What’s a Dollar Worth?

I am, by nature, an inherently cynical bastard, always willing and sometimes eager to see the … less good in people or things or events. Not a cloud in the sky, temperatures in the low 70s? It’ll be chilly and pissing down rain at some point in the future.

In other words, when Joyce Julius & Associates, an outfit that purports to quantify the "value" of sponsorships, tells me that the combined "value" of the exposure earned by sponsors of Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards exceeded $1 billion dollars, I tend toward skepticism. 

As it happens, I’m not entirely alone on my bitter, barren, empty little island in the midst of the Sea of Doubt: The Charlotte Observer‘s David Poole, one of the more eloquent and senior members of the NASCAR press corps, finds himself questioning these heady dollar figures as well. And while not dismissing them outright as the sheer, bubble-headed fantasy of some pasty-skinned marketing dweeb in a drab cube back by accounting (near the service elevator) on the 32nd floor who is desperately trying to justify his too-generous salary to Mr. Joyce or Mrs. Julius, Mr. Poole allows that even inflated as much as ten times, sponsors are earning a return north of $100 million. Not bad, the theory goes, for an investment of, say, $25 million.

Still, I am, by nature, an inherently cynical bastard, meaning I’m disinclined to accept this reasoning as proof-positive that sponsoring a NASCAR team to the tune of $25 million is a bargain. Never mind the fact that we’re talking about the two best teams in the series and not the guy running 20th in points who still commands and demands somewhere around $15 million from a primary sponsor. Where Mr. Poole and I part company is on the matter of the inherent value of whatever exposure a sponsor earns.
Certainly, there’s value in impressing your company’s logo and therefore increasing brand identification onto the collective psyche, but doesn’t the value of that exposure decline as the audience remains static? In other words, where’s the added value of repeatedly exposing your brand to the same audience? Do the Julius numbers measure exposure to average American sports fans or average NASCAR fans? It’s fine point, perhaps, but one that might impact Julius’s stated "value."

Sponsoring a top team may well be worth every cent a major corporation ponies up, it may not be. Don’t know. Not sure I care. But neither am I willing to blindly accept that it is one of the great deals in American advertising.