You Have To Admit It’s Getting Better


Things are getting better. Two natural questions about this statement are: what are these “things” and how are they getting “better?” In fact, looking at the news on any given day this year would appear to suggest the exact opposite is happening.

Answering these questions is exactly what Harvard University psychologist and best-selling author Steven Pinker sought to answer in his new book ENLIGHTENMENT NOW: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. Pinker’s essential hypothesis is that humanity is in a better place now than at any time in human history. This could be considered an esoteric claim that is difficult to prove.

Pinker uses data, data visualizations, and data-driven insights to prove his hypothesis and make something that seems intangible more tangible. In particular, Pinker shows that over time there have been “worldwide increase in life expectancy, a decline in life-shattering diseases, ever better education and access to information, greater recognition of female equality and L.G.B.T. rights, and so on — even down to data showing that Americans today are 37 times less likely to be killed by lightning than in 1900, thanks to better weather forecasting, electrical engineering and safety awareness.”

One of Pinker’s key points in the book is that there can be a fear of data and numbers. More specifically, Pinker asserts that people do not want to look at the data because they can be afraid of what they would find. In fact, Pinker contends that most people would think they would discover that the world is getting worse if they looked into the data when the exact opposite appears to be true. 

 What does this have to do with sports sponsorship? We often receive questions at Block Six Analytics about our Corporate Asset Valuation Model.  In particular, our model looks at the fair market valuation of sponsorship assets relative to a company’s revenue and brand goals. What if this valuation turns out to be negative? That is not good for the buyer who has paid “too much” for a sponsorship and not good for the seller that is delivering “too little” in value.

What we typically find, however, is that the exact opposite is true. More specifically, sponsorships are consistently delivering specific and tangible value to companies. We only find that out by looking at the data and determining how and why value is being created. For example, our NBA Jersey Patch Index shows exactly why companies like Rakuten, Harley Davidson, and Ultimate Software are receiving significant value from their partnerships in social media on platforms like Bleacher Report, House of Highlights, and In particular, these companies have access to large audiences filled with the demographics they are trying to target, consuming content in ways that drive positive brand associations. In addition, social media becomes a channel where jersey patch partners could be increasing their spend because of the value they are receiving.

Not all sponsorships will always generate positive value. As Pinker notes, progress does not benefit all people all of the time. Also, there are potential threats to the overall positive story of sponsorship, just as Pinker identifies potential threats to the overall progress of humanity. As Pinker asserts, however, the best way to deal with these issues is to understand what they are so we can take steps to solve problems. That is best done by examining data and employing data-driven strategies to address issues.