Robert Johnston is CEO and co-founder of SponsorHub, the first online marketplace for the sponsorship industry, providing greater access, easier execution and audience measurement for marketers. Johnston has reached several milestones throughout his career, which include major investment achievements. The Makegood recently spoke with Johnston about what SponsorHub is providing for the industry.
The Makegood: SponsorHub is a great effort at trying to change brands’ inability to measure the true ROI of their sponsorships. Could you elaborate on how SponsorHub goes about measuring the ROI of a sponsorship?
SponsorHub represents a new breed of marketing analytics, measuring in real-time how consumers feel rather than how many times they were touched (reach & frequency). Ultimately, sponsorships are all about creating deeper experiences between customers and brands. We combine experiential analytics, garnered through advanced natural language processing, and combine it with brands’ CRM and sales data to get an accurate picture of how sponsorships led to sales.
The Makegood: How did SponsorHub come about? In other words, what triggered the idea that the ROI of sponsorships absolutely needed to be measured?
The global sponsorship market is $53 billion, and in some regards it’s the biggest, most noticeable form of “content marketing.” And while marketers have developed more refined targeting tactics and ROI measurement mechanisms for many media channels, including digital and even TV, that kind of analysis has been unavailable in sponsorships.
When marketers do look at analysis, it often takes weeks or months to come through as it relies primarily on survey data. Other traditional techniques rely on tallying impressions, but this undervalues the experiential depth that really defines sponsorship as a medium. Marketers need quick, relevant metrics so that they can choose the right sponsorships and properly deploy media and activation dollars against existing assets.
The Makegood: How does SponsorHub have access to true consumer feelings related to a sponsorship? Why is this better than number of impressions? How is the perception of sponsorship different than that of advertising?
Our dashboard monitors billions of global conversations surrounding athletes, teams, events, brands etc. We then use some really sophisticated Big Data computing techniques to read and interpret these conversations. This is important, because brands need to understand how consumers feel and respond to their sponsorships. The answer to nearly every question a marketer has is available online. The challenge is in finding it.
Think of consumers like a camera – they each have a lens that opens under various conditions. When it’s really open, that means the consumer is taking in the message around them – the same way a camera takes in light. Excited, happy people are more prone to remember and respond to messages than people who are sad or indifferent. So, we want to measure when consumers are open and responsive to ad messages.
Armed with this information, brands can compare different events and even different sports leagues to determine the best fit for their sponsorship. If they are investing their dollars in an event where the consumer “lens” is not open, then the total impression count doesn’t matter in the end. In that situation, the brand message hasn’t stayed with the intended audience.
The Makegood: Now that the 2014 Winter Olympics are over, what can you tell us about sponsor performance during the games? Did SponsorHub monitor the results of any of the sponsorships during the Olympics?
We monitored how brands fared during the games on behalf of a few clients, and the results were interesting. Coke grew in unaided top of mind awareness among consumers, actually commanding more awareness at the end of the games compared to the start. The perception of the brand rebounded after a rocky start in which Coke came under fire for participating in Sochi, where there were a number of human rights concerns.
One of the other interesting things is that BMW did a phenomenal job of reaching consumers and they thoroughly displaced Audi, which had been a previous sponsor of the games. BMW built the U.S. bobsled team’s sleds, and as a result, they earned a lot of excitement and enjoyment – positive signals for the brand.
The Makegood: What do you see for the future of SponsorHub? Do you believe that sponsors are going to take full advantage of the services SponsorHub is offering?
Like on Wall Street, marketing dollars are moving with higher and higher velocity. It doesn’t matter if they’re investing in TV, digital, print, or sponsorships – brands need to be aware of the content that drives the cultural zeitgeist and how consumers feel about their brand. With that in mind, tools and dashboards like those we’ve developed will become part of every marketer’s day-to-day work. They may not always employ SponsorHub, but they will rely on analytics more than they have in the past.
The Makegood: Thank you, Bob.