Rethinking the use of "fans" as a sponsorship metric

Adam Mitchell
  • November 2, 2020
  • Adam Mitchell
SponsorPulse Global Lead Adam Mitchell discusses the challenges with using the term "fans" and explains the benefits of utilizing our Intensity metric to better understand the difference between highly engaged consumers and casual buyers.

The Challenge with the term "Fan"

To begin, let's clarify that there are no problems with fan, per say. We love them! The issue is with using “fans” as a metric to measure sponsorship effectiveness. Why? Because there is no set definition. It feels powerful and emotional, but the term has been glamorized. A sort of cult culture can grow up around the idea of fandom for a particular property.

But because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of definitions and interpretations of what a fan is, it loses meaning. There’s too much room for ambiguity — and when it comes to metrics, you need valid intelligence and insights.


What about everyone else?

Another challenge is that “fan” is primarily associated with sports. It doesn’t typically have the same connotation for other properties. Think about music festivals, for example. How often do you hear people saying, “I’m a huge fan of Coachella!”? But then again... some people do. Yet more ambiguity, confusion, and inconsistency in establishing a definition!This doesn’t mean the festival doesn’t generate excitement and passion or that it doesn’t drive purchase decisions or affinity for brands. It just means that measuring “fans” isn’t the most effective route to take.Now, there’s no arguing that sports is the undisputed leader in the sponsorship world, accounting for about 70% of overall investment. But it’s not 100%. Music, arts, entertainment, lifestyle, and causal properties are all experiencing growth year-over-year.So how do we “level the playing field” for properties across the board?

If not fans, then what?

Rather than counting “fans,” consider intensity. This is how we start to quantify “fandom.” Among those who engage with a property in a given year, how many of them do so on a weekly, or more frequent, basis? We’ve assigned one of our 7 Core Health Metrics – the Intensity Metric – to identify how many individuals are intensely engaged (your tune-in-every-week, buy-the-posters, follow-on-social, tattoo-the-logo-on-my-body types) and how many are well… more casual observers.Using SponsorPulse, you’d start out by uncovering the total engaged population of a property over the course of a year. Then, to arrive at a more complete representation of an opportunity, you would dig into the Intensity metric to see how intensely people engage with the property.

Intensity - and the SponsorPulse difference

Through decades of R&D within the sponsorship industry, SponsorPulse helps you overcome the challenges of using “fan” as a metric — and drive the conversation forward.Intensity of engagement is a metric that allows you to build a strong sponsorship strategy. We’ll never suggest forgetting fans — whatever that means to you! They’re crucial. What we do strongly recommend is tracking a more effective metric in order to accurately evaluate opportunities and make more profitable decisions for your brand or property.