With eight 10 sponsors in Ireland considering acquiring new rights this year, the market is set to grow by 12 per cent to a new high of €201 million in 2018, the annual Onside survey shows. Onside founder and CEO John Trainor said the market grew by 10 per cent last year to an estimated €179 million, with two in three sponsors increasing spend.
It compared with the 55 per cent that had planned to at the start of last year. The review estimates that sponsorship is now attracting 21 per cent of total marketing investment, up by seven points after the recession. Growth this year is expected despite concerns about Brexit, ethical issues in sport and legislative threats to certain categories of sponsorship.
Trainor said the upward investment in Ireland mirrors a similar picture Onside is seeing more widely for sponsorship across the EU – albeit at a higher rate in Ireland. Three of the top four sectors expected to increase spend are finance-related (banking, insurance and financial services). Eight in 10 sponsors looking for a new sponsorship are eyeing up sport.
Properties in rugby and GAA are still seen as top growth opportunities. Four in 10 sponsors may consider sponsorships in the community and cause-related space, now ranked third and fourth strongest opportunity-wise. Vodafone’s partnership with the IRFU (above) was voted the best sponsorship, with the IRFU, Live Nation and the GAA as top partners.
A resounding 95 per cent of sponsors see the use of sports personalities to endorse brands as effective, although Conor McGregor’s marketability has halved since last year. Katie Taylor tops the most marketable personality list for 2018. Other rising sports stars are GAA players Joe Canning and Con O’Callaghan and Leinster rugby player Joey Carberry.
In non-sports circles Saoirse Ronan and Niall Horan top the list. Globally, sponsors are shying away from the FIFA World Cup to be held throughout Russia later this summer and this is reflected in Ireland with just over a third of sponsors seeing it as an opportunity to engage with consumers. It has fallen by nine points since Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 tournament.
Reflecting on rights holders that are capturing sponsors attention through disruption and change, Trainor says progressive changes by the Guinness Pro14 expansion to new markets and the GAA new season model, including the transformation of GAA football to include a ‘Super 8’ group, have been well received to date.
Experiential marketing has grown by 10 per cent for sponsors and 18 per cent for rights holders. Other areas of interest are big data and live streaming, while social media marketing still remains key for rights holders. Trainor says the big challenge sponsors want to overcome in the coming year is how to achieve cut through in an increasingly cluttered environment.