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Sponsorship Market to Break the €200m Level in 2018 According to Onside Survey

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John Trainor, CEO and Founder of Onside

The Irish Sponsorship market is set to grow by 12% to €201m in 2018, according to the annual Onside Irish Sponsorship Industry Survey.

According to the survey, the Irish sponsorship market grew by 10% to an estimated €179m in 2017 and that sponsorship is now attracting 21% of total marketing investment, up 7% post-recession.

“Building on the strong momentum evidenced in 2017, sponsors and rights holders in Ireland are confident that demand will continue into 2018 – despite concerns around forces such as Brexit, ethical issues in sport, and legislative threats regarding certain categories of sponsorship. The upward investment in Ireland mirrors a similar picture we are seeing more widely for sponsorship across the Eurozone, albeit at a higher rate in Ireland,” says John Trainor, CEO and founder of Onside.

The survey notes that while there is no one sector driving the overall strong performance, and the breadth of the expansion footprint is wide with 75% of the top four sectors expected to increase spend in 2018.

“Significantly, more acquisition than exits from sponsorship arrangements are planned for 2018, indicating that the marketplace will be extremely competitive as sponsors contend for fewer available assets,” says Trainor.

Trainor also points out that “showcasing community and social responsibility will be a particularly key motivation for companies engaging in sponsorship in 2018.”

The survey also shows that sponsorship professionals voted Vodafone’s partnership with the IRFU as the best sponsorship of the past year, while the IRFU, Live Nation and the GAA continue to be singled out by sponsors as leading role models of professional and innovative partners.

A huge 95% of sponsorship practitioners see the use of sports personalities to endorse a brand or company as an effective form of sponsorship, although Conor McGregor’s marketability has halved since last year. According to the industry professionals surveyed, Katie Taylor tops the most marketable personality list for 2018.

“Other ‘high rising sports stars’ in the latest ONSIDE research include GAA stars Joe Canning and Con O’Callaghan, Ireland and Leinster Rugby’s Joey Carberry and in non-sports circles Saoirse Ronan and Niall Horan,” says Trainor.

He says that globally sponsors are shying away from the FIFA World Cup which will be held in Russia later this summer. Although the Republic of Ireland failed to qualify for the tournament, this is reflected in Ireland with just over a third of sponsors seeing it as an opportunity to engage with consumers. This has fallen by 9% since Brazil’s hosting of the tournament in 2014, which was seen as a greater opportunity for customer engagement.

Reflecting on rights holders that are capturing sponsors attention through disruption and change, Trainor notes that: “progressive changes by the Guinness Pro14 expansion to new markets and the GAA new season model, including the transformation of GAA football to include a ‘Super 8’ group, have been well received to date”.

The Onside survey also highlights the fact that experiential marketing has grown as the area of innovative marketing that Irish sponsorship practitioners believe will provide the best opportunity to activate sponsorships in 2018, increasing by 10% for sponsors and 18% for rights holders. Other areas of interest are big data and live streaming, while social media marketing still remains key for rights holders.

“In terms of the bigger picture and market dynamic around the strength of ‘relationships’ between sponsors and rights holders in the industry, it is encouraging to see that in an area that ultimately succeeds or fails based on the principle of partnership spirit between both sides, the vast majority of sponsors (8 in 10) are satisfied with how this works. That parallels views from rights holders that finds just 1 in 3 believe sponsors are in-tune with them and what is involved in running their organisations. Opportunities to bridge any gaps here may be addressed by rights holders who, in the view of sponsors, might provide more access to data on fanbases and audiences, something that will be even more challenging post GDPR roll-out this year. Rights holders ask back to sponsors is to activate their sponsorships more, with 9 in 10 rights holders indicating that there is room for sponsors to do more in this regard, says Trainor.

“The big challenge sponsors want to overcome during the coming year is how to achieve cut through in an increasingly cluttered environment and this needs to result in exciting and innovative activations for consumers. It will also see sponsors exploring existing or new sponsorship rights in a fresh way, with real opportunity in spaces from GAA County Boards to Hockey and Opera to landmark events such as the World Meeting of Families this summer,” he concludes.