Innovations That Inspire

Partnered Research for Global Brand Impact

Recognition Year(s): 2019
School: UniSA Business School, University of South Australia
Location: Australia

Innovation Statement

UniSA Business School’s Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science operates a unique corporate sponsorship program that engages marketers globally, funds fundamental research, and delivers in-market impact through industry-ready, evidence-based services and tools.

Call to Action

UniSA Business School’s Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science was formed over a decade ago to discover and disseminate robust knowledge about how brands and categories grow and how to invest behind that growth, to help organizations apply research to make their marketing more efficient and effective. Our approach improves the way investment decisions are made and increases investment confidence via evidence-based inquiry.

Our challenge was to develop sustainable funding to tackle the biggest questions in marketing with large-scale, robust research, as well as to get industry to notice and use our research. We were motivated to accomplish the following:

  • Identify and address real-world challenges
  • Actively engage with decision-makers across industries and markets to facilitate the development of knowledge that holds across conditions
  • Develop long-term relationships with industry to continue to learn from each other
  • Improve the services and tools available in-market
  • Access large-scale independent data to underpin our research outputs
  • Embed evidence-based decision-making into industry culture and practice
  • Discover generalizations (or “marketing laws”) to reinfoce improved marketing theory
  • Dispel pseudo-science and marketing myths
  • Reduce the waste associated with poor marketing decision-making
  • Deliver value for money to industry partners
  • Forge links with leading academics around the world
  • Become an authority on marketing, evidenced by media mentions, articles, interviews, and keynotes
  • Develop the next generation of global thought-leaders

Overall our goal was large: to build the evidence base in marketing, to translate marketing science into industry-ready knowledge and engage marketing decision-makers to deliver global in-market impact, and to reshape marketing principles and theory.

Innovation Description

The institute’s unique Corporate Sponsorship Program is a subscription offer, where the fee is pooled to create a multimillion USD research program to tackle the questions the institute has identified as important. It is a sophisticated, commercially relevant program, offering industry-ready in-house seminars, reports, global webinars, and online apps. The program funds the institute to advance and translate knowledge and provide objective advice that sustains our credibility and relevance. We are guided by three advisory boards (Europe, Australasia, and North America) that support continued engagement with industry stakeholders. Our long-term approach to partner engagement includes:

  • Researchers posted in key cities (London, New York, Amsterdam, Chicago, Shanghai, and Singapore)
  • Twice-yearly in-house seminars with each sponsor, helping firms understand how they can apply the evidence   
  • Online portal including reports, videos, and FAQs covering a breadth of topics
  • Premium options of executive education
  • Business-focused books such as How Brands Grow, which has been translated into six languages 
  • Outreach through trade publications, industry/academic conferences, and media including The Economist, Financial Times, and Bloomberg TV  
  • Nurturing future thought leaders into leading industry roles

In 2019, an Industry Growth Initiative co-developed by Mars Professor Magda Nenycz-Thiel and industry professor Bruce McColl began that focuses on sustainable profit growth and strategic investment decisions concerning where to apply this marketing knowledge. The initiative has two parts: sponsored R&D aimed at developing new knowledge in how industries grow, and auditing each sponsor to develop their own evidence-based systems for better growth investment decisions.

Innovation Impact

The institute’s research transforms the ways corporations manage their brands globally. The reach is evidenced through participation from the world’s largest brands, including PepsiCo, Nestlé, News America, ESPN, Fonterra, General Mills, Procter and Gamble, Unilever, Mars Incorporated, and more. The longevity and growth of the program has validated the approach. We have more than 60 corporate sponsors (89 percent per annum growth over the last five years) and engage 7,700 marketers worldwide. We have emerged as the world’s largest center for research into marketing, achieving economies of scale and scope, making it an attractive partner for enterprises and magnifying its influence.  

A global study of the impact of business research has ranked the UniSA Business School No. 1 in the world for brand management (League of Scholars). Institute director Byron Sharp’s book How Brands Grow has sold more than 70,000 copies worldwide. It has been described as “the most influential marketing book of the past decade” by WARC and comparable to an “insurgency,” revolutionizing brand management, in the Financial Times. Corporate sponsors derive competitive advantage through intelligence not available elsewhere.  

Mars’ application of our research doubled the volume of advertising considered “highly effective.” The impact is best described by the vice president of consumer planning at Diageo North America, Jason Chebib: “If it’s part of marketing, increasingly Ehrenberg-Bass will have studied it, and have the best and most recent conclusions. … This comprehensiveness isn’t just a nice-to-have. Ehrenberg Bass’s credibility in global marketing is growing precisely because of its proactive, principled, tenacious approach to uncovering every piece of scientific evidence.” 

Reference Links

Innovation Partners

The Institute works and collaborates with over 60 international companies including PepsiCo, Nestlé, News America, ESPN, Fonterra, General Mills, Procter and Gamble, Unilever, Mars Inc. For a more comprehensive list, visit