Irish sponsorship industry grew by 9% in 2022

John Trainor, Onside

Survey from Onside estimates there will be further growth in 2023 to surpass the €200m threshold



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17 January 2023

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The Irish sponsorship industry grew by 9% to reach €196 million in 2022 and the 17th annual Onside Irish Sponsorship Industry Survey estimates there will be further growth of 8% in 2023 to €212 million, surpassing the €200 million threshold first reached in 2018.

More than half (53%) of sponsors intend to increase their sponsorship investment levels in 2023, broadly in line with 2022 expectations, and seven in 10 expect sponsorship spending across the wider industry to increase, compared to only one in five back in 2021.

Strongest sponsorship growth opportunities in 2023 are expected to be in the broad areas of sustainability / environment, cause, community, and diversity & inclusion, while Banking and Airline brands are tipped by the survey respondents as sectors to watch for growth this year.

With Rugby World Cup 2023 on the horizon, the survey perhaps unsurprisingly found rugby as the Top sport offering opportunities for sponsors to invest in this year, while soccer made a notable return to the Top 10 areas of opportunity. Seven in 10 sponsors say their businesses see the Rugby World Cup in France as an opportunity to engage with consumers, while 43% see opportunity for their businesses around the Republic of Ireland team’s presence at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Female stars in sports and entertainment continue to dominate the list of most marketable personalities for 2023, with the top four being females. Indeed, 68% of industry professionals mentioned a female star, with Katie Taylor sharing the top spot with Ireland team captain Katie McCabe, as the soccer star jumped up the rankings from 13th place last year. The success of the Women’s National Football Team qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup also saw coach Vera Pauw and players  Amber Barrett and Niamh Fahey all making the most marketable list.

Reflecting on the improving standard of activity produced by the collective Irish sponsorship industry last year, one in three of the industry think sponsorship campaigns in Ireland were more effective in 2022 than 2021, +5% year-on-year. According to the industry professionals surveyed, Sky Ireland’s partnership with the FAI’s Women’s Team was most worthy of recognition, as Lidl and AIG’s ties with Gaelic games stood alongside Vodafone and Bank of Ireland’s rugby partnerships as perceived  best-in-class of ‘22. KPMG’s new partnership with the Women’s Irish Open golf was also a notable new entry to this year’s list.

Sport also dominates the survey list of the most effective rights holder partners in the eyes of sponsors, with the IRFU leading the line alongside the GAA, the FAI, and Aviva Stadium. They are joined on that list this year by Live Nation, who managed the full re-opening of a wide portfolio of venue and outdoor festival partnership properties in 2022.

Video sharing platforms are expected to be the big risers among activation channels in 2023, comfortably sitting in top spot with 76% of sponsors expecting to use more of these platforms to leverage sponsorship programs in the coming year, an increase of 22% from last year.

John Trainor, founder and CEO of Onside: “Despite strong concerns amongst three in 10 sponsorship industry practitioners that feel that the cost-of-living crisis will have a significant negative impact on the sports industry in Ireland, we know brands that maintain their investment in sponsorship during tough times reap the rewards in the long-run. While the instinct may be to cut back on sponsorship and activation, astute CMO’s and marketers will dive into the right data, adapt their approach, and ensure their CEO and CFO colleagues are well-informed of the real return-on investment they are delivering.”

Trainor adds: “There will still be significant competition for available sponsorship assets in 2023, with demand for premium properties continuing to outstrip supply, although this has softened slightly compared to last year. Six in 10 sponsors will be looking for new properties in 2023, a drop of 7% on last year and 47% are looking to drop out of existing partnerships, up 12% year on year.”

Meanwhile, recent public research produced by Onside in parallel to the industry survey found that  two in three of the Irish public believed that sponsors of the 2022 FIFA World Cup would be right to turn  down or off their sponsorship of the tournament due to concerns over Qatar’s human rights record  and stance on the LGBTQ+ community.

Trainor concludes: “As controversy and resultant public opinion and backlash around sponsorships linked to Russian and Qatar-based events remained a  consistent theme throughout 2022, it is no surprise that eight in 10 rights holders in Ireland agreed that  public opinion impacts the brands they will consider partnering with in 2023. The importance of public approval for sponsorships has increased significantly in the last 12 months, highlighting the tightrope that sponsors and rights holders will walk when developing partnerships in the year ahead.”



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