Navigate Research

Industry Insights

As the industry leader in evaluating and measuring marketing investments, Navigate has a wealth of knowledge in the sponsorship and marketing space. This blog shares our knowledge and insights on current events in the sports business, marketing and sponsorship worlds.

Comparing Sponsorship Impact for Major U.S. Sports Leagues Part 2

Navigate Research - Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Written by Matt Balvanz

Blog Series:  Comparing Sponsorship Impact for Major U.S. Sports Leagues
Focus:  Driving Awareness 

Over the next several months, we will continue to reveal analytical insights surrounding the effectiveness and impact of sponsorships across the major sports leagues in the US (i.e., NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS). These insights will focus on metrics such as awareness, consideration, likelihood to recommend, and a handful of others. This post will focus on awareness, and the best performing leagues in driving the needle for this metric.

According to research conducted by Navigate, MLS is the best platform for driving sponsorship awareness. So, when asked on an aided (provided a list of possible sponsors) or an unaided (asked to name the sponsor of a specific industry) basis, MLS fans identify sponsors correctly more often than any other league’s fans. In fact, MLS sponsorship awareness outperforms all other leagues by 10-20 percentage points.

However, when it comes to driving awareness among non-fans, the NHL and the NFL are the best performing leagues. It is important to understand the baseline level of awareness when conducting primary market research, so that true sponsorship impact can be evaluated in isolation. So, in the case of the NHL and the NFL, sponsorships have the largest head start, as 32% of non-fans are aware of the average sponsors of these leagues.

Lastly, when isolating the lift in awareness between fans and non-fans, MLS outperforms all other leagues by a wide margin. On average, MLS fans are over 2x as likely to be aware of sponsorships as non-fans. Other leagues drive awareness at a rate of 1.5x – 1.7x.

So, to quickly summarize the best performers of impacting purchase intent among the major US sports leagues:

  • MLS – Best at Driving Awareness among Fans
  • NHL and NFL – Best at Driving Awareness among Non-Fans
  • MLS – Best at Increasing Awareness between Fans and Non-Fans

For more detailed impact metrics across leagues or consultation on how to improve purchase influence for your sponsorships, please contact Navigate Research.


NFL Military Appreciation Day...For a Price

Navigate Research - Thursday, May 14, 2015
While #DeflateGate has been the face of all sports news lately, the topic of the U.S. military paying for tributes at sporting events, particularly in the NFL, has certainly not gone unnoticed. Recently, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake expressed his disapproval of using government military funds to publicly thank soldiers for their service at sporting events. When you put it that way, it does seem rather unnapreciative and disrepectful, but is that actually the case and reasoning for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to associate with an NFL team? Are NFL teams really that cutthroat when it comes to making money that they won't even honor our country's soldiers without compensation? 

When the business agreements between the military and NFL teams are broken down, that is not exactly the case. Sports Business Daily recently posted an article revealing the amount of revenue teams have received from the National Guard over the past 3 years with the Atlanta Falcons coming out on top at over $1 million. Additionally, National Guard Maj. Earl Brown said that the organization is to invest $1.266M to NFL advertising during the 2015 fiscal year alone. He states the purpose of this investment is to aid the organization in the recruitment process through advertising, signage, and website presence. 

This may be the missing piece in this issue. Teams are not being paid specifically to honor their "Hometown Heroes" or honor deceased soldiers. Atlanta Falcon's owner Arthur Blank's position in this debate mirrors the idea that this agreement is to be beneficial for both parties involved, as in any business transaction. The Atlanta Falcons, along with many other NFL teams, are paid to advertise in conjunction with the military's recruiting efforts, not to only show support to U.S. military soldiers. Many teams have argued that action would occur without being paid to do so. 

While money is being spent in order to advertise with the NFL teams, it is not used for what is to be a genuine appreciation for soldiers' service. Once people can fully understand the impact that sports sponsorships have on military organizations, the more at ease people may become with the military's decision to invest in sports sponsorship. At Navigate Research, we can assist in the understanding of the ROI and impact of sponsorships and aid in making smart and effective marketing investments. Let us help your organization or brand. 

How Strong is the NFL's Love for Tom Brady?

Navigate Research - Friday, May 08, 2015

4 Super Bowl Rings, a supermodel wife, a pristine image, and enough money to go to the Kentucky Derby and the #FightoftheCentury in the same day...sounds like the perfect life to me, right? It likely was for Tom Brady until he recently went under scrutiny for his involvement in the New England Patriots' "DeflateGate" investigation. If you missed the verdict, it can be summed up with the phrase "More probable than not." These words were used to describe Brady's "probable" awareness of the deflated footballs. Is that enough to harshly punish the NFL's "Golden Boy?" The answer to this question is not so simple.

Any avid football fan cannot deny the work ethic, leadership skills, and raw talent of Tom Brady. Both on and off the field, Brady has kept a rather clean image. Sure, he had a child out of wedlock, but most people can look past that. He's now a father of 3 (2 with current supermodel wife Giselle Bunchden) and happily married. While his peers still see him as the Tom Brady they've always known, the revealing of the verdict has caused the media to heavily scrutinize the integrity of Brady. Obliged to react, the NFL is now faced with yet another punishment case in which they must handle extremely carefully while keeping the most important fact in mind...the NFL is a business. Do they really want to suspend the 4-time Super Bowl champion that all general football fans tune in to watch? On the flip side, do they want to potentially risk losing fans, sponsors, and league supporters with too soft of a soft punishment?


For Tom Brady as in individual, marketing experts say he will unlikely lose sponsors. Brady remains to much of an iconic figure for brands to cut ties with him, especially those in which he endorses, such as Ugg and SmartWater,. These luxury brands are less affected by on and off the field antics than those brands who solely associate with sports. His current situation, also, does not involve the harming of another human being or living creature, like some of the other cases the NFL has dealt with in the past. So in the eyes of his sponsors, they likely do not see his current predicament to greatly affect consumer's views of their brands. 

The NFL, on the other hand, will have to tread lightly. While the recent cases that have been said to tarnish the NFL's brand have all been off the field, Brady and the Patriots' case is smack dab in the middle. The integrity of the game and sport has been violated (not to mention twice by the same team under the same coach). Not only fans, but current players, coaches, and league officials expect justice to be served, but what does that entail? 1 game? 4 games? A whole season? While there are many varying opinions on the matter, the NFL, again, must remember they are a business and have many stakeholders to please. No single answer will make everyone happy, but one can only hope for the majority. 

Chicago Hosts the NFL's First Draft Town

Navigate Research - Friday, May 01, 2015
For those die hard NFL football fans, the time between the Superbowl in February and the first official game come September, can seem like an eternity. Thankfully, there is training camp, pre-season games, and, of course, the annual NFL Draft to get fans excited for the upcoming season. While often times the first few picks may be an easy guess, there is nothing more exciting to a football fanatic than to see some of the best college football players sign with their team. 

This year's NFL Draft is currently taking place in Chicago for the first time since 1964, as it has been held in New York City every year since. While this is not the very first NFL Draft hosted in Chicago, this year marks the first NFL Draft Town festival for not only Chicago, but the league itself. What is the Oikos Triple Zero NFL Draft Town and what can you do there? For those lucky individuals who have attended an NCAA Final Four, it will look something like a Bracket Town or Fan Fest filled with activities for people of all ages (especially kids). The NFL Draft Town is a 3-day long event with activities ranging from participating in a NFL combine activities, practicing your field goal kick, floating in a wind tunnel skydive simulator, and listening to live music and dance performances, to name a few. 

In addition to the numerous activities put on by the NFL, there are several official NFL sponsor tents and activities including the Xbox One Tailgaming where fans can showoff their video gaming skills and the Wilson Football Factory, where you can see how official NFL game balls are individually produced. As an official NFL sponsor, this first of its kind event is a must for brands to display their association to the NFL. This event allows sponsors to get a jump-start on their NFL sponsorship activations and to engage with football fans sooner. 

Will the NFL continue to put on this free 3-day event for fans? According to ESPN Chicago's, Jon Greenberg, "Spending the day in Draft Town "reiterated an immutable life lesson: The NFL, through its many trials and tribulations, is still No. 1." With a statement as strong as that, it could bode extremely well now and into the future for the NFL. But is it feasible in every city? Luckily, Chicago has the means to attract thousands of football fans from all over the mid-west to attend the event, however, this doesn't necessarily mean Chicago will come out financially on top after hosting the 1st NFL Draft Town and the NFL Draft itself. However, given it's already successful start, Chicago may have a solid shot for having The NFL Draft returning to The Windy City.