Lucie Heseltine

By Lucie H

Strategy, PPC

Explaining marketing attribution: An alternative football analogy

Football and marketing have more in common than you'd think. Lucie, our Paid Media Lead, draws parallels between various attribution models and goal-scoring credit from the latest Euros 2020 match.

Explaining marketing attribution: An alternative football analogy

There are many parallels between marketing and football; we all strive to achieve goals, we often get blamed when it all goes wrong, and we all get paid millions of pounds (we wish)!

One thing we do have in common though, is that traditionally, both disciplines use a last-click attribution model. Last-click attribution means giving credit for the conversion to the last touch point - in marketing that might be the last ad clicked, or in football, the credit being given to the goal scorer alone.

What impact does attribution modelling have on how we report?

Think about it, when we reflect on England’s amazing performance against Ukraine in the Euros 2020 quarter final, most of the focus is on the goal scorers, in this case Kane, Maguire, Henderson. But, what if credit for a goal was awarded based on a different attribution model? Who would the headlines be about then?

We’re going to dissect the stonking 50 minute third goal in the Ukraine match and work out which other players would be lauded if we watched through the lens of the core models.

Footie through a different lens

The build up started with a timely interception by Jadon Sancho. Suddenly Ukraine’s run of passing was over and, in Ant and Dec’s words, we were ‘on the ball’.

Under a first-click attribution model, the goal would be awarded to Sancho, because without him winning the ball back, the goal never would have happened.

Should Sancho really get all the credit for the goal? No one is arguing that Sancho’s touch wasn’t hugely important. In fact, without it, England would not have reclaimed control. But can we really ignore Kane? He was the last touchpoint before the ball hit the back of the net.

Enter position based attribution. This model awards 40% of the credit to the first and last touchpoints in a conversion journey, acknowledging that they are both hugely important.

So that’s 40% for Sancho and 40% for Kane.

Sharing the end result on the conversion journey

It also awards the remaining 20% to the other touchpoints in between. So Rice, Mount, Sterling and Shaw all receive some credit for keeping the build up moving and getting the ball to where it needs to be.

This seems fair, right? Sancho snatched the ball back and started the fast paced build up, Kane finished it off, and everyone else helped it to happen: teamwork makes the dream work.

Actually, maybe this isn’t fair on Rice, Mount, Sterling and Shaw. If any one of them had made a mistake, the goal wouldn’t have happened!

If we review the goal through the lens of the linear attribution model, each player receives an equal amount of the credit. 16.6%. Fair’s fair, but, that’s a lot of names to fit on the front pages!

Let’s look at this another way. In fantasy football, players are awarded three points for an assist, implying that the touch that precedes that of the goalscorers, is almost as important. This is kind of using a time decay attribution model, right? This is where the touchpoints closest to the sale receive most of the credit.

So the highest proportion of the credit is awarded to Kane, then Shaw who got the assist, then Sterling, Mount, Rice and finally Sancho. There’s kind of a logic to it, though it does encourage some sympathy for Sancho!

This is why it’s easiest for football to rely on a last click attribution model. It’s probably too much of a mouthful for a commentator to shout the names of the six different players who contributed to the goal. But, just because it works for football doesn’t mean it should be the default for marketing, where every touchpoint is vital in the customer journey towards a sale/conversion.

We vote that last click attribution should get the red card and that we make sure we’re giving enough credit to all of our marketing channels. Altogether’s coming home!

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Paid Media Lead

Lucie is our lead on all paid media activity, overseeing our talented paid media team and managing the strategy and implementation of all paid search campaigns across multiple platforms. Fully Google qualified and working directly at Google prior to joining Extreme, there's not much Lucie doesn't know about PPC!

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