The number of new reported sponsorship deals in Ireland doubled in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period last year, exceeding the comparable pre-Covid-19 level recorded in 2019 by 8%, a new study by Onside sponsorship consultants indicates. Despite a cautious return to live sports events, sport continues to dominate sponsorship activity.
Onside reports that 84 per cent of deals so far this year were in the sports field. Financial and 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 new alignment with Irish Hockey aiding the recovery.
Commenting on trends at play so far this year, Onside founder and CEO John Trainor said that the year opened positively with 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.
TikTok established ties with the St. Patrick’s Festival, while Transport for Ireland (TFI) supported Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride. Six in ten of the new deals came in the second quarter, with a rise in community, cause-related and broadcast sponsorships, including Circle K securing the rights for RTÉ’s coverage of the upcoming Olympic Games.
Reflecting the shift towards more purpose-driven investment, 71 per cent of Irish people mentioned a non-sports sponsorship that appealed to them in the last quarter, six points up on last year. “There’s a growing alignment in businesses between sponsorship and corporate social responsibility being fuelled by consumers’ and employees’ higher expectations of brands, as doing good is now a must rather than nice to do strategy,” Trainor said.
Stand-out businesses winning strongest public affinity in the non-sports arena in the last quarter included Electric Ireland, partners of Pieta House, and Aldi, partners with Barnardos and FoodCloud. Bank of Ireland achieved most first half growth versus 2019 in the public’s vote for stand-out sponsors across both sport and non-sport platforms.
Guinness and Vodafone remain the clear favourite sport sponsors of the Irish public in the first half of 2021, together winning the vote of three in 10 adults. British & Irish Lions Team sponsors Vodafone edged Q2 pole position among Irish females and 18-44 year olds, while 6 Nations main sponsors Guinness was top among Irish males and the 45+ market.
Trainor said challenges lie ahead 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 US around how much of sponsor inventory goes unused and what to do about it.