Sponsorship in Ireland to Break €200m mark for first time in 2018


With 8 in 10 sponsors in Ireland considering acquiring new sponsorship rights in 2018, the Irish Sponsorship market is set to grow by 12% to a new high of €201m in 2018, according to the annual ONSIDE Sponsorship Ireland Industry Survey.

2017 saw the Irish Sponsorship market grow 10% to an estimated €179 million, with 2 in 3 sponsors increasing investment in sponsorship during last year, compared with the 55% that had planned to at the start of the year. The ONSIDE annual review estimates that sponsorship is now attracting 21% of total marketing investment, up 7% post-recession.

According to John Trainor, Founder and CEO of ONSIDE: “Building on the strong momentum evidenced in 2017, sponsors and rights holders in Ireland are confident that demand will continue into 2018 - despite concerns around forces such as Brexit, ethical issues in sport, and legislative threats regarding certain categories of sponsorship. The upward investment in Ireland mirrors a similar picture we are seeing more widely for sponsorship across the Eurozone, albeit at a higher rate in Ireland.”

ONSIDE notes that while there is no one sector driving the overall strong performance, and the breadth of the expansion footprint is wide, 3 of the top 4 sectors expected to increase spend in 2018 are finance-related (banking, insurance and financial services).  8 in 10 sponsors looking for a new sponsorship in 2018 will be looking for a sports play, with properties in rugby and GAA still seen as top growth opportunities for sponsorship in Ireland.

Meanwhile, 4 in 10 sponsors will be considering sponsorships in the community and cause-related space, now ranked third and fourth strongest opportunity areas this year.  Trainor notes that “showcasing community and social responsibility will be a particularly key motivation for companies engaging in sponsorship in 2018.”

The industry voted Vodafone’s partnership with the IRFU as the best Ireland sponsorship of the past year, while the IRFU, Live Nation and the GAA continue to be singled out by sponsors as leading role models of professional and innovative partners.

A huge 95% of sponsorship practitioners see the use of sports personalities to endorse a brand or company as an effective form of sponsorship, although Conor McGregor’s marketability has halved since last year.  According to the industry professionals surveyed, Katie Taylor tops the most marketable personality list for 2018. Other ‘high rising sports stars’ in the latest ONSIDE research include GAA stars Joe Canning and Con O’Callaghan, Ireland and Leinster Rugby’s Joey Carberry and in non-sports circles Saoirse Ronan and Niall Horan. 

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 in Ireland.  This has fallen by 9% since Brazil’s hosting of the tournament in 2014, which was seen as a greater opportunity for customer engagement. 

Reflecting on rights holders that are capturing sponsors attention through disruption and change, Trainor notes that: “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 as the area of innovative marketing that Irish sponsorship practitioners believe will provide the best opportunity to activate sponsorships in 2018, increasing by 10% for sponsors and 18% for rights holders.  Other areas of interest are big data and live streaming, while social media marketing still remains key for rights holders. 

Trainor concludes: “The BIG challenge sponsors want to overcome during the coming year is how to achieve cut through in an increasingly cluttered environment and this needs to result in exciting and innovative activations for consumers. It will also see sponsors exploring existing or new sponsorship rights in a fresh way, with real opportunity in spaces from GAA County Boards to Hockey and Opera to landmark events such as the World Meeting of Families this summer.”