Following a difficult year for the Irish sponsorship industry in 2020, the number of new sponsorship deals in the first half of 2021 have doubled on the same period in 2020 and, more significantly, are up 8% on pre-Covid-19 levels recorded in the first half of 2019, according to the latest Onside Quarterly Sponsorship Review.
The research shows that sport continues to dominate sponsorship activity in Ireland, with 84% of deals so far in 2021 occurring in the sports space. Financial & Professional services businesses and food and drinks brands were most active, with new deals including global investment advisor Triton Lakes’ new sponsorship of the IRFU Sevens teams and Red Bull’s sponsorship’s alignment with Irish Hockey aiding the recovery of sports sponsorship.
According to John Trainor, founder and CEO of Onside: “2021 opened positively with a string of high-profile major deals by the rebooted FAI with SSE Airtricity, Bank of Ireland, Weetabix and DHL, while a consistent stream of local and regional GAA sponsorships followed Cork GAA’s 7-figure new deal with Sports Direct in January. Recognising the variety of new investments agreed, TikTok established major ties with the 2021 St. Patrick’s Festival, while The Transport for Ireland (TFI) network of public transport services sponsored Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride. 6 in 10 of the new deals across the sponsorship industry came in the second quarter, with a noticeable rise in community, cause related and broadcast sponsorships, including Circle K securing the rights to sponsor the coverage of the upcoming Olympic Games on RTE.”
Reflecting a shifting landscape toward more ‘purpose driven’ investment, 71% of the public called out a non-sports sponsorship that appealed to them in the last quarter, 6% higher than the same time last year. Trainor noted that: “There is a growing alignment in businesses between sponsorship and corporate social responsibility being fuelled by consumers’ and employees’ higher expectations of brands in the past year, as doing good is now a must rather than nice to do strategy. And the leaders of this evolution are being seen, with a surge so far this year in the public’s recognition of non-sports sponsorship activity in music, arts, broadcast and causes”. Other stand-out businesses winning strongest public affinity in the non-sports arena included Electric Ireland, partners of Pieta House, and Aldi, partners with Barnardos and FoodCloud.
Looking to the second half of the year, Trainor adds: “Q3 was the busiest quarter for sponsorship deals in 2019, and as major platforms like the Olympic & Paralympic Games and GAA Championships with fans prove their worth, the battle for sponsorship rights, particularly with an authentic community root, will intensify. In parallel, the Irish sponsorship market is gearing up to align with international trends that have poked their heads up in recent months including the influence of cryptocurrencies and NFTs as a new revenue-producing channel for rights holders. Trainor added that there will be challenges for the industry as the failed European Super League and Ronaldo Coca-Cola tremors work their way into new deals shaping the next generation of sponsorship contracts, while also flagging “an interesting issue that is just beginning to percolate in the U.S. around how much of sponsor inventory goes unused and what to do about it.”