What does it take to reach high partnership recall?

Published on September 28, 2018

Average partner recall is 40% across a dozen NFL teams including over 100 brands across all major categories. Once brands reach 40% recall (among rival brands), fans more clearly recognize the channels used to reach them.

Effective use of the team’s marks in integrated marketing campaigns internal and external to the stadium and games drives recall. Game day activation with prominent fixed and digital stadium signage is effective, but also critical are broadcast (TV/radio) and digital (website/social) assets that reach far outside the team’s DMA.

This heatmap for the Chicago Bears shows fans nearby notice many of the game day, broadcast and digital assets partners use to communicate with them. The larger orange/red circles in the Chicago area indicate the large fan base that experiences a greater number of the assets. Partners also reach many other fans across the country, mostly via broadcast or digital. A surprisingly large number of game attenders travel from all of over the country to see the Bears.

To get above 90% recall requires stadium naming rights, such as Mercedes-Benz, which tops 92% recall among New Orleans Saints fans. Naming rights for training facilities can do very well (60-80%), such as the Ochsner Sports Performance Center at the Saints or the Houston Methodist Training Center at the Texans. Entitlements for major stadium gates do well, such as the Bellin Health or Shopko gates at Lambeau Field, where NFL teams can typically count on similar recall rates between 50-60%. With effective use of marks in integrated campaigns and prominently named gates, established partners Tim Horton’s and M&T Bank achieve into the 70% range for the Buffalo Bills.

Just like any retail facilities, location is everything. You can’t miss the Mercedes-Benz Stadium if you visit New Orleans. Training facilities located some distance from the city can still do well, such as the Bears PNC Center, but partners must effectively co-brand in ways that remind fans of the association. Beyond the obvious, named gates can outperform if the stadium (and that gate) are on frequently traveled thoroughfares–because any fan who lives in or visits the city will at least drive by, if not tour, the stadium.

Like any relationship, strong property-brand associations take time. Plan on 3-5 years to build to the higher levels, even with stadium naming rights. Add 2-3 years if the previous entitlement was strong and long. That’s what partners want, for the association to stick in people’s minds for more than just a season.

In a word, yes. Without some form of entitlement (stadium, facilities, or gates), few partners can achieve more than 50% recall. That’s not an opinion, just fact based on almost 20 years of measuring it. (For the curious, see here, here and here.) Further, while properties located in the largest DMAs (New York, Chicago, Bay Area) offer the greatest reach, the relative number of pro franchises and major college sports in these markets means the brand must increase the activation-to-rights spending ratio (currently 2.2X on average) to stand out.

2019 recall chart.png

Let’s remember, fans don’t come to the game or follow the team to find out about any company’s brand. The good news is passion for the team gives the lean-in factor that makes them pay attention to everything connected to the team. The stronger the connection, the better for the brand and the higher the recall. Want high recall? Make unmistakable connections.