Building Social & Community Overlays Into Sports & Entertainment Partnerships Increases ROI

Two driving factors in business today are social media and social responsibility—or what we at Lesa Ukman Partnerships call social opportunity. While often treated separately, these are inextricably linked.

Sociability, conveyed through social media and social opportunity, opens doors. It invites people to play a role in a company. It presents brands as responsive, engaging in back-and-forth conversations rather than making pronouncements from on high. It entails talking to people about what matters to them and working together toward a shared vision for a better future.

A strong social business vision becomes a rallying cry for the entire company, embracing stakeholders both inside and outside the organization. It is the culmination of two words and two worlds: social and business.

It can take many forms. To name a few: breaking down barriers for disabled athletes and promoting inclusion in sports; combatting childhood obesity; empowering disadvantaged communities.

However, if companies simply donate money to causes, relegating their participation to corporate philanthropy, community affairs or CSR, they forfeit opportunities inherent in sociability. Important issues may remain buried. When brands integrate their social spending with their sports and entertainment partnerships, they are able to spark significant shifts in behavior and leave a positive legacy that lasts long after the event.

Win, Win, Win

The benefits to the company are equally robust. The body of research on sports and entertainment sponsorship reveals that sponsorships are most effective when a mission or cause is embedded. Simply ‘badging’ a sport or event is regarded as superficial and inadequate. Fans and the public expect and want more.

For example, research commissioned by Lloyds, a sponsor of the British Olympic Team and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, found that Olympic sponsorship on its own increased brand appeal: forty percent of customers aware of the bank’s Olympic sponsorship would likely recommend the brand to friends and family.

However, fifty-five percent of customers aware of the bank’s Olympic sponsorship and its Local Heroes Olympic-themed community overlay had a higher propensity to recommend the brand to friends and family.

There are thousands of examples to confirm that sports and entertainment sponsorship combined with a community overlay works measurably better than either sports or entertainment sponsorship on its own. What makes a company, not just what a company makes, can influence decisions on where to work, invest and shop.

Every sponsorship has the potential to create enduring social value and many actually do. Brands now need to take the bold next step of measuring the social impact so they can demonstrate what has been accomplished.

In our work with corporate and brand executives we see the following:

  • Increasing integration among business units that have traditionally had discrete relationships with nonprofits: community affairs, HR, CSR and marketing departments working together holistically.
  • Rather than multiple, fragmented investments, companies want to create bigger, identifiable platforms that audiences will recognize, understand and remember.
  • To fully optimize relationships, companies must be able to activate them across platforms, channels and touchpoints.
  • Nonprofit partnerships need to be internalized through the company, as they can be effective tools for employee motivation and retention.
  • Many nonprofit partnerships are too narrowly focused and, as a result, miss out on larger potential impact and returns.


  • Linking a brand’s raison d’être to improving lives and impacting society amplifies ROI.
  • Sponsorship value is increasingly about creating a human side to the brand. This is something consumers are seeking, and sponsorship can do this better than anything else.
  • Traditionally, marketers have assessed sponsorship in terms of what it can do for their brands and their business.
  • The most successful sponsors today look to also create social value.
  • Lesa Ukman Partnerships has created the ProSocial Valuation Service®, the first-of-its-kind methodology to accurately measure the immediate and longer-term social value created by partnerships.


By Lesa Ukman