Last year Cigar Coop introduced two new performance rating categories: Impacts of Sponsored Cigars on Scoring and Impacts of Samples Used on Scoring.

Performance Ratings are a collection of analytical data for the past Cigar Year on Cigar Coop. Last year these categories were introduced in response to feedback the media consistently hears one scoring – namely “sponsors compromise scoring” and “free samples compromise scoring.” I have long contended that sponsorship and samples are a part of the media landscape. It’s not something you can easily shrug off.

While these debates have been around forever, the impetus for this exercise came from a couple of podcasts in 2020: The Lounge Experience and The Bulb Podcast. On both podcasts, the question was raised on the impact of sponsors. I thank them for making this public.

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 163 cigars were assessed for “the Cigar Coop Cigar Year” starting from November 1st, 2020 through October 31st, 2021.

The Results

Averages included for each with # of cigars included in the data set in parentheses

  2021: Avg (# of Cigars) %   2020: Avg (# of Cigars %  
Overall Data Set  89.06 (163) 100%  89.45(172) 100.00%
Sponsored Brands 89.22(59) 36.2%  89.35(70) 40.70%
Non Sponsored Brands 88.96 (104) 63.8%  89.53(102) 59.30%
Samples Used 89.29(98) 60.1%  89.29(75) 43.60%
No Samples Used (Purchased) 89 (65) 39.8%  89.67(97) 56.40%


A detailed breakdown:

The Analysis (2021 Data)

Whether sponsored vs. non-sponsored or sample vs. no samples, our goal is to have even scoring on both sides of the fence. This will demonstrate the consistency performed on each cigar review whether a sample is received or not – or whether it’s from a sponsor or not. Much like last year, things did come pretty close.

  1. Contrary to what people believe, we still review more cigars that are not from our sponsors (63.8%) vs. cigars from our sponsors (36.2%)
  2. 2021 definitely saw a higher reliance on samples than 2020. Our goal is to strive closer to a 50/50 balance, so this is something hopefully that can be rectified in 2022.
  3. The overall average score for cigars reviewed on Cigar Coop in 2020 was 89.06 – the lowest average in our 11 years. One can certainly argue we are still scoring too high.
  4. Cigars from Sponsors scored higher (89.26) than cigars that were not from sponsors (88.96). This was different than 2020 when sponsored cigars scored lower.
  5. While one can argue 0.26 points is not a huge difference between 2021 sponsored versus non-sponsored cigars, Cigar Coop strives to have these numbers as close as possible.
  6. Cigars where samples were received scored slightly higher (89.09) than cigars strictly purchased (89.00). This is different than 2020 when samples received scored lower.
  7. The Sample vs. Non-Sample Average is closer to the goal of having both cigars even in average scoring.

Final Thoughts

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

Finally, last year I encouraged other cigar media to conduct similar exercises.  With the exception of Developing Palates, I’ve not seen anything done showing this data. I am confident many media brands would also demonstrate consistency whether sponsors or samples are used.