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 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 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 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.
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: 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 NASCAR.com and Viagra.com are Landed Gentry,
Country Comfort, Middle America, and Rustic Living. All in all, rural social groups account for one third of Viagra.com'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.
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
http://Cialis.com/ by attracting health seekers through the Cialis ad on the PGA Web site. (See "Insight: Cialis/PGA.")
Insight: Cialis/PGA The combined matrix for Cialis.com and PGA.com 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 Cialis.com and PGA.com 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.
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.
Wheres Your Audience?