Should sponsorship be measured as media?

Is it right to treat sponsorship as 'media' by measuring it in terms of advertising equivalent value, Louise Ridley asks.

When Campaign reported that MediaCom had created a suite of planning tools to optimise its sponsorship deals, one industry commentator described it as taking sponsorship measurement "back to the dark ages"; another said it "does the industry no favours".

The algorithm that Media­Com has developed calculates the marketing value of a sponsorship package by expressing its different elements, such as exhibition space and logo placement, in terms of an equivalent media spend on ads (advertising equivalent value).

It is worth noting that the algorithm will be used as one measure in conjunction with three others: an assessment of how the brand’s strategy fits with the sponsorship property; an estimate of ROI; and econometric post-sponsorship monitoring.

James Hough, the managing director of MediaCom Sport UK, says the set of tools aims to "encompass all types of tangible benefits and strategic strength" of sponsorship. But, when taken in isolation, the concept of AEV does not sit well with many.

Their argument is clear: why compare the value of doing something (sponsorship) to the cost of doing something else (advertising), especially if that other thing is becoming less effective? The answer, of course, lies in attempts to make it easier to monetise sponsorship.

Measurement has become an industry in itself as the remits of agencies have widened. It is only natural for those with an advertising heritage to use the currency they know – media spend – to express what they now offer to clients alongside traditional media.

PR, which has historically equated media coverage and exposure to equivalent advertising spend, has not been spared the same fierce debate over whether the approach is useful or outdated.

Sponsorship is a booming market, with global spend predicted to increase by 4.1 per cent to $55.3 billion in 2014. Ahead of this year’s Fifa World Cup in Brazil, and building up to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, agencies are moving fast to build services in the area. But does measuring sponsorship as "media" actually work?