In 2020, Cigar Coop is unveiling some new performance rating categories and today we are unveiling two: Impacts of Sponsored Cigars on Scoring and Impacts of Samples Used on Scoring.

For as long as I have been involved with cigar media, the two things always thrown up to me are “sponsors compromise ratings” and “free samples compromise ratings.” I have long contended that sponsorship and samples are a part of the media landscape. It’s not something you can easily shrug off. I have also long contended that sponsors and samples have not impacted ratings on Cigar Coop. In the end, we go back to the scoring data over the past year see how well we do. This year and this year forward, these will be new performance rating categories on Cigar Coop.

We also will be looking at the impacts of sponsors and samples when the Cigar Coop Cigar of the Year Countdown is completed.

While these debates have been around forever, the impetus for this exercise came from a couple of podcasts: The Lounge Experience and The Bulb Podcast. On both podcasts the question was raised on the impact of sponsors. Later on, I decided to add in samples as well.

Without further ado, here is the analysis.

The Basics

  • A Sponsor is defined as a company that funds a marketing campaign on Cigar Coop. In this case, it is banner advertising on the website, or podcasts reads on the podcasts. The company is a distributor, brand owner, or manufacturer.
  • A Sample is a cigar that is provided by the company that manufactures and/or distributes the product.
  • If a company only sponsored a portion of the year, they were still considered a sponsor regardless of the review date.
  • If samples were used and cigars were also purchased for an assessment, the cigar is said to have had samples provided.
  • Samples are always disclosed on Cigar Coop reviews.
  • A total of 172 cigars were considered that were assessed for “the Cigar Coop Cigar Year” starting from November 1st, 2019 through October 31st, 2020. Each cigar is identified as whether or not it is a sponsored brand and whether samples were received.

The Results

  Average # of Cigars
Overall Data Set -2020 89.45 172 100.00%
Sponsored Brands 89.35 70 40.70%
Non Sponsored Brands 89.53 102 59.30%
Samples Used 89.29 75 43.60%
No Samples Used (Purchased) 89.67 97 56.40%


A detailed breakdown of the cigars can be viewed here.

The Analysis (2020 Data)

  1. Contrary to what people believe, we still review more cigars that are not from our sponsors (59.30%) vs. cigars from our sponsors (40.70%)
  2. Also contrary to what people believe, we still purchase more cigars for review (56.40%) than are received from sponsors (43.60%)
  3. The overall average score for cigars reviewed on Cigar Coop in 2020 was 89.45 – the lowest average in our ten years. One can certainly argue we are still scoring too high.
  4. Cigars from Sponsors scored lower (89.35) than cigars that were not from sponsors (89.53)
  5. Cigars where samples were received scored lower (89.29) than cigars strictly purchased (89.67)

On sponsored vs. non-sponsored scoring, while sponsored brands scored lower, in reality the margin was a 0.18 edge. In my book this is less about delineating the two, and more of a testament that scoring is done in a relatively consistent way on Cigar Coop regardless of sponsorship.

On samples vs. non-samples (Purchased); when cigar samples were provided, the margin was 0.38 points – again relatively small. Cigars where samples were provided scored lower than cigars that were purchased. Like sponsored cigars, I believe this was also a testament to how consistent scoring was regardless if a company has provided samples.

Final Thoughts

These performance ratings will now be published each year on Cigar Coop. We will be providing another analysis based on the Cigars selected on the Cigar Coop Countdown for 2020 – and that will also be done a yearly basis.

I would encourage our audience to make their own decisions based on the data provided – and its quite possible the game changes in future years for these numbers look different.

Finally, I encourage other cigar media to conduct similar exercises. I am confident many media brands would also demonstrate consistency whether sponsors or samples are used.