Using Numbers As The Language of Sports Sponsorship

By Adam Grossman

In a recent conversation with RadioLab co-hots Robert Krulwich, astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson discussed how he broke down many challenging concepts in his new book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. While understanding dark matter, quantum gravity, and electromagnetism may not happen “in a hurry” for most people, Tyson shares a critical insight that is potentially more digestible. He states how humans did not evolve to comprehend much of how the world works particularly on the macroscopic scale of the galaxy or the microscopic scale of subatomic particles. Humans evolved to comprehend things they can observe with their five senses. More bluntly, much of human history has been focused on survival rather than worrying about the cosmos.  

Tyson explains that math is the language that allows us to explore and understand, which is the reason we use mathematical theories and models is to explain reality. By using the universal language of mathematics, scientists from across the globe can and do share insights that lead to discoveries about the fundamentals of nature. We can than test empirically whether theories we develop actually do “model” or explain reality using data generated from experiments.  Without math and the open sharing of ideas, humans would have a much more challenging time understanding how the world really works.

What does this have to do with sports sponsorship? It is not that sports sponsorship is as complex astrophysics (thankfully). However, the complexity of sports sponsorship is growing at a rapid rate. In particular, new technologies are developing so quickly that it is difficult for sports industry professionals to keep track. This includes developments in virtual reality, augmented reality, geo-fencing, iBeacon technology, and new social platforms, among many others. At the same time, more traditional elements such as in-arena signage, television commercials, digital banner ads, intellectual property rights, and events remain crucial parts of most integrated marketing packages.

The concepts of applying math, facilitating dialogue through transparency, and tracking allowed Tyson to better describe and more effectively facilitate understanding of astrophysics and can be applied to the sports industry. In particular, developing models to predict the outcomes of sports sponsorship spend should be an integral part of a partnership analysis. The best way to build these models is to share exactly how sponsorships are measured and evaluated between buyers and sellers of corporate partnerships. This enables both sides to have shared language using data and formulate insights to create better, more comprehensive models. By having a digital platform that can track results throughout the course of season, buyers and sellers of sports sponsorship can measure whether predicted outcomes reflect the actual results. More importantly, adjustments can then be made to the sponsorship to ensure that the most value is being generated in a relationship.

In an increasingly complex sports sponsorship environment, data driven decision making can help industry professionals understand the value of their partnerships in a hurry. Applying principles of rocket science and astrophysics to the data science of sports should help make that happen.