The strong economic crisis caused by the pandemic has led to a significant contraction in investment in the sponsorship market.
A predictive survey carried out in January 2021 by StageUp e ChainOn, companies working in the fields of consulting, market research and sponsorship, analyses that in Italy the contraction in sponsorship investments reached 36% in the last year, which means 500 million fewer spending than in 2019. This due to Covid-19 and lots of events suspended or cancelled. Also, the conversion of events in digital played a big role, by lowering the sponsorship prices as a consequence of less audience and hospitality. This led to a downward of the contracts and important budget cuts by the companies. An increase of 9.8% is expected in 2021 (amounted to 976 million) but the real recovery is most likely to happen in 2022.
Is essential to point out the chance offered by the D.L n.104/2020 the so-called “Decreto Agosto” that under Article 81 foresees: "for advertising investments in sports leagues and professional clubs and amateur sports clubs an economic contribution in terms of a tax credit, by 50% of investments made from the 1st of July 2020 to the 31st of December 2020” to encourage advertising investments and sponsorship in the sports industry.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the changing process for most of the brands that invest in sponsorship, involving also the way the partnerships are activated. Users and fans have changed the way they work, travel, communicate or socialize and technology has a big presence in our everyday life. We cannot attend live sports events anymore, we spend more time at home in front of a mobile screen, pc or tablet. These behaviors are shaping a new sports sponsorships’ market, and at the same time, communication is adapting to consumer needs. For these reasons, it’s crucial to be prepared and to rely on experts to approach the market with effective strategies and cutting-edge contents.
So, what can we do to face the change?
Digital and social activities are stronger than ever, together with production of engaging contents and streaming platforms to keep in touch with the fanbase remotely. To make up for the lack of sponsors’ visibility during competitions is essential to aim at interviews, behind the scenes, documentaries and extra contents that guarantee both entertainment and brand exposure. Regarding this, it’s remarkable the potential of Applications that besides giving live score updates and exclusive contents, they became also a relevant showcase opportunity for sponsors. They represent an effective tool not only in terms of brand awareness but also for collecting data and outline the fan profile. In this direction, the 2021 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships App is a good example: through a quiz to win sponsors’ products or asking questions about users’ habits, they give the possibility to gain some points to obtain discounts on official merchandising.
Sport has indeed, an incredible ability to succeed in collecting data from the audience. The supporter, driven by his passion, is generally more likely to release personal details about his interests and habits. This is even easier thanks to many touchpoints available, such as an app, newsletters, e-commerce, membership cards, in-store sales etc. As a result, it is possible to directly connect with users on several sides and in a more effective way. Also, to add the right value to the collected data, is vital to aggregate and archive them into a dedicated database both for having a clear picture of the fanbase and to enhance the sponsorship in term of lead generation.
A recent article on IlSole24Ore regarding a Nielsen’s study, reports that after the first lockdown in March and with the later resumption of competitions in summer and fall 2020, the number of shared contents on social media increased as well as interactions (+33%). This shows both the importance of live events that catch the user attention and how useful has been sharing new creative contents to engage with people. Lastly, it underlines that among the social media, in the period January-September of 2020, the most used platforms had been Twitch and LinkedIn after Facebook (1°), YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.
According to a Nielsen’s report published a few days ago (“The Changing Value of Sponsorship"), global economies will recover at very different paces. The current vaccination campaigns all over the world will play a fundamental role. China’s economy is expected to expand by 7.9% and is going to be the fastest and the greatest globally. This will impact so much sponsorship investment in the world that over the next 10 years Chinese brands will be responsible for one-third of the growth in the sponsorship market on a global scale. Indeed, Chinese companies are investing in sports sponsorships to let their brands grow.
Esports has played a big role in absence of live sporting events and they are still very much in vogue. They represent one of the most effective ways to connect with the young generations that are interested in videogames and mobile games each day more. A Nielsen’s analysis shows that the revenues from eSports sponsorships could reach even $842 million by 2025. Additionally, this stage of social distancing, sporadic lockdowns and fan-free events are letting the eSports’ world grow and making it more attractive to brands looking for safe investments.
At the moment, the emergency state is not over yet, but the predictions let us hope for recovery and a better future. So, it will be essential to plan a smart and effective strategy and be ready.