Alternative Media: Shared Appeal

Do your sponsorship plans make the grade?
Jun 01, 2005

Bill Tancer
Multi-million dollar sports sponsorships make popular branding vehicles for pharmaceutical companies. By pairing lifestyle products with behemoths like NASCAR, the NFL, and the PGA, manufacturers enjoy the traditional benefits of DTC marketing. However, these initiatives hold much promise for new online opportunities as well. But how do pharma sponsors know if sports' Web sites lure the right visitors to their domains? And how can they tell if a sponsorship deal is connecting their messages with the target market?

The x-axis of the graph shows the percentage of all visits made to healthcare sites by a particular group. For example, "Landed Gentry," the wealthiest rural residents, account for almost 9 percent of the all pharma and medical lifestyle Web sites that Hitwise tracks. Groups of people above100 on the y-axis are more likely to visit these sites than an arbitrary Web site. Groups below100 are less likely visitors. The distance above or below the 100-level quantifies the likelihood of a group member to visit a site. For example, Landed Gentry are about 6 percent more likely to visit a site in this group than an arbitrary Web site. "Urban Uptown," the wealthiest city dwellers, are about 12 percent less likely to visit a site in this group. The social groups referred to in this article were defined by Claritas as part of their Prizm NE segmentation.
The easiest way to understand if a sponsorship is hitting the mark is to analyze Internet traffic patterns. Hitwise monitors the Web habits of 10 million US Internet users through their Internet service providers, and tracks user demographics on 614 pharmaceutical and medical products Web sites. To more easily interpret demographics, Hitwise classifies visitors into groups that describe their income level and residential community. For fine-grain analysis, we use 66 demographic segments, but for this article we'll stick to 14 larger social groups, such as the high-income city dwellers called "Urban Uptown," lower-income rural groups known as "Rustic Living," and the well-to-do suburbanites, "Affluentials" and "Elite Suburbs."

The article seeks to illustrate the tools and methodology companies can use to understand how their sponsorship dollars are working for them and to get a more complete picture of which sponsor Web sites can boost online traffic for brands.

Insight: Viagra/NASCAR In conducting its analysis, Hitwise combines the individual matrices for Viagra and its sponsor, NASCAR (pictured left) into one graph (pictured right). In the combined matrix, the upper-right quadrant shows the groups that overlap as most frequent visitors to the two sites. The groups indexing highest for both and are Landed Gentry, Country Comfort, Middle America, and Rustic Living. All in all, rural social groups account for one third of's visitors. If Pfizers objective for the NASCAR sponsorship was to reinforce its appeal to rural consumers, the deal was a success. However, if they sought a broader appeal, NASCAR may not have been the best partner. After all, the stock-car racing circuit doesnt draw visitors from other groups that register strong interest in the Viagra site—Affluentials, City Centers, and Urban Uptowns. Therefore, the company might be missing an opportunity to communicate or reinforce compliance messages with those audiences.
Smart Targeting Pharmaceutical companies can gauge the shared market appeal of an existing or potential sponsor by comparing their own product matrices to those of prospective sponsors. In general, the upper-right quadrant represents the core consumer groups that can be expected to visit a Web site. Companies that choose a sponsor with similar groups in this quadrant tend to reinforce brand identity within the core audience segments. The Viagra-NASCAR deal is one example. (See "Insight: Viagra/NASCAR.")

Insight: Cialis/PGA The combined matrix for and shows a higher degree of overlap in the upper right-hand quadrant, both in percentages (55 percent of visits) and cross section of social groups, than Viagra and NASCAR. Visitors to and include high-income suburbanites (Affluentials) in addition to rural segments, such as Middle America (incomes higher than Rustic Living but lower than Country Comfort), which made up the strongest overlap between Viagra and NASCAR. If Lilly's Cialis-PGA partnership aimed to draw a broader spectrum of visitors than Cialis drew without sponsorship, in particular affluent suburban residents, the PGA sponsorship looks like a successful venture.
Potential patients Hitwise calls the lower-right corner the "growth quadrant" because patient groups that are plotted in that quandrant are already visiting the pharma site in significant numbers, but they are still not "likely" visitors, as defined in the technical sense by Hitwise. If a brand is attracting target groups to the lower-right quadrant of its matrix, companies should choose a sponsor that attracts the same groups into its upper-right quadrant. That should increase the likelihood of those groups visiting the brand's Web site. For instance, Lilly is likely to draw increased visitors to by attracting health seekers through the Cialis ad on the PGA Web site. (See "Insight: Cialis/PGA.")

Wheres Your Audience?
Poor partners As important as it is to understand what makes a good sponsorship partner, companies must also understand what makes a poor partner for their brand initiative. Visitor overlaps in the upper-left quadrant offer the lowest sponsorship returns. Such groups are already "likely" to visit the site, but they constitute a small share of the target market. Why spend marketing dollars on a small group that already knows the target Web site? The lower-left quadrant contains groups that are less than likely to visit the site, and make up a small percentage of the site visits. If a brand targets these consumers in a sponsorship deal, the sponsoring product must expand the target audience as it makes "likely"visitors of unlikely ones.

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