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.


Michael Jordan's High School Gets a Makeover

Navigate Research - Tuesday, June 30, 2015
30 years ago marks the birth of one of the most revolutionary brands in basketball history: Nike and Michael Jordan’s “Air Jordan.” One of the defining elements of Jordan’s celebrated success story is the fact that he got cut from his Varsity basketball team his sophomore year in high school. But Jordan is the farthest thing from bitter, as he just gave his Emsley A. Laney High School gym an immaculate makeover. This renovation includes a new floor with the Jumpman logo at center court, state-of-the-art lights, and fresh trophy cases that pay tribute to the Jordan Brand’s 30 successful years. The gym unveiled itself at the Fred Lynch Invitational basketball tournament, where high school participants received the hottestJordan gear including the latest Air Jordan XX9s, Jordan Super.Fly 3s, and Jordan Super.Fly 3 POs

Photo from

King vs. Common Man – Faces of the NBA Finals

Navigate Research - Monday, June 15, 2015

Written by Andrew Fishkin

LeBron James and Stephen Curry couldn’t be more different. As the two most prominent faces in today’s game, the 2015 Finals matchup is perfect for the NBA. LeBron and Steph provide entertainment on the court and huge marketability off, both in very different ways. Who would your company choose to endorse? Which endorsement would provide the greater ROI?

While aligning your brand with a successful athlete can be an effective marketing strategy, endorsement deals need to strike the right balance between an athlete’s performance and his or her image. Marketers want their athletes to perform at high levels and to represent ideals that fit with their brand attributes. Brands should base choices for what an athlete endorses on comprehensive and sound marketing research, not bias or personal preference. Who does your target audience relate to? This could encompass a variety of people, from athletes to movie stars to politicians. Do they have the power to move product? If an athlete is associated with too many things, their word may not be respected enough to influence purchasing behavior. Brands aren’t worried about that with these two. Not yet at least.

On the court, LeBron James’ 6 foot 8 inch muscular stature is in stark contrast to Steph’s 6 foot 3 inch wirey body type. They’ve both mastered how to use their respective frames to reach the pinnacle of NBA superstardom. LeBron has the ability to drive through defenders (and dunk on them) or pull-up for 3 while Steph uses his ball handling ability and quickness to hit “open” shots or go around defenders. Both proving to be effective and virtually unguardable.

The LeBron brand is global, his King-like mantra transcends sport, and his appeal crosses all demographics. LeBron stars in a Beats By Dre headphones commercial titled, "You Deserve The Best," with James wearing a pair of gold Beats By Dre Solo 2 wireless headphones dressed in a tailored suit. This spot perfectly portrays how LeBron chooses to use his halo effect.

Steph’s humility and authenticity have led to different, yet high levels of appreciation and respect from fans of all ages. Taking his flourishing marketing prowess in stride is paradoxically what's made him desired by so many companies seeking a spokesman. From the homemade YouTube videos to his 2-yeard old daughter, Riley, taking over press conferences, it's an authenticity that can't be faked. Next on the list should be to spoof his nice-guy image, much as Broncos QB Peyton Manning has done with appearances on "SNL" and in ESPN ads. We like funny people and that would really bring the common man persona full circle.

It will be interesting to see if Steph can match LeBron’s marketing prowess, regardless of the 2015 Finals outcome.

Sponsorship Activation Monday 4.27.15

Navigate Research - Monday, April 27, 2015
Each Monday, we will share some great activation practices throughout the sports and entertainment landscape. This blog will serve as a space to highlight innovative ideas and campaigns. Want to have your idea or campaign featured? Send us a note on Twitter at @Navigate_Res

As one of the most successful and globally recognized athletes in the world, Michael Jordan as been a staple in promoting the Nike brand, including, of course, his Air Jordan shoe brand. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first release of the Air Jordan brand and in order to honor this momentous occasion, creative agency AKQA, video-production company Stardust, and Nike's Jordan brand collaborated to create the world's coolest basketball court called "The Last Shot." While many people have experience playing Wii, the Kinect, or PlayStation Move and have some idea of the world of virtual reality, this experience is unlike anything ever created before.   

So how does this world's coolest basketball court work? Imagine you are in Michael Jordan's shoes back in the 1998 NBA Championship: Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz. You step onto the court in the final minutes of the game and your surrounded by thousands of cheering/booing fans. As many people know, this game ended with Michael Jordan hitting the game-winning jumper that lead to the Chicago Bulls 6th NBA Championship. With this augmented reality technology, you now have the opportunity to recreate that game-winning shot as Michael Jordan. The floor will light up, directing you where to move. You have live passers assisting you as you jab and cut across the court. 3-2-1...swish. You hit the final shot to win the game. 

This experience was only present during the NBA 2015 All-Star game and was free to local fans to try out. While there are currently no future plans for this installation, Brian Facchini, Global Communications Director for Jordan, hopes to allow everyone in different cities to experience this one-of-a-kind court. This could be music to the ears of potential partners. Associating with not only the Nike Jordan Brand, but the technological advancement itself, could be an extremely effective activation component, allowing a sponsor to resonate with a specific market. I mean...what sports fan wouldn't want to relive a historical moment of one of the best athletes in the history of the game of basketball?