In 2020, 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. The sponsored and samples categories were introduced in response to feedback the media consistently hears pertaining to 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 152 cigars were assessed for “the Cigar Coop Cigar Year” starting from November 1st, 2021 through October 31st, 2022.

The Results

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

  2022: Avg (# of Cigars) %   2021: Avg (# of Cigars) %   2020: Avg (# of Cigars) %  
Overall Data Set  88.72 (152) 100.00% 89.06 (163) 100.00%  89.45(172) 100.00%
Sponsored Brands 89.15 (61) 40.13% 89.22(59) 36.20%  89.35(70) 40.70%
Non-Sponsored Brands 88.44 (91) 59.87% 88.96 (104) 63.80%  89.53(102) 59.30%
Samples Used 88.80 (75) 49.34% 89.29(98) 60.10%  89.29(75) 43.60%
No Samples Used (All Purchased) 88.65 (77) 50.66% 89 (65) 39.80%  89.67(97) 56.40%

A detailed breakdown:

The Analysis (2022 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 (59.87%) vs. cigars from our sponsors (40.13%)
  2. Our goal for 2022 was to strike a better balance of samples versus non-samples. This year we achieved a near 50/50 split.  Last year, there was a higher dependence on samples.
  3. The overall average score for cigars reviewed on Cigar Coop in 2022 was 88.72 – the lowest average in our 12 years.
  4. Cigars from Sponsors scored higher (89.15) than cigars that were not from sponsors (88.44). This was different than 2020 when sponsored cigars scored lower.
  5. As with samples, the goal is to have the average score for samples versus non-samples be even. This year Sponsored Cigars had the average scoring edge over Non-sponsored Cigars by 0.71 points.
  6. Cigars where samples were received scored slightly higher (88.80) than cigars strictly purchased (88.65). For the most part, samples vs non-samples have been close to statistically even.

Final Thoughts

Two years ago when we started this exercise, there might have been some surprise that sponsored cigars scored lower than non-sponsored cigars and samples provided scored lower than non-samples provided. The tide has taken a slight turn over the past couple of years. This year sponsors and samples received scored higher than non-sponsors and when no samples were received. There was a larger gap in sponsors versus non-sponsored cigars than I would prefer.  I’m inclined to think these patterns are cyclic, so I am curious to see how this goes in future years.

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.