Friday, August 14, 2009

Sponsors, are you getting your dollar's worth?

I came across this release today, as I was considering where to start on my study of sponsorship effectiveness.

FanLab Wades Through the Clutter of NASCAR Sponsorship
Atlanta, GA (July 27, 2009)– The phrase “win on Sunday,
sell on Monday” has been associated with NASCAR for decades, with
high-profile brands spending millions of dollars to associate themselves
with the most successful drivers and teams on the track.

However, a new study by sponsorship measurement firm FanLab reveals that on-track success does not necessarily result in top-of-mind awareness among NASCAR fans.
“During the 2006-2008 seasons, the Lowe’s sponsored team won three straight championships and 22 out of the 108 races, yet our study shows that Home Depot has higher top-of-mind consumer awareness despite winning less than half the amount of races,” explains Brian Evans, co-founder of FanLab.Furthermore, FanLab’s study shows that several companies spending millions of dollars in NASCAR, including Dewalt, Toyota, Ford, 3M and Red Bull, struggle to connect with fans on basic,
top-of-mind awareness measures.
Among sponsoring manufacturers, only Chevrolet placed in
the top 25 mentions— four percent of fans mentioned Chevy
when prompted for NASCAR sponsors, compared to 11 percent for title sponsor Sprint and 23 percent for team sponsor Home Depot.“Our findings show that fans don’t view the auto manufacturers as ‘sponsors,’” continued Evans. “While fans know that they are involved in and contribute to the sport, they don’t think of manufacturers the same way as they think of team sponsors like Budweiser or M&M’s.” The sponsorship study was conducted in June 2009 and included a
national random sample of 1044 consumers.

Participants were recruited through an online panel, and were asked first about top-of-mind sponsors of NASCAR and then about their interest level in NASCAR and other professional sports. Time in the sport, personality of the driver, activation by the sponsor and other factors all play a role in a brand’s connection to NASCAR. For example, sponsors like Tide and Viagra that have been out of NASCAR for several
years were frequently referenced by fans.“Many sponsors rely on
media exposure and awareness metrics like these to evaluate the success of their sponsorship. But these metrics tell us little about whether the
sponsorship is changing the way fans think, feel and act toward the brand,” says Evans. “If you want to know what brand is king in NASCAR, do an awareness study. If you want to know whether your sponsorship is paying dividends, you must dig deeper. We have looked at sponsors with low awareness levels, but found significant returns on their investment.”

Find more at

I think the idea that Tide and Viagra are still so entwined into the minds of even casual NASCAR fans says a lot about the quality of their efforts when it came to sponsorship activation. Will Extenze, Kevin Conway's sponsor that he promotes in numerous completely inappropriate commercials shown numerous times during most Nationwide Series broadcasts that most fans have tried hard to erase from their memories, be thought of as anything but the company that had the unfortunate commercials played over and over in years to come? Not likely.

Also noteable, I think, in the study is the success the Home Depot has found in propping themselves ahead of Lowes when their ontrack success hasn't merited the same results. Aside from economy, this alone should answer the question of why Lowes has chosen to opt out of their long-standing sponsorship of the Concord, NC track.

What do you think? Are you a brand-loyal NASCAR fan? What companies do you most closely relate to the sport? What companies should step up their efforts?

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