Not all Audiences are Created Equal

I encouraged sports and media marketers to move beyond simply selling a product or property, and embrace the most unique sellable asset available access to an audience.

Several months ago, in this space, I jumped on one of my favorite soap boxes, and encouraged sports marketers to move beyond simply selling a product or property and embrace the most unique sellable asset available … access to an audience. I implored you to recognize that, at the end of the day, what delivers the necessary ROI or ROO of a sponsorship is the ability of a sports marketing activation to resonate with a target consumer, fully engaged in the unique environment that a particular property provides.

Why, then, does it strike me that too many of us don’t go far enough in providing a holistic profile of that audience, that can add significant value to a sports marketing relationship? From our vantage point, it confounds me that too many of us rely, sometimes exclusively, on reach and frequency, while stopping short of assessing potential engagement levels and appropriate audience fit.

Just the other day, we met with a “seller” of a prominent sports property, who lamented the fact that the particular asset in question did not offer the needed reach to compel certain target sponsor/advertiser categories. We recommended moving beyond just the number of eyeballs that are being attracted, and beginning to delve deeper into the specific levels of engagement, audience quality and brand fit, that ultimately make those exposed to the activation in question, incrementally more valuable than comparative properties with two to three times the same absolute reach.

I’ll be the first to admit that measuring “engagement” remains a slippery slope. When I oversaw research for a sports media company, I partnered with media researchers to create and promote an “Engagement Index” that utilized syndicated currency to create a uniform measurement platform. Our efforts were backed by substantial third party research that resonated for many decision makers.

Yet, there was still some hesitancy for universal adoption, in many cases because the currency upon which this index was based wasn’t necessarily the right surrogate for capturing the attitudes, opinions and behaviors of the target market among certain key verticals.

And therein, lies one of the other fundamental flaws that I’ve often harped upon, here … self-proclaimed “magic bullets” that purport to tie engagement back to a catch-all universal metric is flawed in its own right. To do such studies properly across the sports marketing landscape would be cost-prohibitive absent the necessary universal adoption that would create the required efficiencies, let alone methodologically challenged.

So, what is a sports marketer to do, then, to move past sheer reach numbers and illustrate the proper fit of its property? My initial suggestion is to isolate a property’s unique audience and profile it in a much broader and deeper way than any syndicated currency can capture. I detail such an approach, in an article co-authored with one of our sports media clients, that runs in the August issue of a leading research journal. Reach out to me, if you’d like a copy.

Another tool that we have utilized for many sports clients is to develop a behavioral and attitudinal customer segmentation that can be used both to profile best customers, and to showcase their behaviors within relevant sponsor categories, i.e., understand the differences between fans of sport “X” who drink soda brand “Y” from those who drink brand “Z.”

Armed with such insight, the sports marketer holding the keys to these data not only demonstrates appropriate fit and engagement that go beyond simple reach but, more strategically, brings forth a platform that delivers even greater value to a sponsor’s association with the property … thus bringing the partnership to even greater future efficacy.