Over the past decade, sponsorship consulting firm ONSIDE has polled sponsors and rights holders as part of its annual Irish Sponsorship Industry Survey, a unique benchmark of the marketplace in Ireland built from the perspectives of those who are most involved in the industry. The MII spoke with ONSIDE CEO and Founder, John Trainor, to get a sense of last year’s findings.
1) BASED ON YOUR COMPANY'S RESEARCH, WHAT WERE THE REAL STAND-OUT PERFORMANCES IN IRISH SPONSORSHIP IN 2015?
The stand-out sponsorship of 2015, according to industry professionals on both the sponsors and rights holders side of the market, was AIB’s revitalized partnership with the GAA. The sponsorship was praised for being innovative and edgy, and was really celebrated for connecting human stories with the widely-loved sports. In terms of the markets’ view on best rights holders, the top performer this past year was judged to have been the IRFU. The organization’s memorable work with Irish brands during the Rugby World Cup really helped it stand out during a year full of great sponsorships, especially in sport.
2) HOW DO YOU EXPECT THE OVERALL SPONSORSHIP MARKET IN IRELAND TO CHANGE IN 2016?
We saw a decade-high market growth of 10% in 2015, which was a year of transformation as the sponsorship industry recovered from the economic recession. The market is expected to show a more modest 5% growth in 2016, resulting in an estimated size of €158 million. The slower growth is to be expected, as double-digit market growth is not sustainable beyond the short term. With nearly 1 in 2 sponsors planning to increase their sponsorship investment this year, however, the industry is expected to continue its upward trajectory on a stable slope.
3) WHAT EVENTS DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE MOST IMPACTFUL FOR SPONSORSHIP IN IRELAND THIS YEAR?
The events expected to most greatly influence the marketplace in 2016 are the UEFA EUROs and the Olympics Games in Rio. 4 out of 5 Irish sponsors see the EUROs in France as an opportunity to engage with customers at home, which is even more than the 2 out of 3 who saw a similar opportunity around the Rugby World Cup last year. In addition, the growing popularity of golf as it returns to the K-Club and the Olympics, major new events such as the Aer Lingus American College Football Classic, and emerging music festivals are all set to create incremental investment in sponsorship rights by brands in the market this year.
4) WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES FACING INDUSTRY PRACTITIONERS IN TODAY'S MARKETPLACE?
One of the biggest challenges for sponsors has consistently been competition for rights in the marketplace, and that has peaked this year after the enormous market growth of 2015. The number of sponsors who feel that this crowded marketplace is making it increasingly difficult to differentiate their businesses has grown by nearly a third since 2015. Adding to this challenge is the difficulty for local companies to compete with large, multi-national corporations who seemingly dominate sponsorship for major events. On the rights holders’ side, industry practitioners are reporting tensions in their relationship with sponsors, beginning often with the lengthy and demanding “courtship” process of sponsorship negotiation, and extending to the sometimes insufficient sponsor commitment to fully activate the assets under agreement, leaving opportunities for customer engagement on the table.
5) FINALLY, ARE THERE ANY "HOT BUTTON" AREAS THAT YOU THINK WILL SURPRISE THE INDUSTRY IN 2016?
Telecommunications was tipped by more industry professionals than ever as an area to watch for coming into 2016. A related sector, broadcast media, is also expected to become a major player in sponsorship this year. We saw a preview of what successful broadcast sponsorship can do with the TV3 / Land Rover partnership during the Rugby World Cup, and that may have been only the beginning of a new trend in media sponsorship. In regards to what might really surprise the industry, we saw Mixed Martial Arts joined the ONSIDE Top 10 areas of opportunity for the first time in 2016 – at the same level as the Arts and ahead of some established sectors like cycling and golf. The sport’s indisputable frontman, Conor McGregor, surged in popularity this year as well, coming in second place amongst the industry’s most marketable personalities for 2016. If MMA continues on its path to becoming more entrenched in mainstream sport, it may well emerge as a “hot button” area in Irish sponsorship.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Trainor is the CEO and founder of ONSIDE. He has been a contributing member and Fellow of the Marketing Institute of Ireland for over 20 years. The team of ONSIDE consultants provide industry-acclaimed benchmarks and unique insights to more intelligently understand sponsorship across Ireland and Europe.