In the face of economic uncertainty, 1 in 2 sponsors in Ireland are planning to increase their spend on sponsorship in 2019, fuelling an Irish Sponsorship market that is set to grow by 11% to €226m in 2019, according to the annual ONSIDE Irish Sponsorship Industry Survey from sponsorship experts ONSIDE.
Contributing to an overall 70% increase in spend on sponsorship in Ireland over the past decade, 2018 saw the sponsorship market grow by 14% to an estimated €204 million. 2 in 3 sponsors in Ireland increased their investment in sponsorship during last year, underpinned by a marked surge in the numbers of sponsoring companies investing close to 1 in every 4 Euros of their overall marketing and communications spend on sponsorship.
According to John Trainor, Founder and CEO of ONSIDE:
“Off the back of very strong growth evidenced in 2018, sponsors and rights holders in Ireland are cautiously confident that demand will continue into 2019 - despite concerns generally among 3 in 4 sponsors around macro forces such as Brexit, tightening marketing budgets and the clutter that comes with the increase in the number of brands using sponsorship.”
Trainor adds that
“with 67% of sponsors seeking new sponsorship opportunities, and only 40% of existing assets potentially becoming available through exits by current sponsors, 2019 will again see a competitive marketplace as sponsors jostle for a limited supply of good assets”.
Hot sectors to watch in 2019 according to the industry research are travel and airline sectors, with banking, telcos and beer also expected to be key drivers of the increasing spend this year. 7 in 10 sponsors looking for a new sponsorship in 2019 will be looking for a sports play, with properties in rugby seen as providing top growth opportunities for sponsors, and GAA offering strongest potential in terms of ‘value for money’. After Rugby and GAA, sponsorship of Concerts / Music Festivals and e-sports rose most significantly through the ranks in terms of being seen to provide strongest areas of opportunity this year.
Reflecting on the standard of activity produced by the collective Irish sponsorship industry last year, 57% of industry practitioners surveyed felt that sponsorship campaigns in Ireland in 2018 were ‘more effective’ than previous years. Vodafone’s partnership with the IRFU was again voted by the industry as the best sponsorship of the past year, followed by two female centric sponsorships by Lidl / Ladies Gaelic Football and Softco / The Women’s Hockey Team. No doubt boosted by these successes, 3 in 4 sponsors believe women’s sport in general provides a significant opportunity for sports sponsors in 2019, up 14% year on year. The "20x20“campaign, which aims to exponentially increase attendance, participation and coverage of women' sport in Ireland by 2020 has also had a strong early impact according to Trainor, with 84% of sponsorship practitioners already familiar with the initiative.
According to the industry professionals surveyed, Johnny Sexton stands clear at the top of the most marketable personality list for 2019, joined on the podium by ‘the public’s favorite’ Katie Taylor and Irish Rugby Head Coach Joe Schmidt. Trainor noted that “other 2019 stars in the eyes of sponsors surveyed in the latest research that will be to the fore in consideration for brand ambassadorial campaigns are predominantly rugby players including Conor Murray, Rory Best, Peter O’Mahony and Jordan Larmour”.
Relatedly, 1 in 2 sponsors strongly agree that the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan is an opportunity for their businesses to engage with consumers in Ireland, versus 16% that held the same view of the FIFA World Cup in Russia last summer.
Challenges to the industry uncovered by the ONSIDE research include the range of sectors that will come under increased scrutiny by government and other interest groups. In terms of self-governance, 2 in 3 rights holders in Ireland are already or likely to impose a self-imposed ban on sponsorship of their organisations by electronic cigarette companies over the next two years, compared with 1 in 2 in the case of gambling / online betting sponsors, and 4 in 10 in the case of a high fat / sugar / salt foods.
Live Streaming has grown as the area of innovative marketing that Irish sponsorship practitioners believe will provide the best opportunity to activate sponsorships in 2019, increasing by 22% for sponsors, while social media marketing still remains key for rights holders.
“Rugby at all levels will be a major driving force keeping the momentum behind Irish sponsorship strong – from the rebooted Guinness Six Nations Championship, to the Dublin hosted European LGBT rugby union tournament Union Cup in June, as the country gears up to unite in huge numbers for the Rugby World Cup. On the business side of this, deepening loyalty is a much bigger part of the game plan for sponsors in 2019 than over the past two years – both in terms of customer loyalty and employee loyalty, which will be aligned with a significantly renewed appetite for the media exposure potential of sponsorship to form three key goals of sponsorship deal doing this year”.