With the sporting world in lockdown mode at the moment, 6 in 10 members of the sports industry group Sport for Business are ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ worried about the impact the Covid-19 shock will have on sport in Ireland, according to the new ONSIDE Covid-19 Sports Impact Monitor which was released this week.
The foundation wave of the ONSIDE study developed in collaboration with Sport for Business found that the vast majority of sports industry stakeholders surveyed are concerned about the Irish economy in general (88%), with 1 in 2 being ‘extremely concerned’. While still clearly worried about the impact of Covid-19 specifically on the sports and sponsorship sectors, the levels of ‘extreme concern’ are less acute – with closer to 1 in 5 showing the highest levels of concern for impacts on sport and sponsorship.
According to John Trainor, Founder and CEO of ONSIDE: “There are a myriad of issues facing organisations in the sports sector at present, with budget constraints already impacting 78% of the industry. There are also live issues around sponsorship management processes, with the current situation impacting levels of engagement in new sponsorship opportunity discussions for 58% of stakeholders surveyed. Problems activating sponsorships have also hit 55% of organisations and at a management level, there are current issues with reviewing sponsorship contracts (38%) and maintaining relationships with partners and clients (38%).”
Looking ahead, the main challenge organisations foresee in the remainder of 2020 as a result of Covid-19 are delays in making sponsorship decisions, with 83% seeing this as a likely consequence of the crisis. 81% think that it is likely that there will be a decrease in investment on activations.
Just over half of respondents expect the current restrictions on sports and entertainment events that are in place to last until at least July / August in Ireland (52%), with a further 35% thinking they will last longer. However, this is more positive than their views on the global situation, with 49% thinking restrictions globally will be in place until the end of Q3 2020 or Q4, while a sizeable minority of 19% think it could be even longer than that.
Trainor notes: “Not surprisingly, sponsorship activations have been hugely impacted during the outbreak. 1 in 2 sponsors have already postponed or cancelled their planned activations. However, 38% are activating in an alternative way and 13% are still deciding how to play out this aspect of their wider sponsorship strategies.
For the remainder of 2020, social media is the preferred communications channel for respondents to leverage their sports activation programs, with 73% planning to use it ‘more’ for the rest of the year, followed by content marketing (59%), email marketing and PR (up 38%). Cut-backs to hospitality will be sharp, with just over half the sector anticipating cuts in spend in this area.”
Rob Hartnett, CEO at Sport for Business added that “Numerous sports sponsors and rights holders have taken positive action during the crisis and are seen as pioneer role models on how to get through the challenge. Musgrave Group and the GAA topped the poll of our members surveyed by ONSIDE for their ‘Club Together’ initiative supporting local communities. Commitment to continued support is also viewed positively, with Visa singled out for their commitment to support athletes to Tokyo in 2021 and FBD for continuing to support Team Ireland to the rescheduled Olympics.
Hartnett concludes: “2020 was set to be a milestone year for sport and sponsorship globally, with all eyes on the Olympics and Paralympics this year, and the Euro2020 soccer making its way to Dublin. The freeze put on sport’s and related sponsorship investment has created major uncertainty for everyone in the sports industry, from sponsors to right holders and agencies. ONSIDE and Sport for Business, are committed to monitoring the full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sports and sponsorship sectors and over the coming weeks we will build on this base data through future waves.”