darn close to our jewelry business



What lifestyle information does the team offer about its fans? What other events do they attend? Musical concerts, plays, movies? What about physical activities? Hiking, running, golf, tennis, etc. How often do they go out to dinner and where do they dine? How much do they spend annually on jewelry?

Brands of watches?


The additional research helps the buyer see how well (or not) the team’s fan base matches up with the buyer’s line of products, pricing, etc.


So, as a buyer, I first evaluate the media value, then the added value of how well the fans’ lifestyle matches both my current customer-base as well as any other customer demo we might want to pursue.


It’s on the team to provide the pieces of the pie that will both attract and sell the potential buyer on the sponsorship buy.

An old marketing strategy still works.



In the 1970s and ‘80s when I was Vice President of the Seattle SuperSonics Basketball Team (R.I.P.), one of the most popular promotions for increasing attendance was a free giveaway targeting kids: mini basketballs, ball caps, rally flags, etc.


Moving ahead to the current decade, we have found timely and fashionable free gifts for kids work magic in building traffic for our mall client. We had tried several promotions for adults: cash drawings, free TVs, free trips, etc. They proved to be a good PR vehicle but did not generate a big increase in



A few years ago, we began to focus on kids: what’s the hot product today for kids? The unicorn craze got it all started. Along with one of our radio station partners, we offered music, games, prizes and…a free unicorn plush (we had purchased over 120). Our minimal ad budget included a radio buy (a line of over

150 kids and parents was already on hand an hour prior to the start.


We then began adding other free similar products at our events: reindeer plushies in December, bunnies at Easter, movie action figures (around the opening of the film), puppy plushies (in conjunction with a Pet Rescue effort) and more unicorns. At our annual Child Safety Day, we give away over 150 free bike

helmets. At Halloween, we provide candy for our merchants.


Looking for the “right” item(s) to offer free for kids can be tricky, especially within a budget constraint. “Hot” items can cool off quickly. Popular name brands are always a good idea. Sometimes we’ll offer separate gifts for boys and girls.


Attendance for these events range between 500 and 1200 per event, with some in the 1500-plus range. And there is the PR value: smiling faces on the kids and parents tell that story. We’re happy that something old is something new again.