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.


Tampa Bay Lightning GIF Activation

Navigate Research - Wednesday, June 24, 2015

In order to generate more social media buzz, the Tampa Bay Lightning are slightly tweaking their approach on photo activationGame 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals at Amalie Arena featured a "GIF photo booth" that allowed fans to take an animated GIF and share it on social media, simultaneously capturing consumer information and promoting media engagement.

Photo from

GIFs are computer images that are animated through flashing frames that loop endlessly, like a mini movie with no sound.  They are popular on the Web due to their wide support and portability on media platforms like Twitter, Tumblr and email. Facebook, one the largest social media sites in the world, just announced its support for animated GIFs. So get ready to see more of them, as they are a bright light for brands in the future of social marketing. 

Sponsorship Activation Tuesday 5.12.15

Navigate Research - Tuesday, May 12, 2015
If you are a Tampa Bay Lightning or Montreal Canadiens fan, you likely have been closely following the competitive series between the two teams, but has anything else stuck out to you during those games, or perhaps during some ESPN highlights? An astronaut mascot possibly? Seems a little out of place in series where the team mascots are a ThunderBug and muppet-like character, Youppi!, but there has to be an explanation...or it could just be a crazy fan. 

Well, the astronaut is not a crazy fan considering he has been present at numerous Lightning games and hasn't been asked to leave. However, this random mascot's presence has sparked great curiosity and that was exactly the hope of Tampa-based Bluetooth speaker manufacturer, Malektronic. As a first-year partner of the Lightning, they are hoping to generate awareness of the brand by leveraging the team's successful season, thus far, and generating buzz around the brand by using the comical costume to promote Malektronic. According to a recent Sports Business Daily article, over 1 million people have viewed a video clip the NHL posted on their Facebook wall with the astronaut mascot taunting the Canadiens' goalie. Despite the taunting, I think even Canadiens fans would agree Malektronic's tactic was a success. 

What is most interesting about Malektronic's sponsorship activation strategy is they do not have any branding located anywhere on the suit. However, according to CEO Ben Malek, that was strategically done in order to not appear too commercial. They'd like to see organic growth, which is exactly what the brand has done as a viral hit. The dancing astronaut did, however, wear a Malektronic speaker around his waste. 

With social media more popular than ever and the ability of consumers to view content on multiple mobile platforms, viral advertising campaigns have proven to be wildly successful. In line with Ben Malek's hopes for organic growth, this type of advertising allows consumers to hear about your brand word of mouth rather than being bombarded with commercial advertising. Malektronic is hoping to target sports fans through its NHL team sponsorships, particularly in their headquarters, Tampa Bay, but they have, also, infiltrated national broadcasts. If sports fans are still unaware of what Malektronic produces, they at least know who is responsible for the conspicuous astronaut mascot they have seen all over ESPN and social media.

Sponsorship Activation Monday - 3.9.15

Navigate Research - Monday, March 09, 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

Today, Samsung Canada announced a sponsorship deal with the NHL to be an official corporate partner. However, they are looking to get more than just exposure out of their sponsorship. Brands today are looking to use sports sponsorships to generate content tying in both the brand name and associated sponsorship in order to enhance their overall impact. 

Samsung Canada is leveraging their sponsorship with the NHL by allowing Samsung smartphone users who download the NHL app exclusive access to videos that other phone carriers are not allowed to access, including edited footage from the NHL's "Situation Room," where officials review videos on disputed calls. After a call is made, Samsung users will also be able to view a video explaining how the officials reached their decision on the play call. 

Senior Vice President of the KMAC Group marketing consultancy, Keith McIntyre, says, "Samsung's products fit with how people consume games. People want to be able to stream, and it allows Samsung to truly showcase how their products can be brought to life." 

While Samsung's deal also includes sponsorship of a blog on, the exclusive content they are receiving is the most vital element because it reflects broader sports sponsorship trends. Fans our looking to experience a brand through content, rather than simply viewing their logo in an arena or on TV. Sponsors nowadays must build experiential marketing elements into their sponsorship packages in order to gain greater impact.