Cigar Coop Sponsors Samples

As we have since 2020, we are publishing our performance ratings to look at the impacts of sponsors and samples on Cigar Coop.

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 for as long as I have been in cigar media, 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 about 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.
  • For the record, Cigar Coop currently has 19 sponsors.
  • Cigar Coop does not guarantee a review for every sample received.
  • 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.
  • Samples are never used when distributed at a Trade Show. Only samples from official marketing channels of a cigar company are used for reviews.
  • A total of 148 cigars were assessed for “the Cigar Coop Cigar Year” from November 1st, 2022 through October 31st, 2023.

Performance Rankings for Sponsored Cigars & Samples

The Results

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

2023: Avg (# of Cigars) %   2022: Avg (# of Cigars) %   2021: Avg (# of Cigars) %   2020: Avg (# of Cigars) %  
Overall Data Set 88.59 (148) 100.00% 88.72 (152) 100.00% 89.06 (163) 100.00%  89.45(172) 100.00%
Sponsored Brands 88.57 (69) 46.60% 89.15 (61) 40.13% 89.22(59) 36.20%  89.35(70) 40.70%
Non-Sponsored Brands 88.61 (79) 53.40% 88.44 (91) 59.87% 88.96 (104) 63.80%  89.53(102) 59.30%
Samples Used 88.57 (69) 46.60% 88.80 (75) 49.34% 89.29(98) 60.10%  89.29(75) 43.60%
No Samples Used (All Purchased) 88.61 (79) 53.40% 88.65 (77) 50.66% 89 (65) 39.80%  89.67(97) 56.40%

A detailed breakdown:

The Analysis (2023 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. This applies 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.

  • Yes, the numbers are correct. There were 79 non-sponsored cigars and 69 sponsored cigars assessed this year. There were also 79 purchased cigars vs. 69 cigars where samples were provided.
  • Contrary to what people believe, we still review more cigars that are not from our sponsors (53.40%) vs. cigars from our sponsors (46.60%). The same goes for purchased cigars (53.40%) vs. sample (46.60%)
  • The overall average score for cigars reviewed on Cigar Coop in 2022 was 88.59- the lowest average in our 13 years.
  • This year, the average score difference between sponsors and non-sponsors was 0.04%.  The average score difference between purchased cigars and samples was also 0.04%.  This was basically a statistical tie for both categories.

Final Thoughts

Every time the allegation comes up about sponsors and samples corrupting cigar media, I understand it, but I also scratch my head. I can’t believe this is 2024, and the cigar media still has to answer this. What I can say is providing this data gives some context where you can decide for yourself whether sponsors or samples influence how we assess.

We rely on sponsors to keep the lights on. We also still rely on samples as well, and our feeling is that as long as it comes from official media sources, there is nothing wrong with it. Sponsors and samples are a part of the media framework. Over the years, what I have discovered is some years, sponsors and samples will have higher scores than non-sponsored and purchased cigars -and vice versa. This year the table tipped to non-sponsored and purchased cigars scoring higher. The two previous years saw sponsored and sampled cigars score higher.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve encouraged other media to also dig into their statistics. I’m happy to say more media has come on board and provided their data on this topic. I thank them for answering the call.