Image Source: Dave Fogarty

The number of images being shared daily on social media has grown from 300 million images a day in 2012, to over 3 billion images a day in 2016. As image-based posts become the most popular form of conversation on social media, the time has come for brands to re-evaluate the ways in which they measure their audience’s response to brand sponsorship, so that they can truly understand their ROI.

The emergence of visuals online in recent years has completely changed how brands operate and interact with their online following. It is becoming more important than ever to interact in real time and to properly understand the customer's needs. As necessity breeds innovation, it’s no wonder that Social Media Monitoring has come to the fore.

Social Media Monitoring companies have realized the value that image based analytics brings. And with industry leaders like Crimson Hexagon and Brandwatch adopting this technology, it makes sense that areas like brand sponsorship is measured in this way too in order to calculate their performance in the online space.

Image Source: Dave Fogarty

Let’s take a look at one particular combat sports event that is already being labelled as the “Billion Dollar Fight”. Anticipated to be a surefire goldmine for brands in terms of sponsorship deals, it is a prime opportunity for brands to invest in sponsorship. But how are these brands tracking whether or not the return will be worth the investment?

With the upcoming mega fight between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, many brands are fighting for the signature of the Irish man to be the sponsor that will appear in all content surrounding the event. This event is already being regarded as the biggest combat sports event of all time, set to surpass the current PPV record held by Floyd Mayweather V Manny Pacquiao (4.4 million buys), in the heavily anticipated fight back in May 2005.

Image Source: Dave Fogarty

However, compared to the Pacquiao fight, the aura surrounding this one is completely unique to anything that has been witnessed before. This seems to be as a result of two sporting worlds colliding (Boxing and MMA). Consequently, it has become not only a sporting event, but also a cultural event- a rarity in the world of combat sports.

From a sports sponsorship perspective, being involved in this iconic event looks to be an opportunity of a lifetime. With this in mind, the images, videos, and general content generated from this fight will be around for a very long time and, as a result, so will the chosen sponsors’ exposure.

Conor McGregor’s brand has risen like no other predecessor in such a short space of time, and with that comes endorsements from other global brands who want to be attached to this meteoric rise. Beats by Dre, Monster Energy, and even Rolls Royce are among some of his well known partners. McGregor has the ability to leverage social media to his advantage, using it in combination with his obsession for martial arts to become not only an elite athlete, but also an attractive brand.

Image Source: Dave Fogarty

In 2014, McGregor became one of 5 select fighters in the UFC roster to become a Reebok ambassador when the brand first signed a major partnership with the MMA organization. The agreement between the global sports brand and the premier MMA organization and its athletes is said to be worth approximately $70 million dollars over a 6 year period. On the surface, this looks like a great deal for all parties, however when you dig a little deeper you can see that there has been some very negative responses from within the UFC. The athletes feel they are being forced to drop up to 70% of previous sponsorship earnings as a result of Reebok’s exclusivity.

Since his last fight in December 2016, McGregor has now become a free agent leading up to his most financially lucrative fight to date. This begs the question: what should potential sponsors be asking themselves in order to be confident enough that the money being spent on this is worth it? And, in addition, how do they measure their ROI accurately in the current age of visual communication?

Image Source: Dave Fogarty

Monitoring keywords and hashtags on social media is currently the preferred method of calculating sponsorship ROI, with many companies offering these services. However, in a world that is moving more and more towards image-based posts (and where 80% of images that feature a brand's logo do not include written mentions of the brand), it’s fair to say that monitoring only keywords simply won't give you a true ROI calculation. Internal research discovered that 60% of all Guinness mentions on social media went under the radar, so could this be true for the thousands of other brands sponsoring athletes, events, and festivals around the world?

The question remaining is: how can brands collect this data to get a more accurate reflection of their sponsorship ROI? Without image recognition, these visual conversations go unnoticed by brands along with the context that can be extracted from the data. This means that brands are making important business decisions based on incomplete data sets.

Social reach is now a paramount factor for how much exposure a brand can gain on social media through sponsorships. With this information to hand, partnering text analytics and logo detection technology into your social media strategy is the only way you can uncover all insights on social media when measuring sponsorship ROI.