The strong growth in the Irish sponsorship market over the past few years looks set to slow down in 2020 according to the latest Onside Irish Sponsorship Industry Survey.
This year, Onside expects growth in the sponsorship market to slow by 8% to €242m, up from €224m in 2019.
According to Onside 50% of sponsors in Ireland increased their investment in sponsorship in 2019, contributing to an overall 80% increase in spend on sponsorship in Ireland over the past decade.
According to John Trainor, founder and CEO of Onside: “As we enter a new decade, it is clear the sponsorship marketplace is in a state of flux due mostly to social, technological and economic changes impacting all forms of business and marketing and, in particular, causing dramatic upheaval in the sports sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of all sponsorship euros”
He adds: “Sponsors and rights holders in Ireland are showing a more cautious set of plans for 2020, with for example 53% open to buying a new sponsorship asset in the year ahead, compared with 79% just 2 years ago. 46% of Irish sponsors will hold the line on spend this year, while 38% of sponsors are considering increasing spend and 16% will be decreasing spend this year, showing levels of fluctuation last seen in 2015.”
Sectors to watch in 2020, he says, IT / Technology, healthcare and energy, with banking and telcos also expected to continue to be key drivers of increasing spend this year.
“The motivations of sponsors are also expected to be reset this year in terms of higher expectations on sponsorship to deliver increased brand loyalty for 2 in 3 sponsors, but also increasingly to help businesses stimulate sales and usage of the sponsors solutions, with a record high 1 in 4 setting this as a goal for 2020,” according to the survey.
As in previous years, 7 in 10 sponsors looking for a new sponsorship in 2020 will be looking for a sports play, but for Trainor, one of the stand-out findings from this year’s industry survey is “the rise of brands seeing properties in the area of sustainability and the environment as providing top growth opportunities for sponsors.”
According to the survey, GAA has retained its lead position in terms of offering strongest potential in terms of ‘value for money’. Beyond sustainability/environment, GAA and community-focused sponsorship, e-sports rose most significantly through the ranks again in terms of being seen to offer strongest areas of opportunity this year.
Reflecting on the standard of activity produced by the collective Irish sponsorship industry last year, the survey notes that 38% of industry practitioners surveyed felt that sponsorship campaigns in Ireland in 2019 were ‘more effective’ than previous years – a drop of 19% year on year.
According to Trainor: “The drop in rights fees to activation spend ratio’s again in 2019 is likely to be a major factor creating this fall in perceived performance”. Vodafone’s partnership with the IRFU was again voted by the industry as the best sponsorship of the past year, followed by two retailer sponsorships in Aldi’s sponsorship of Irish Rugby and Lidl / Ladies Gaelic Football.
According to the sponsorship industry professionals surveyed, Katie Taylor stands clear at the top of the most marketable personality list for 2020, joined on the podium by golfer Shane Lowry and Olympic hopefuls the O’Donovan Brothers. Trainor noted that “other 2020 stars in the eyes of sponsors surveyed in the latest research that will be to the fore in consideration for brand ambassadorial campaigns include other Olympic and Paralympic prospects Rhys McClenaghan, Rory McIlroy and Ellen Keane, and rugby stars including James Ryan, Rory Best and Johnny Sexton”.
In addition, 1 in 3 sponsors see the 2020 Olympic Games and 3 in 10 sponsors see the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo as opportunities for their businesses to engage with consumers in Ireland. In comparison, 43% see the UEFA Euro 2020 Championships, which will include games at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, as an opportunity for their businesses to engage with consumers in Ireland this summer, versus 80% that saw the same tournament in France in 2016 as an opportunity for their business.
While the competitive and often cluttered environment that sponsors operate in continues to be the top challenge facing the industry, the Onside research also uncovered a significant rise in concerns within the sector regarding increasing government legislation and restrictions in this area. Up 14% over the past 12 months, 7 in 10 Irish sponsorship practitioners are now concerned by the impact of ethical issues in sport and a lack of trust in sports governing bodies.
Content marketing and PR activation will continue to rise in their importance in sponsorship activation plans this year, while Live Streaming is set to grow fastest as the area of innovative marketing that Irish rights holders believe will provide the best opportunity to activate sponsorships in 2020.
Trainor concludes: “2020 will be a milestone year for sponsorship globally, with all eyes on the Olympics and Paralympics this year, and how the Olympic movement modernizes their model while empowered athletes across the world push for enhanced rights and more commercial freedom. Looking past the 2020 horizon, this year will set the foundations for a future where sports & entertainment consumption is increasingly on mobile, gamers will take the journey into franchised competition in their tens of millions, private equity funds will get a greater taste for sport and entertainment investments, and solutions to good governance and intellectual property theft as a result of sports content piracy will reset the industry for a new generation.”