Insight: Growth forecast for sponsorship in 2019 but urgent need to prove business return- MKTG

The sponsorship market is established, growing and multifunctional with new opportunities being created and new audiences reached, catering for a rising appetite for experiences over things. These were some of the findings from this year’s MKTG Frontier report, conducted in association with Think! Sponsorship and the European Sponsorship Association.

“Frontier 2019” is based on a survey of over 300 sponsorship professionals in the sports and entertainment industry worldwide to understand key market drivers and current thinking, as well as determine future trends.

The survey revealed that 50% of respondents are expecting to see growth in sponsorship this year, particularly in new areas such as women’s sport.

However, evaluation remains a key challenge; with only 19% of respondents confident they can measure return on investment.  This figure is unchanged year on year suggesting an urgent need for the industry to develop key metrics and prove business return.

The research also revealed that two thirds of respondents believe brands are now considering sponsorship as an essential part of marketing mix, with 90% of respondents believing it works best when combined with other marketing channels and three quarters of brands demanding exclusive digital and social content as part of the sponsorship package.

Some of the key trends uncovered by the research include:

Multifunctional – Sponsorship can reach multiple and niche audiences through a broad variety of traditional and new sponsorship opportunities. For example, an increased interest around women’s sport with over 50% of respondents agreeing women’s sport is growing, and 70% having seen an increase in media coverage of women’s sport. Sponsorship can also deliver on a brand’s vision, positioning and internal-facing objectives.

Multimediafication –This describes the combining of different platforms to amplify assets. 80% agree that streaming and OTT channels are changing the way sport is consumed. The key channels for amplifying assets are: Social Media, Advertising, PR, Websites, Direct Marketing and CSR.

Exclusive content is king – Exclusivity of assets is of increasing importance to an ‘experience hungry’ audience. 72% want access to money can’t buy experiences. Social media is now the primary content platform with 75% of brands wanting exclusive social and digital content.

Being real and virtual –84% of audiences are demanding experiences rather than things and 85% agree online communities are widening the reach and connection with fans

Proof points– Only 19% are confident they can measure return on investment, whilst only 11% are confident they can prove value of talent IP to a brand.

Sandra Greer, Insight Director at MKTG commented: “Sponsorship is sophisticated, multi-functional and continuing to grow. We are seeing an increase in the combination of different platforms, with sponsorship working best when utilised within the overall advertising mix.  It is catering for an experience-hungry audience and there is a rising call from brands for exclusive and tailored content as part of their sponsorship agreement.

Sponsorship’s continuing growth looks assured as more brands wake up to its full potential in areas ranging from CSR goals to engaging with employees.  There is a real need though to prove the effectiveness of sponsorship though.  Despite agencies like MKTG having clear measurement and evaluation tools for sponsorship, the industry has made little progress since last year in addressing the proof points to demonstrate the benefits sponsorship brings to the bottom line. If this can change, we are likely to see even swifter growth in the market.”

About the research

Frontier 2019 research was conducted across a base of over 300 industry professionals in over twenty different countries from EMEA, North, South and Central America and APAC.

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