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Sponsor Survey Says 2022 Looking Good for Sports Events and Teams

Caravel Marketing, organizers of last month’s Sponsorship Mastery Summit—a virtual conference aimed at helping people do a better job of selling sponsorship for events, nonprofits, entertainment and sports—shared with the summit’s attendees results from a just-concluded survey of brand-side sponsorship managers and decision-makers.


Overall, the results point to a positive outlook from corporate partners about sponsorship spending and activity next year. The majority of respondents, 52 percent, said budgets for sponsorship would increase for 2022. Only 16 percent projected a decrease in spending, while the remaining 32 percent indicated they would keep sponsorship dollars at 2021 levels.


Extending a long-term trend in the industry, sponsors indicated that while spending would grow, the number of properties sponsored would shrink. The average number of properties sponsors anticipate partnering with next year is 7.9, down from 9.7 in the same survey a year ago. Brands continue to want to build deeper relationships with a select number of partners rather than blanket the marketplace with deals.


The sports sector fared well when sponsors were asked about “property types of interest” for the coming year.


Sports events topped the list, with 32 percent of sponsors indicating interest. Esports—which along with collegiate sports gained at least five percentage points from 2020’s survey—was selected by 28 percent of brands (fourth behind arts & cultural properties and entertainment). Pro sports were fifth on the list at 27 percent and collegiate sports were sixth at 22 percent.


Most non-sports categories did not fare well in the survey, with fairs & festivals, parks & recreation and—quite surprisingly—cause-related rightsholders all seeing a decrease of five percentage points or more from last year.


The most likely reason for the preference for sports? Having experienced a year in which early optimism about completely emerging from the pandemic has been met by public health setbacks, marketers likely believe there is more stability in the sports sector, allowing it to better persevere through still-turbulent times.


Couple that with recognition that sports properties typically have more resources and larger organizations that enable them to better work with and support partners, and it’s easy to see why sports property ties have climbed sponsors’ priority lists.


Outside of those results, the survey’s most interesting finding was brands’ response to identifying the most valuable property-provided services. Number one, selected by 33 percent of respondents, was “program execution”—which is arguably not a service—followed by “creative services and production” at number two (30 percent).


Properties should be on alert that sponsors place a higher value now than ever before on partners who serve as pseudo ad agencies, most likely reflecting the importance of digital content.

Rightsholders should also note that sponsors said one of the least valuable property service was “recap reports” (19 percent). Why would a service that was at the top of the list for decades in previous industry surveys fall to the bottom?


I’m confident the answer is that post-sponsorship reporting has not kept up with the times. Sponsors today expect recaps to include meaningful data that will help them determine ROO or ROI. Unfortunately many properties—especially outside of sports—continue to provide reports that are not much more than pictures of signage and activation.

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