There's obviously a lot riding on the outcome of the Super Bowl game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots this Sunday night. But what's at stake goes well beyond who gets to claim the Lombardi Trophy and the rings that go with it. There are millions of dollars in endorsement contracts that will go to the stars of the winning team.
Increasingly, it's becoming easier to leverage advanced analytics software to measure the popularity of a given person, team or organization. IBM, for example, is working with the University of Southern California's Annenberg Innovation Lab to track the relative popularity of Eli Manning and Tom Brady, the star quarterbacks of the opposing teams, in real time before, during and after the game.
While this effort is just the latest in a series of sentiment analysis research projects that are being conducted by IBM and USC, it does indicate just how important perception is becoming on social networks. In fact, Rod Smith, IBM vice president for emerging technology, says it won't be long before sentiment analysis is routinely consulted by marketers looking to sign professional athletes to endorsement contracts. What's making this possible is that not only are the analytics tools becoming more sophisticated, but the cost of acquiring the data that needs to be analyzed is dropping thanks to the rise of Big Data frameworks such as Hadoop.
Sentiment analysis is hardly an exact science yet. But Smith notes that the concept can be applied to both online data and data that is collected by traditional methods such as polling. That means that as sentiment analysis continues to evolve, marketing is increasingly going to involve more science than art.
That should lead to a long overdue rapprochement between IT leaders and the marketing professionals. It's no secret that the relationship between these organizations is often strained given the proclivity of the marketing department to invest in isolated applications and associated IT infrastructure. In the meantime, it is apparent that new technologies are reshaping the way marketing is managed. Whether that results in better marketing remains to be seen. But at the very least, it should be a lot easier to attach a return on investment to marketing activities that historically has been elusive at best.