Sport sponsorship effect research: Nissan and USA College Sports

In order to give sales a boost in America, in November 2015, Japanese car manufacturer Nissan announced a major partnership with American ‘College Sports’ via the C100 programme. The C100 programme includes all the sports offered at universities or high schools in the United States that compete with other universities or high schools.

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This 4-year deal to support the C100 is the most significant example of sport sponsorship in the history of College Sports.

To provide an idea of the scope of these sports, more money is involved from media, sponsorship, tickets and merchandise than in the Champions League. Globally, the C100 is # 5 in the ranking of global sporting events.


The 100 schools sponsored by Nissan are distributed across the country, as indicated by the partnership’s visual. Naturally, in a business involving such huge sums, as a sponsor, you want to know what that investment in time and money will yield.

Effect measurement in sport sponsorship: why did Nissan choose Blauw?

The North American assignment from Nissan came to Blauw thanks to recommendations. In 2014, we were selected as the permanent market research bureau for Nissan for Europe and Global and to measure the effect of Nissan’s (international) sponsorship initiatives. 

In 2015, when the megadeal between Nissan USA and the C100 was still classified, we began to set up a 0-measurement. This was to create a starting point for the four-year long monitoring of this sport sponsorship. The research aim was to to provide Nissan and the activation bureau with insight into the impact of C100 sponsorship, including the campaigns and activations.

To continue to optimise the C100 sponsorship for the entire duration sponsorship effect research provides insight into:

  • evaluation of the sponsorship, campaigns and activations (awareness & likeability).
  • the effect of the sponsorship on the most significant KPIs for the Nissan brand;
  • the effect among specific target groups within the wider public (e.g. by state, Nissan dealer region and fans of specific sports);  

Sponsor analysis: 2 measurements per year

Since the 0-measurement in November 2015, a measurement has been taken twice per year (in April and November) to track the sponsor effects. This is always around the time of an activation. The ESPN National Signing Day event takes place in April. All high school students who are in their last year select which college/university they are going to play for.

The Heisman House activation is at its maximum in October. It is when the vote on the most valuable player within American Football is held.

We conduct online research among:

  • 100 colleges (who are involved in the Nissan College 100 Partnership)
  • 70 Demographic Market Areas (the DMAs, large/important cities and regions surrounding them)
  • 42 states  

In addition, a distinction is made between the results for ‘all DMAs’ and ‘Key DMAs’. The Key DMAs are the 25 DMAs on which Nissan focuses the most and to which it also allocates more budget.

These DMAs are distributed across the 8 Nissan dealer regions, a regional classification by Nissan, in which each region has a separate budget for activations and campaigns.

The research results are shared via an online dashboard. Via this dashboard – now with 180,000 respondents – we can analyse everything and make the data available 24/7 to Nissan and OMD.

This provides activation bureau OMD with valuable ammunition in setting up campaigns. It helps them to reach the right target group in the right way.

Nissan partnership: global sponsorship portfolio

What is great about this is that in the meantime we have secured Nissan’s entire portfolio, as a result of which we can establish interconnections between the sports in the C100, the UEFA Champions League study, and Formula E.

Nissan appreciates our wide experience in sponsorship and can get to work directly with our research results. Thanks to the huge scope of the projects and the opportunity to research Nissan’s entire portfolio, we have got to know the international market even better.

Would you like to know more about successful sport sponsorship?