Ireland’s sponsorship market shrunk by 24 per cent last year but a leading expert in the field, John Trainor of the Onside agency, predicts investment by business is set for a return to growth of seven per cent this year to reach €182m. Onside’s 15th annual survey shows that €54m was struck €54m off the size of the sponsorship market in Ireland last year.
A total of €170m was spent in 2020, with seven in 10 sponsors in Ireland cutting budgets, most of whom blamed the pandemic. The scale of the Covid-19 effect is evident in the fact that only 16 per cent of sponsors had planned to reduce their sponsorship spend last year before the pandemic struck. Trainor said the industry was showing good resilience.
“The flexibility that rights holders and brands have shown in the past 12 months bodes well for a market recovery. While six in 10 sponsors have already entered difficult negotiations with their partners on how to account for the impact of Covid on their agreements, the overall ratings of the organisations that they sponsor is the highest on record,” he added.
Onside found that 41 per cent of sponsors plan to increase sponsorship spend this year, compared with 38 per cent a year ago. However, the report flags that the pandemic is having a near-term impact internationally in terms of downward pressure on the value of rights.
The consultants note that under intense pressure to bring in revenue absent due to the inability to sell tickets, many properties in mature sponsorship markets, particularly those below the top-tier national sports level, have agreed to sponsorship deals at rates half of what they would have got pre-Covid.
Some 63 per cent of sponsors expect fees to fall in 2021 and although those conditions will ease with the expected return of fans later in 2021, Trainor says that previous experience with price elasticity in sponsorship indicates fees will not return to pre-2020 levels.
Vodafone’s partnership with the IRFU was again voted by the industry as the year’s best sponsorship, followed by the likes of SuperValu, Lidl, AIB, Bank of Ireland, FBD, Bord Gáis Energy and Electric Ireland. In the public vote, Guinness was the most admired sponsor and boxer Katie Taylor stretched her lead by 18 per cent as the most marketable personality.
Paralympic hopeful Ellen Keane and boxer Kellie Harrington also contributed to the growing numbers of female talent making up this year’s top 10 ambassadorial prospects. Trainor noted that there was a swing towards non-sports talent seen as offering potential for brand ambassadorial campaigns, including Ryan Tubridy, Paul Mescal and Amy Huberman.
Three in four sponsorship are optimistic that the sports industry will recover from the impact of Covid-19 witr in the next two years. Social media and content marketing will lead in importance in sponsorship activation plans this year, while business to business (B2B) is set to grow fastest as the area of marketing that Irish sponsors plan to do more of this year.