“Adidas nets World Cup sponsors victory” was the Marketing Week website headline on 14th July, the story was quoting YouGov BrandIndex data which highlighted a ‘buzz score’ for each of the official partners, concluding that adidas had won in the battle of FIFA World Cup sponsors.
Whilst this might provide a positive sound bite for adidas or even YouGov BrandIndex, it reveals precisely nothing about the net impact of FIFA’s World Cup commercial partners and shows naivety on behalf of Marketing Week to publish such a story. There are three areas that this data fails to address revealing the fundamental flaw of the research and subsequent reporting of it.
Firstly, the research does not account for the sample’s relevance to an individual brand’s target consumer. In order to calculate the BrandIndex scores YouGov uses ‘data that is nationally representative of adults in each country’. Therefore these results analyse the response of all adults within that market rather than focus on the target of each brand. As a result it’s ridiculous to suggest that Johnson & Johnson and Budweiser, for example, share the same consumers. So to compare one against the other provides a very simplified, inaccurate and irrelevant conclusion.
Secondly, there is an ignorance or arrogance from the researchers that FIFA World Cup partners are judging the success or failure of their sponsorships on the performance of the UK market. Whilst many of these sponsors were activating in the UK market place during the World Cup can we really make an assumption this was a priority market for all of them? It goes without saying that having invested a significant amount to acquire their sponsorship rights these brands do not want to flop in any market that they are active within, however to draw a conclusion of success or failure of their campaigns around the data of one market is, at best, naïve.
Finally, the objectives of these brands has not been taken into account when commissioning this research. The researchers are assuming that all brands are wanting to achieve a good ‘buzz score’ as a result of their sponsorship. There is no accounting for more tangible business measures such as consideration, sales or even internal engagement, for example. Each of the sponsors will have their own set of criteria to judge against according to their individual business issues and needs, they cannot all be neatly put in the same box for simplicity sake and judged accordingly.
I am not trying to paint a picture that all sponsors flourished in their World Cup campaigns, some will have succeeded others will not, however applying such a simplified measurement proves nothing. My worry is not that the respective sponsors of the FIFA World Cup will pay any attention to these numbers as they will have tracking in place to make their own judgements as to whether they succeeded or failed. The worry is that publishing research such as this impacts the perception of sponsorship as an effective marketing medium. Brand owners may read the research and believe that if FIFA World Cup sponsors can’t make any impact then what chance does anyone else have and dismiss the medium out of hand. It is up to the sponsorship industry to show a little more maturity in how it positions itself if it really is to maximise its true potential and compete for a greater share of a brand’s marketing budget.