There are few things that advertisers wrestle with more than measuring the return on investment (“ROI”) of their sports marketing dollar. Television commercials, in-stadium signage, and promotions reach thousands if not millions of people, but gauging the real impact of those activities is brutally hard. Do we know when somebody walks into PNC Bank that they’re really there because the Pirates play at PNC Park?

To explore this problem, CivicScience analyzed over 100,000 poll responses we collected from Pittsburgh-area residents over the past 18 months, allowing us to normalize for team seasonality. We first segmented respondents based on how closely they follow each of the three major Pittsburgh sports teams: the Penguins, Pirates, and Steelers.

Figure 1.0: Example Team Affinity Question

We then analyzed respondents based on how positively or negatively they feel about 11 of Pittsburgh’s largest and best-known brands. By comparing the favorability of each brand among fans, compared to non-fans, we can measure the relative “lift” the major brands enjoy with each fan base.

Figure 2.0: Example Brand Affinity Question

Before sharing our findings, we should clarify a few things. First, we are not making claims about the absolute favorability of the local brands. Giant Eagle, for example, is one of the most popular brands overall in our database, yet they see relatively low lift among local fans. This simply means that the difference between fans and non-fans is small, not that Giant Eagle is in any way unpopular.

Second, we do not account for the amount of sponsorship money spent by any brand with a given team. Some of these brands may not even advertise or partner with specific teams at all. The lift we observe in our data could be the result of large, effective marketing spends by the brand OR it could simply mean that the profile of a given fan base aligns very well with the brand’s target customer. We leave that to the teams and the advertisers to figure out.

To calculate a brand’s lift among the three fan segments, we compared favorability responses (those answering “Very Positive” or “Somewhat Positive”) among fans (those who say they follow the team “Very Closely” or “Somewhat Closely”) to favorability responses among non-fans (those who answered that they follow the team “Not At All”). The percentage difference in favorability between the two groups represents the lift we can observe. A resulting table looks like this:

In the chart below, we can see the degree of lift (%) for our 11 brands across each team, as well as the average lift for each brand across all three and the average of each team across all brands:

Penguins     Pirates     Steelers Brand Average
Giant Eagle 8.2%     4.6%     9.1% 7.3%
Dick’s Sporting Goods 21.9%     14.6%     18.1% 18.2%
Consol Energy Inc. 19.6%     11.9%     13.2% 14.9%
Heinz Company 14.4%     9.3%     12.5% 12.1%
PNC Bank 10.5%     8.4%     8.0% 9.0%
Range Resources 8.1%     8.4%     8.1% 8.2%
Eat-N-Park 7.6%     3.8%     10.6% 7.3%
84 Lumber 7.3%     8.1%     13.5% 9.6%
Highmark 5.1%     2.3%     3.3% 3.6%
UPMC 7.5%     4.8%     8.4% 6.9%
American Eagle Outfitters 11.2%     7.8%     7.2% 8.7%
Team Average 11.0%      7.6%     10.2%

There’s a lot to explore in this chart but here are some of the highlights:

1-      No brand sees a higher overall lift among Pittsburgh sports fans than Dick’s Sporting Goods, with an average across all three teams of 18.2%. This would stand to reason given both the company’s appeal to sports enthusiasts and their prominent sponsor deals with each team.

2-      The single best combination of brand and team is Dick’s Sporting Goods and the Pittsburgh Penguins, coming in with a huge overall lift of 21.9%. The second best combination is CONSOL and the Penguins at 19.6%, followed by Dick’s Sporting Goods and the Steelers (18.1%).

3-      Of the three brands that have made arguably the biggest investment by purchasing naming rights for a venue, CONSOL sees the highest lift among Penguins fans, followed by Heinz and Steelers fans (12.5%), and PNC and Pirates fans (8.4%).

4-      The combination with the least amount of lift is Highmark and the Pittsburgh Pirates at 2.3%.

5-      Overall, brands see the highest average lift among Penguins fans (11%), followed by Steelers fans (10.2%), and Pirates fans (7.6%)

6-      It’s interesting to note that despite having their names plastered on Heinz Field and PNC Park both Heinz and PNC receive their biggest bounce among Penguins fans.

7-      Overall, brands see the highest average lift among Penguins fans (11%) followed by Steelers fans (10.2%), and the Pirates (7.6%)

8-      Range Resources is the lone brand that sees its highest lift among Pirates fans (8.4%)

In general, it would appear that brands have their strongest ties to Penguins fans, where 6 of the 11 brands we analyzed experienced their highest lift. The good news for all the brands is that they see at least some positive relationship across each team. Not to spoil a future write-up but some national brands are not so lucky.

One final factor to consider is that many, if not most, sports fans in Pittsburgh are fans of all three teams. It is quite possible that the lift a particular brand experiences with a team’s fan base may be a result of brand equity they built with those fans through another team. This is something we can study at another time.

In the coming months, we will be releasing similar analysis, first looking at lift metrics for national brands, then local media outlets, among Pittsburgh sports fans. Please be on the look-out for those.