The Growing and Increasingly Vital Role of Data in Sponsorship

By Paul Birdwell (

If there is one question that is always on the mind of the person at a company that is making a recommendation or the final call on whether a company should sponsor an event or not, that question in today’s results driven world often is:

“What will be my company’s return on investment (ROI) on this sponsorship deal?”

That is a question that has often been hard to quantify in the past in the world of sponsorship, but in this age of technological wonder it’s the billions of bits of “data” that make it a lot easier for both events with sponsorship opportunities and companies making sponsorship investments to see just what kind of bang they are getting for their sponsorship Buck.

Recently, Sam Yardley, who works for Inside Two Circles a London-based “data driven” company within in the WPP Group that helps sports organizations build stronger relationships with their customers, wrote a blog post at IEG ( about the growing importance and use of data in sponsorship that is great read on the future direction of sponsorship:

Game Changer:  The Growing Role of Data in Sponsorship, Sam Yardley, IEG Sponsorship Blog

“Data, and the ability to access and analyze it, already is having a profound, across-the-board impact on sponsorship—from the evaluation, selection, activation and measurement of partnerships by brand marketers to the selling, negotiating and fulfillment of those partnerships by rightsholders of all types and sizes.

But as important as the current developments are, we have just begun to scratch the surface of what data can deliver to properties and their partners.

Audience remains at the heart of the sponsorship proposition. However, it is no longer exposure, impressions generated or image transfer that drives and determines value. Rather—thanks to data—it is the ability to engage, involve and connect with fans that raises sports, events, entertainment, nonprofit, cultural, association and other partnerships above mere marketing.

This is not a recent change; at least not on one side of the fence. Data-led, digitally enabled personalization has been at the heart of many brand marketing initiatives since the turn of the century. More recently, as the technology cost of delivering personalization has been reduced, rightsholders in some areas of entertainment—cinema, for example—have begun to take the initiative in this space. Most others, however, are still playing catch-up.  

Data-based personalization changes the conversation from which rightsholders can deliver the biggest numbers (reach, broadcast ratings, etc.) to which can deliver the deepest insights, share the most detailed information regarding actual online and real-world behavior, and drive the most actionable results.

In this way, data levels the playing field, making sponsorship about quality, not quantity. It changes the conversation from exposing sponsors to a large amount of people (which shouldn’t have been the idea anyway) to identifying, understanding and communicating one-on-one with a brand’s best targets.”

In the above section of Sam Yardley’s blog post he is right-on-point of increasingly what marketing decision-makers at companies are asking events offering sponsorship opportunities to deliver which is to create an environment where….

The sponsoring company can directly engage and then have an opportunity to do business with the consumer

…..and that is a mandate that event organizers and the people that represent sponsorship opportunities in the marketplace must embrace by  utilizing as much data as possible to deliver a great experience to consumers or risk becoming an afterthought in today’s data-driven world.

Luckily, there are some amazing data-driven companies now cropping-up across the United States including Umbel in Austin, Texas which is doing some terrific work in helping events and organizations to harness and utilize the massive amounts of data they collect on their customers and fans.

The Umbel Blog…..

Truth in Data – The Ultimate Data Blog for Innovators in Sports, Media and Entertainment

….is now a must read for all the employees at the Roaring Fork Agency that now bring with them reams of data to pitch companies sponsorship opportunities that help to power the underlying value behind those sponsorships.  A few of Umbel’s blog posts that we have learned a tremendous amount from are below:

8 Ways That College Teams Can Prove Sponsorship Value to Brands, Trips Reddy, Umbel

"What ever college team needs to do to attract and retain premium sponsors

1.  Grow Size & Engagement of Your Fanbase

2.  Own Your Fan Data & Relationships

3.  Use Fan Data to Prove Brand Affinities to Sponsors

4.  Prove The Value of Online & Offline Fans to Sponsors

5.  Enhance Fan Experiences Inside Stadiums

6.  Beef up Data Security to Protect Against Breaches

7.  Understand The Priorities & Preferences of Millennials

8.  Add Sponsorships That Actually Help Students"

The first four items in Trips Reddy’s above Umbel blog post….

"1.  Grow Size & Engagement of Your Fanbase

2.  Own Your Fan Data & Relationships

3.  Use Fan Data to Prove Brand Affinities to Sponsors

4.  Prove The Value of Online & Offline Fans to Sponsors"

…have become increasingly important in each and every sponsorship pitch that the Roaring Fork Agency now does, and it’s now almost becoming expected that sponsorship opportunities should be able to produce “digital-like” bottom-line data metric projections before the sponsorship investment is made by a company which is something we work very hard to quantify before ever picking-up the phone to pitch a sponsorship.

Another recent Umbel blog post that caught our attention here at the Roaring Fork Agency deals with…

4 Data Points All Sports Teams Should Be Using, Sarah Meredith, Umbel

….which goes right to the heart of still a major problem today which is sports teams and organizations are sitting on mountains of very valuable data that they need to learn how to successfully leverage to not only generate more revenue, but to also better serve the most important thing in their lives:  their paying fans and customers!

“There is so much talk in the sports industry right now about making programs (collegiate and professional) both smarter and safer.

With an increase in research on the effectiveness of safety equipment and individual performance during a game, in addition to advances in wearable and equipment technology, everyone is talking about collecting more data on teams and players.

But are sports teams really collecting all the data that’s available to them? As someone who talks to Marketing, Ticketing and Sponsorship teams, I would answer that data collection at most sports organizations is still fairly narrow.

What Data is Missing? 

The data being collected on players and teams helps improve performance and reduce injuries, but teams are missing the other half of the equation: the fans.

Teams are constantly trying to ensure that they provide the best fan experience both at the game and online. By expanding the data they are collecting on players to include fans, sports teams will be able to create personalized experiences both online and offline. So what type of data should sports teams be thinking about?

Transaction Data: Teams most likely have merchandise, ticketing or concessions data, but is it organized enough to where you can see trends and understand your fans? Are you able to see the relationship between who is in your venue and purchasing concessions and merchandise? Chances are your team does not have the bandwidth to mine this data quickly and take action on it. There are many solutions out there that can enhance your existing “plumbing” (like Umbel).”

Read the rest of the above Umbel blog post here…

4 Data Points All Sports Teams Should Be Using, Sarah Meredith, Umbel

In the end when it comes down to whether a company will make a sponsorship investment or not, it’s often a “gut call” by a decision-maker based upon their opinion of the quality of the event or organization and the individual pitching the sponsorship opportunity, but in just the last couple of years it’s now often the underlying data that drives sponsorship investment decisions which makes it vitally important for people pitching sponsorships like the Roaring Fork Agency to have “the proof” and be ready and able to present that data evidence in the best way possible to that ultimate decision-maker.

Another great piece on the growing importance of measuring the ultimate value of sponsorships was produced by McKinsey & Company a few years ago that has been a guide of sorts for those of us here at the Roaring Fork Agency that are always looking for all the help we can get!

Is sports sponsorship worth it?, Jeff Jacobs, Pallav Jain, and Kushan Surama, McKinsey & Company

“Sponsorships have become an integral component of marketing strategy. Yet many companies still do not effectively quantify the impact of these expenditures, even for events requiring significant spending such as the World Cup. A systematic commitment to a menu of analytics approaches allows executives to identify sponsorships that create value as well as those that don’t live up to their names.”

The above McKinsey & Company piece of sports sponsorship is a great read, but then so is their Marketing & Sales webpage which has lots of great information about many important issues driving marketing & sales both in the Unites State and around the world.  

Bottom-Line:  Data has never been more important and it’s now the underlying data that is driving the ultimate value of sponsorships in the marketplace, and it’s up to people pitching sponsorships like us here at the Roaring Fork Agency to make sure when we are on the phone or walking into an office to pitch a sponsorship opportunity that we have the data the potential sponsoring company will want to see, to understand, and to rely on that will make it that much easier for them to say that magic word:



Two Circles –

WPP Group -

Umbel –

Umbel Truth in Data Blog –

McKinsey & Company –

If you have any questions about event sponsorship or venue naming rights contact the Roaring Fork Agency at:

San Francisco, California – 415 730 – 4854

Seattle, Washington – 206 717 – 4854

Bend, Oregon – 541 237 – 8080

Twitter - @RoaringForkAgcy