The World Cup is proving that, for some companies, talk might be very expensive – contrary to popular wisdom.

Yingli is a solar panel company that paid an estimated $17, 5-million to be a World Cup sponsor. Since Yingli enjoyed just 2,782 mentions in social media, that’s $6,290 for every social media mention they received.

McDonald’s enjoyed a better bang for their buck, with the burger company mentioned 2 700 358 times by World Cup watchers – and that’s before the final that will generate a Twitter storm. In cost-per-mention terms, it cost McDonald’s just $6.48 for every mention it received.

Strategic digital media consultancy 25AM is tracking global social media conversations during the World Cup, using ExactTarget Marketing Cloud software to analyse what the public is saying about the sponsors. The aim is to test whether the world cup and players do indeed get sufficient talkability and conversational amplification around their brands to justify the expense in sponsorship and endorsement.

The intangible value of linking your brand to the world’s most famous footballers is very difficult to measure, says Gordon Geldenhuys, head of online reputation management at 25AM. But he believes it’s possible to gauge the value in practical terms using social media listening tools.

“Measuring the return on investment is a very real and contentious issue, as marketers are struggling to justify a solid return for the financial investment in social marketing, sponsorship and marketing in general,” he says.

“The explosion of activity on Twitter during the matches has been phenomenal, so it’s natural for some of the world’s biggest brands to spend huge sums of money in sponsorship to capitalise on this hype. But how do we quantify the return that they are getting for this sponsorship?”

25AM analysed more than 26-million social media conversations and counted the specific mentions of each official sponsor, partner and some key players to test the value of their investments.

McDonalds earned a tasty amount of talk and therefore the lowest cost per mention. “Every social mention cost the company the equivalent of two Big Macs,” Geldenhuys says. “How much more tangible can we get than relating the value per social mention directly back to each sponsor’s product offerings?”

Budweiser achieved a solid cost per mention of $91,71 equating to 11 beers per mention and Moy Park incurred a cost of $4,932.36 per social mention amounting to 3 162 chickens per mention.

Yingli was the worst performer at more than $6 000 per mention.

World Cup partner companies spent even more, pumping in an estimated $34-million each. 25AM shows that Kia Motors fared the best with 118 146 mentions, while Visa perhaps did not leverage the association as successfully with just 5 653 mentions at $6 000 per punt.