The current UK sponsorship landscape is in a period of transition, as sponsorship looks to find its place within the broader marketing and business mix.  

That said, the marketplace is set to grow (according to the World Advertising Research Centre) by 4.9% to $65.8bn globally; the majority being invested in sport, with its engaged multi-screen audiences.

This market growth is being driven by a couple of factors - the big rights owners are getting bigger and new regions and territories are seeing significant investment around their major sporting properties and other events such as the FIFA World Cup in Russia, Rugby World Cup 2019 and Olympics 2020 in Tokyo, the Expo 2020 Dubai and the Qatar FIFA World Cup in 2022.

For other rights holders caught in the middle ground, it’s a challenging environment and one they are fighting hard to find their way in.

What does this mean?

The market place is awash with properties trying to better understand their value proposition and their place in the broader mix. It’s a buyer’s market and this represents a great opportunity for brands in the marketplace to invest effectively in partnerships.

We are seeing more deals in the £75-£250k bracket than the higher six and seven figure commitments that were plentiful a few years ago. The big deals are still there but just less frequent.

We are also seeing shorter term commitments as sponsorship and partnerships align with the faster moving and more agile parts of the marketing mix, particularly in the digital space.


So why sponsorship and what does the opportunity look like for brands?

We’ve seen a seismic shift in spend to digital and social channels over the last decade from brands, and rightly so. Targeted, cost effective and measurable – what’s not to like? Importantly though, it represents an opportunity to further amplify and heighten the engaged experience for fans interacting with their passions, with multi-device interaction being prevalent with today’s modern sport and entertainment fan.

I remember writing an article in the early 2000s about digital being the perfect accompaniment to sponsorship, as it enabled the fan journey to continue, and it continues to represent a rich opportunity for brands to build more meaningful relationships with fans.

In the past 15 years this has not changed; brands appear to be investing more and more in unique content to engage their audiences, choosing not to invest in sponsorship as the catalyst for deeper and more meaningful engagement with these audiences. Consumers have come to expect more from a brand and its partnership activation and whilst there are many great examples of brands leveraging major events and moments in time unofficially, many fall flat and come across as inauthentic – people see right through this.

Some media advisors are informing many of these decisions, focusing more on the value of reach than engagement and brand love. If it’s purely reach that a business is after, the sponsorship conversation and focus is in the wrong place.            

Here in lies my perspective that whilst the current social landscape is great in so many ways, it is fleeting; consume, like, share, maybe interact and move on to the next…. How many pieces of content endure? How many recent social shares have gone down in the history books? How many ‘likes’ fuel your excitement for the coming weekend’s match or gig? The likelihood is those pieces of content that are successful build around the anticipation for that moment in time; the big match or event that ‘fans’ live and breathe for.

These sporting or entertainment moments can stay with us for life and move us deeply.  

These are real, live (in the majority) events that are meaningful and deep rooted. The key differentiator is that ‘fans’ are just that – emotionally connected and engaged at their core, driven through passion. Investing and extending themselves beyond their means to buy their season ticket, to take part in their next challenge or to experience their favourite artists. This deep-rooted interest could be deemed love – a high level of engagement and loyalty, providing shared experiences and a sense of belonging (particularly in sport) that forms part of their DNA.

These passions provide moments that can inspire fans and future generations. Take 1966 – a moment we still celebrate and desperately want to replicate as a collective.

So, sponsorship’s place in the marketing mix is unique and can evoke brand love and loyalty like no other. It represents an opportunity for brands to be more than a fleeting ‘like’ but an opportunity to foster brand warmth, positivity and loyalty. When executed effectively it becomes core to a brand story and can help drive sales, retention and internal engagement that all have a direct positive budget impact for a business. In short, sponsorship can accelerate a brand, utilising and amplifying all existing marketing and business resources in a manner that no other medium can.

Sponsorship will endure and will grow in value again. Now more than ever is an opportunity for brands and businesses to get involved.


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