Bringin’ ROI back. There is breaking news in this issue’s In Depth: The list of properties sponsored by Verizon Wireless includes the company’s yet-to-be-announced deal for Justin Timberlake’s 37-stop, three-month FutureSex/LoveShow Tour, which kicked off last week and features Pink. There is precedent for the deal to deliver strong returns for the company. When co-owner Verizon Communications sponsored the ’NSYNC PopOdyssey Tour in ’02, it signed up 53,000 new customers and increased network usage nine percent thanks to a promo offering a trip to meet Justin and the other boys at a concert. Both results were well above projections, as were the 15,000 leads generated on site at the 35 tour stops.

In recent conversations with marketers at major national and international sponsors, we have been stunned at both the lack of information sharing and the widely varying degrees of competency within such organizations. This is especially true with many companies that have regional/local operations that are responsible for sponsorship in their areas. We have seen and heard about regional marketers cutting very similar deals in terms of the property type and package level as their colleagues in other markets, but paying 10 times the fee and then doing nothing to activate. It is amazing that the executives in charge at headquarters allow this to happen, when such waste could easily be prevented through the dissemination of contract info and best practices from the national sponsorship staff and regions who know what they are doing.

Perhaps it is because we have been reading far too many trend reports over the past couple of months, but with all of the legitimate hype regarding technology-enabled consumers in control, user generated content, online social networking, interactivity, and the like, it’s no surprise that now we are seeing evidence of innovation overload and an avalanche of statistics showing that people are skipping hours of sleep and then having difficulty sleeping when they finally do decide to unplug. This seemingly creates an opportunity for marketers to do what our medium does best: support lifestyles, and indeed lives, by sponsoring tools and guides that help consumers figure out the latest advances, stay organized and in general make things easier on themselves.

IEG has added David Stark, executive vice president of marketing for Argent Mortgage, to the speaker lineup at The Next Big Thing conference taking place March 11 to 14 in Chicago. In addition to being behind the company’s various involvements in IndyCar racing–including deals with Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti–Stark developed Orchestrated by Argent Mortgage, a private-label tour bringing together top musical artists and orchestras from throughout the country. Among other topics, he will address the importance of sponsorship for internal branding….We also continue to secure participation from top decision-makers for our Sponsors In Residence sessions. Among those who have agreed to participate in one-on-one, 15-minute meetings with attendees: John Birmingham of the Chicago Tribune, Jeanne Larson of Cingular, Deborah Ferrera Aguiar of The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald; Meredith Giske of New Belgium Brewing, Christine Riedel King of The Principal Financial Group, and Bouker Pool of Rodale.

Jim Andrews