Future Trends In Sponsorship

Based on our work with a large number of U.S. and global sponsors, here are our top four trends to watch in sponsorships over the next five to ten years.

1. Growth in social and mobile media will change sponsorship activation plans forever.

Five years ago clients were warned to begin to abandon print media and PR around a sponsorship since sports fans were making a wholesale switch to consuming sports information online, due to the far greater immediacy and richer content available.

REvolution's warning now is to begin to abandon traditional .com advertising support since sports fans are quickly moving to social media (Facebook/Twitter/blogs) and mobile media (iPhone apps). These media offer even greater immediacy and ease of access than traditional websites. Agencies that can get ahead of the curve and build in social/mobile media activation to sponsorship deals will prosper.

2. The present global recession will have no long-term impact on the sponsorship market.

Many of the commentators who followed sports business within the past decade have issued gloomy prognostications that the current recession marks "the death of corporate entertainment" or, at best, they predict a long-term negative correction of its pricing across the board.

REvolution's perspective is based on the expertise of its executives -- this is the third global economic downturn through which they have tracked the market -- and the current thought is, that it is extremely unlikely by 2011 there will be any lasting impact of the recent recession. If there is, it would be a marked departure from previous downturns. B2B corporate entertainment will return once the glare of the public spotlight has passed elsewhere, and the financial sector has recovered fully. In regards to pricing, history suggests that pent-up demand to spend as a downturn ends tends to actually increase sponsorship prices somewhat, through competition for the better deals.

3. The sponsorship industry will become more data-driven and accountable.

Twenty years ago only a handful of sponsorships were purchased based on sound marketing reason or were expected to fulfill marketing objectives. Today, rising prices have driven most sports sponsorships to be purchased with some form of research or goals. Research techniques have advanced to the point where sponsorship ROI can be measured with the same accuracy as advertising.

Within the next five years sponsor demands and rising prices will force each of the major leagues to offer independent research within their sponsorship contracts. It is likely that more sophisticated sponsors will demand performance clauses based on such research.

4. Globalization of sports brands/companies will accelerate.

Aon's $125MM four-year deal to become the shirt sponsor of Manchester United demonstrates that ManU is now the top global sports brand -- even if, very few Americans have ever heard of the Club, and in spite of few U.S. followers of this soccer team. The deal was done primarily to grow Aon's brand in Asia. More and more deals will be made by U.S.-based brands in sports which dominate the global sports scene, such as soccer and Formula One.

Again, the growth in digital media -- which is not subject to any national broadcasting rights -- will only accelerate this globalization. The increase in the ethnic population of the U.S., to the point at which Hispanics will account for a third of the population by 2035, will also increase the popularity of global sports, such as soccer within the U.S.

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