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.

First College Football Playoff National Championship Game Draws Record Ratings

Navigate Research - Friday, January 16, 2015
Written by Jeff Nelson 

The first edition of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game was, by all accounts, a major success. That is especially true for ESPN, which saw the best rating of any television programming in the company’s entire history. 

Yes, that’s right. It was the most watched program in ESPN’s history and came in with an overnight rating of 18.5. With that kind of number, ESPN is now even more well-positioned to sell advertisements for next year’s game because it has hard evidence to demonstrate the true value of the broadcast in the market place. 


According to Nielsen, the game peaked between 9:30-9:45 EST on ESPN with a 20.5 metered market rating. That rating and the overall rating of 18.5 was a compilation of ESPN’s megacast strategy, broadcasting on 12 different media platforms: ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNNews, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Goal Line; ESPN Radio and ESPN Deportes Radio broadcasts; five variations on ESPN3; and coverage around the world via ESPN International distribution. 

As Nielsen points out, this amount of viewers is nearly twice the amount of viewers for last year’s most watched cable show, AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” 

 • 33.4 million viewers – highest rating in history of both ESPN and Cable TV 
 • 21% increase from last year’s BCS National Championship game 
 • NFL Comparison: The three 2015 NFC Playoff games on FOX are averaging 39.3 million viewers. 
• 2006 National Championship had 35.6 million viewers. Although that’s more than Monday’s game, in 2006 the game aired on ABC, which is a broadcast channel not a cable channel, ESPN, which broadcasted this year’s game. 

 • Nielsen's list of the 10 metered markets with the highest ratings: 
1. Columbus (51.2) 2. Dayton (43.8) 3. Cleveland (41.3) 4. Portland, Ore. (37.6) 5. Birmingham (36.1) 
6. Cincinnati (26.5) 7. Jacksonville (25.7) 8. Knoxville (25.5) 9. Greenville (24.1) 10. Atlanta (23.0)

The Intervention for Research Reinvention: How Today's Consumers Are Driving Research Innovation

Navigate Research - Thursday, November 06, 2014
Written by Shaelyn McCole 

As a company that prides itself on innovation through collaborative brainstorming, few things excite our research team like a group discussion on research design. Given that marketers are now able to communicate to their customers easier than ever before, and consumer/brand interaction comes with an infinite list of opportunities, we’re finding that traditional market research methods are no longer the single best way for sponsors to understand their target market. 

Once upon a time, nearly all research objectives were solved through a focus group or a quantitative survey and a detailed banner plan. That said, as sharing content has become easier for everyone, the consumer voice has grown much louder, and consumers are craving more interaction than selecting from a predefined multiple choice question. As researchers, our job has shifted from creating a controlled environment and deciding what questions to ask, to figuring out how to engage and interact with customers in a way that captures their voice in the most accurate, honest, and passionately unfiltered way possible. 

With little boundary separating consumers’ online and offline lives, todays’ consumers are constantly accessing and engaging with online content, even when on the go. The ability to multitask with different media sources, from just about anywhere, has made the traditional phone interview, or isolated at-home online survey, approaches that only gather pieces of a much greater story. As researchers, we now have a responsibility to catch consumers in the real and virtual environments that they simultaneously interact with. And as marketers, there’s now an opportunity to understand how to actively engage consumers in our marketing campaigns to leverage the span of their voices. 

Given this new landscape, we’re finding our most revealing research is often a product of designs that would have never been considered, or even possible, in the days of ‘pen and paper’ research. Below are a few Navigate designed studies that demonstrate why some of our most innovative clients are starting to ask for creative design over research repetition: 
  • Case #1: To understand the effectiveness of activation during games broadcasted on a major sports network, in-home app based interviews were conducted. This revealed never before seen insights into the viewing audience and its engagement with the sponsor and the property while viewing a game on TV.
  • Case #2: ESPN set out to uncover how technology was changing in-home football viewing. Discreetly placed cameras were set up in the living rooms of recruited football fans. A live feed and post one-on-one interviews generated much insight into the prevalence of digital device usage in allowing fans to customize their own game experience.
  • Case #3: The AZ Diamondbacks were looking to make strategic marketing decisions around driving game attendance; the ‘modern focus group’ was born. The standard focus group facility was replaced by a popular sports bar, where thirty sports fans were recruited and moderated by a local sports radio host. The ‘reality TV feel’ and HD videos it generated helped the team understand how to leverage its greatest strengths. 


NBA TV Deals Make Way for Jersey Sponsorships

Navigate Research - Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Written by Brandon Korody                 

The recent renewal of its network broadcast deals was another step taken towards Commissioner Adam Silver’s vision for the National Basketball Association. The announcement of its 9-year, $24 billion deal with Turner and ESPN rivals that of the NFL’s 9-year, $27 billion deal signed in 2011. With this deal in place, it allows Silver to pursue other goals, and one that seems likely to occur is the placement of sponsors on jerseys.

 Included in the new broadcast deal is a clause that will require commitments from any jersey sponsors to purchase TV advertising during nationally broadcast games featuring that team. Obviously, this would have a greater effect on certain team sponsors than others, since it depends on how many times each team is featured on a national broadcast. For example, any brand that chooses to sponsor the Los Angeles Lakers would not only be paying more for the jersey patch itself, it would also be promising to pay quite a bit to the networks for more advertising. Last year, the Lakers were featured on national TV 15 times. Depending on the amount promised to the networks, this could result in a significant sum of advertising dollars for Turner and ESPN for which they don’t even have to sell.

Another aspect of this deal that points towards jersey sponsors entering the picture sooner rather than later is the fact that Turner will be able to sell ads on the All Star Game jerseys beginning in 2017 (first year of the new deal). Considering the amount of viewers for the All-Star Game (7.5 million in 2014), the media equivalent value for a jersey partner would be around $2.5 million**. This does not take into account any of the other activities from All Star weekend or any of the earned media coverage surrounding the events

However, since this is the value of the equivalent of 30-second commercials during the game, Navigate would not recommend a brand pay this much for the opportunity to sponsor the All Star game jerseys. A logo appearing on screen during gameplay is not the same as a 30-second spot in which the brand can be prominently featured and include a call to action. Also, since it will be on screen often during the game, the law of diminishing returns would lower the value even more.

One other experiment Commissioner Silver is conducting that will have an effect on sponsors is the idea of a shorter game. Recently, the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets played a preseason game that was 44 minutes long as opposed to the normal 48 minutes. This game took 1 hour, 58 minutes to complete, which is about a half hour shorter than the normal game time. A shorter game might be better for the players health in the long run, as it effectively shortens the season by nearly 7 games, but it would have a negative effect on sponsors, owners, and players’ pocketbooks.

A shorter game would mean fewer commercial breaks, so fewer slots for sponsors to advertise their brand during a game. It also means less time to sell rotations different signage in an arena, such as the courtside rotational signage. Some teams sell these rotations in four-minute chunks, or the amount of time being cut from the game. This would result in a loss of a substantial amount of money for teams, as some sell this asset for several hundred thousand dollars per season. Luckily, this change seems much less likely to occur any time soon.

So far, Commissioner Silver has not rested on the recent success of the league, but has been proactive in improving the league and its offerings to fans and sponsors. It has resulted in a huge media deal, giving more money to both owners and players. With jersey sponsorships likely to be sold soon, it will open even more opportunities to increase revenue and allow Silver to truly put his mark on the post David Stern era of the NBA.

**Values calculated from the Sponsorship NavigatorTM. For more information, please click here.**


Can The NFL's Female Fan Base Get Any Larger?

Navigate Research - Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Written by Matt Balvanz

The NFL’s recent domestic abuse issues have raised a lot of questions about the culture and direction of the league, especially from its female fan base. At a time when the league has become the most dominant in the US, the impact of these issues have been felt by a huge number of female NFL fans. However, are these issues jeopardizing the expansion of its female fan base, or has the NFL already saturated the female population?

According to Nielsen Scarborough, there are currently 49 million female NFL fans in the US, which is roughly 50% of the adult female population in this country. The NFL is easily the most popular of the Big Four sports leagues among females, as MLB is only followed by 39% of females, the NBA is followed by 28% and the NHL by 18%. This means that the NFL has over 10 million more female fans than any of the other leagues, which is a great advantage when it comes to driving up attendance, TV viewership and merchandise sales. But, as large as the female fan base is for the NFL, can it get even larger?

When looking at the female fan bases outside of the Big Four, the NFL is actually the second most popular sport, as the Olympics are followed by 56% of females, providing a fan base of 55 million people. So, to become the most popular sport among females, the NFL has room to increase its female following by 6 million people. If the NFL were able to become the most popular sport among females, that would be a huge achievement for the league, and would provide some incredible upside in terms of revenue growth. But, would there be even more room to grow the fan base beyond this point?

Among the male population in the US, an astonishing 72% are fans of the NFL, which equates to 67 million adult males. If 72% of females were fans of the NFL, that would mean over 71 million female NFL fans, or an incremental 22 million more than there are today.

While the female NFL following may never reach the male level of saturation, it’s safe to say that there is still some room to grow the female fan base for the NFL by several million people over the next few seasons.