Sponsorship Masterclass Series with Sponsorship Veteran, Matt Caren

This is part of our ongoing sponsorship masterclass series, where we discuss issues related to sponsorships with pros who’ve worked with brands, rights holders, and agencies. 

As a sponsorship professional, Matt Caren has managed all aspects of the sponsorship process, from branding, to customer acquisition, retention initiatives, creative content & new markets ABL strategy. Our team sat down with him for a coffee on an early morning in June (afternoon for him in the UK) to ask him some questions. 


What was the transition like going from a rights holder to a brand? And how much more emphasis was put on proving the ROI on the brand side?

My transition between rights holder and brand was pretty seamless, mainly due to the nature of both football (soccer) and gaming being fast-paced and changing on a day to day basis.

The main challenge was to understand exactly what we needed to achieve as a brand and then figure out how we could secure sponsorship and roll out activations with those rights holders. Through already having worked for right holders, I understand how inventory could be potentially valuable for a brand & what value should be associated with these assets; this ensures we’re not paying above market value, and it helps achieve the best results/ROI. 

A lot more emphasis is being put on proving ROI. Historically, brands didn’t have a lot of metrics to show the value of sponsorship but now, with new media value figures freely available and digital/social campaign tracking consistently used, brands can see a truer reflection of the ROI from sponsorship. 


What tools/data was most valuable when analyzing who to sponsor and to manage the ongoing activations/relationship?

To assess ABL value of branding in stadia, Nielsen data is still most frequently used; it gives a value-per-asset to show which sponsorship is the most visible, which can help to improve brand recognition. However, these assets do not give a true reflection of the number of new and retained customers who have signed up because of the sponsorship. While this can be accredited to organic traffic, it is hard to fully quantify. 

From a digital and social perspective, it is easier to quantify a truer value. A lot of brands can now utilize their own tracking to assess the number of new sign-ups compared to current customers who are taking up particular offers on particular campaigns. A brand can then assess the number of sign-ups and their cost per acquisition. To measure more brand awareness activities, other products such as HookIt and Blinkfire can give a good analysis on reach and monetary value for each post and campaign. Brands also use amplification agencies to enhance the reach of particular campaigns, which can help them achieve better results and greater ROI. While extending reach can be valuable, it doesn’t always mean better results. Broadened reach does not always translate to reaching the right audience and social engagement may not equate to tangible results.



Did you attempt to close the loop between your sponsorships and real-sales data? Was it successful?

Yes. It is now becoming even more important for brands to try to measure real sales on each sponsorship. However, it’s very difficult to measure all metrics and put a real monetary value on each element of sponsorship. A lot of the tools available will give a media value, but this doesn’t always equate to the number of customers or spend per customer. When assessing digital and social elements, it’s a lot easier to equate real-sales data because it allows you to understand how you acquired the customer. From there, you can measure the lifetime value of this customer over the next 6-12 months and beyond. However, for brand awareness activities it is still difficult to value the real-sales data. Brand awareness is still key to the sponsorship as it enhances brand recall, brand tone of voice, and trust and credibility of the brand, amongst other components. Without these elements, customers’ decision-making process will be influenced, and the success of the sponsorship will likely be negatively impacted. 

Moving forward I can envision brands placing a greater emphasis on assessing real-sales data before signing up for potential sponsorships. If rights holders can provide better information on their audience (demographic, personalities/traits, propensity to spend, etc.) then brands will have a clearer idea of how they can target potential customers and maximize sponsorship spend. 


How do you see COVID-19 affecting sponsorships of the future? Do you believe there will still be the same amount of spend?

I think, in the short term, that the number of sponsorships and the spend will certainly be impacted. I can imagine brands that will look at digital/social/ambassador sponsorships as the entry point is a lot lower. Instead, I anticipate that they’ll look at other marketing channels that allow brands to more easily quantify real-sales data.

Over time I would expect sponsorship spend and the sheer number of deals to get back to how they were in a pre-COVID-19 era, but I do not expect the values to keep increasing as they have in the past 2 or 3 years. Moving forward, I anticipate brands will be savvier on all marketing spend and they will look to quantify impact as best they can before entering into any agreements in the future. As ever, businesses always pull back on marketing spend during a tough economic climate and sponsorship is one of the first to be impacted. However, the brands that look to invest in marketing and sponsorship during these periods can gain an advantage on competitors. Brands who keep front of mind during this time can reap the rewards and potentially gain market share when competitors look to consolidate, and therefore lose ground.