Although it may have been a valid excuse a few years ago, properties can no longer use expense as a reason for not having audience research.

The growing popularity of online survey tools (Constant Contact, SurveyMonkey.com, etc.), quick-response codes and other technology has given properties more options than ever to conduct consumer research.

“From a technology standpoint, properties have a lot more options. Things that only a major corporation could do five years ago anyone can do,” said Bill Doyle, vice president at Performance Research.

And if that wasn’t enough, the cost of hiring a third-party research firm also has dropped significantly. The reason: The growing number of properties with an attendee database, an asset that helps reduce the need for costly intercept surveys.

Research that cost $50,000 a few years ago has dropped to roughly $8,000 to $10,000 today, said Doyle.

“Audience research has become more efficient and less expensive.”

Declining costs and increased survey options couldn’t have come at a better time. Companies are increasingly looking for in-depth audience research and other types of data to justify a sponsorship investment.

“Sponsors are asking for more consumer information. They want everything we have to make the case internally for a sponsorship,” said Chris Hibbs, vice president of sales and marketing with the NFL Chicago Bears.

“The first thing a prospective sponsor wants to know is the fit between their customer and the event. Without that information, you’re dead in the water,” said Bruce Erley, president of Creative Strategies Group, a sponsorship sales agency.

At a minimum, properties need to have a good understanding of their audience demographics: age, gender, household income, education, etc. But properties that dive deeper into research are the ones that reap the most benefits. 

Case in point: Properties with a clear understanding of audience buying habits, passion points and lifestyle traits can use the data to identify new sponsors, generate interest and ultimately close and retain deals.  

“If you pitch an insurance company, you need to know if your audience owns a car, a home or a vacation property,” said Doyle.

How To Conduct Audience Research. Generally speaking, properties should update audience research once every three years, said Doyle.

On the flipside, rightsholders that have signed a new title sponsor, undergone a new wave of popularity or experienced some other significant change should update research more frequently, he added.

Below, IEG SR highlights six ways properties can acquire audience research:

Do it yourself. Properties can collect basic demographic research on their own, although most do not have the expertise to acquire purchase patterns, lifestyle traits and other more in-depth information.  

“Unless you have background in statistical analysis, chances are the research is going to be wrought with problems,” said Erley.

Another challenge: Research conducted by properties is frequently seen as biased and lacking credibility by potential sponsors.

Hire a third-party research firm. The most credible way to gain audience data is by working with a third-party research firm.

“They provide the most statistically reliable information you can get,” said Erley.

While the cost of third-party research has declined, it still does not come cheap. Properties with a database should expect to pay roughly $10,000, while properties without a database can pay upwards of $30,000 to $40,000.

Enlist a college or university. One way to save money and gain credible research is by working with a local college or university.

Richardson, Texas’ Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival last year worked with a University of North Texas graduate class to update its audience data. The May 18-20 festival updates the research once every three years.

“The students asked the right questions, we got great information and for very little cost,” said Robbie Hazelbaker, who oversees sponsorship and development for City of Richardson programs and events.

Work with digital analytics companies. The growing number of digital analytics companies has created a new avenue to acquire data.  

For example, The IZOD IndyCar Series is leveraging its new cobranded Discover credit card to track consumer spending. The motorsports series receives the spending information from Segmint, Inc., a technology company that tracks credit card usage.

The IndyCar Series is using the data to identify potential sponsors based on where fans spend money.

Use online registration systems. Some events are finding success working with Active.com and other online registration companies.

For example, Creative Strategies Group is using EventBrite.com to collect data for the Coldwell Banker Denver Century Ride presented by Rickenbaugh Cadillac Volvo.

The agency, which owns and operates the June 17 event, is using the service to gain demographic information on event participants.

Piggyback timeshare companies. CSG also collects audience research by working with timeshare companies.

The sales agency worked with BGV Marketing Services to collect data at the Feb. 9-17 Colorado Garden & Home Show. The marketing arm of Breckenridge Grand Vacations ran an on-site sweeps dangling a $25,000 home makeover to acquire leads for its timeshare business.

BGV gave the event the opportunity to ask several sponsorship-related questions as part of the sweepstakes registration process. The event used the survey to ask about consumer purchase habits and attitudes towards sponsors.

“They want access to our audience, and I want access to their data,” said Erley.

While the garden and home show did not pay for the data, the information was not as reliable as data collected by a third-party research firm, he said.  

“It’s not as reliable as other data, but it’s better than guessing.”