The science of sports sponsorship activation — Part 3

Tip #3: actually measure sponsorship connection with Implicit Association Testing

Now that you’ve done all this work aligning your message to your audience’s sensibilities (see tip #1), and ensuring you’re maximizing the effectiveness of your media placements (see tip #2), you need to understand how these initiatives are cementing brand connections in your target's heads. That means deploying Implicit Association Testing.

Implicit Association Testing gets at the automatic and immediate associations people have between concepts, as well as the strength of those associations. Its most famous application is perhaps in unearthing racial biases, but it has broad marketing applications, too.

For sponsorships, the aim of many investments is to build meaningful associations between a brand and something - a sport, an activity - that is loved and embraced by the consumer segment that brand is looking to connect with. In measuring progress in building these associations, many brands deploy simple survey-based methodologies. This is insufficient. It doesn’t get at the strength of the association that’s built in the subconscious; it just gets at what the conscious mind expresses.

Smart marketers use Implicit Association testing to get at the automatic associations consumers have between their brands and the properties they sponsor. The most sophisticated among them track this over time to determine how their efforts are performing, and are using this tool in conjunction with explicit and neural-based measures to understand holistic performance and maximize their sponsorship investment returns.

They’ve realized that explicit-based measures (surveys, etc) are insufficient in uncovering phenomena that manifests at the implicit and subconscious level in their consumers' minds.

And it's at this level where decisions are made. Think about it: you walk into a supermarket, or do your grocery shopping online. You make your way through the store or site popping items into your cart. You’re on autopilot. We coast like this to conserve energy – to deliberate over each and every decision during your shop would be exhausting.

Brands are ‘decision shortcuts’ for people. Sponsorships should help deepen those shortcuts, so that when a person thinks of their passion, they think too of the brands associated with that passion.

As marketers, we know this. But yet our insights and measurement paradigms have not kept pace. With so much on the line in sports marketing, isn’t it time we subbed in the big measurement bats?

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