Give sponsors the right impression, ignore impression value. Sports rights holders are applying old TV valuation models to social media, should they?

I’ve been involved in sport sponsorship for a couple of years now with SnapRapid and we’ve tracked and analysed sponsor value though social media for some of the top sports brands in the space – rights holders that understand the value of social media exposure to their brand, their sponsor partners and their fans.

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I won’t be naming these top brands as I won’t name the other brands I am about to talk about, as I am not writing this to create any kind of client bias but to make what I feel is a strong point of principle on valuation methodology.

At SnapRapid we track and analyse sponsor value using engagement because it’s what we and our clients think is best. There are many others out there who believe sponsor partner value should be based on impressions, an approach which seems to me to be led by incumbent TV valuation Agencies.

IMPRESSIONS V. ENGAGEMENT – what’s the difference?

Impressions = number of people that could have seen a post – usually followers
Engagement = number of people that engaged with a post, definitely did see it
The logic goes that you can quantify engagement but you can’t impressions. So, why would you want put a value on something you can’t accurately value? It seems as though because TV valuation has always been a bit of a guessing game, there are those that believe that making social media valuation equally messy and misleading is the way go.

Why would they do that?

The answer lies in two important aspects of social media tracking. The first is that it’s very broad and second, it’s very unpredictable, which makes it really difficult to track effectively. Using, say, 2,000 pre-defined social media sites to track over and over and calculate value from, makes the process cheap and easy for those doing the tracking – Agencies that compete with us – for their rights holder clients.

That’s not, in our view, the way it should be done because the results mean that reach (coverage of the research and content found) will be limited, far more limited than what we’d find, for example. By way of comparison, we’ve tracked rights holder content for sponsor partner value and picked up relevant content from over 15,000 different social media sites for one EPL soccer club alone, because we set no limits to our tracking scope.

If you are going limit your offering to 2000 (or whatever the number) social media sites – what is commonly known as a “syndicated model” – you are sure to limit what you find. The question then is, how you make up for it? You guessed it: you value on the broader unqualifiable impressions, over engagement, which will give you a far bigger number, but adds in a whole load of valuation guess work.

I am not saying valuation using impressions has absolutely no place, simply that it delivers valuations that become very difficult to justify. And if you can’t justify the numbers how will sponsor partners ever believe they are likely be correct?

It’s been known in the industry for some time that certain leading sports Agencies – one in particular – overinflated their TV valuations. People in the industry say these numbers are commonly known as “the necessary evil” and on the whole, they have become the benchmark. But should they have?

That horse bolted a long time ago and I don’t feel inclined to go against the grain on this matter. I do feel, however, to play the same guessing game in social media, when there is no need for it, is the wrong way go and in the end, will lead to more conflict than gain.

We have never actually known for sure how many people have watched a certain sporting event on TV, but we do know how many people have engaged with a piece of content on social media. Surely it makes sense to use that data, rather than sticking with an old school methodology that does not fit the times nor the space.

We have been tracking and analysing social media value this year for one of the biggest sporting brands in the world and they, like us, believe engagement is key, not impressions. We have shown them the amount of value they have earned for their sponsor partners and it is a Big Number.

If we had used impressions to establish the value, the figure for all sponsors across the same period would have gone from a $46million media equivalent value, based on engagement, to $22billion as valued using impressions. That’s a jump from Big and Believable to Literally Incredible …and therefore Unbelievable.

In the end isn’t that what it’s all about, being both believable and working for sponsor partner best interests. Surely, it’s not about who’s impression is the biggest?

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Russell Glenister • 10th April 2018

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