As we embark on the start of a new year, this blog outlines trends which we believe will dominate the sponsorship industry throughout the course of 2022. There are five key trends that we see leading the next 12 months; wellbeing expansion, community support, live experience demand, enhanced data effectiveness, increased athlete associations.
Whilst wellbeing is not a new trend, it is one that has been dominated by the big sportswear and tech brands in more recent times, however this wellbeing trend is due to expand more broadly to brands who do not traditionally sit within this space. With 2/3 of us being more conscious of looking after our physical and mental health as a result of the pandemic (1), there is greater momentum towards society being healthier. We are increasingly expecting our brands to play a more active role in our health and wellbeing journey with 65% of consumers being more likely to buy from companies with a strong health mandate across their whole product portfolio (2). As a result, consumers will reward those brands who use their sponsorships to enable them to have more active and healthy lifestyles. The opportunity for sponsors within sport is that they sit within a territory which naturally promotes a healthy lifestyle. In order to capitalise on this trend, these sponsoring brands now need to explore how they bring this positioning to life for their consumers who have high expectations of the brands they invest in.
Community sponsorship initiatives have often been the preserve of local businesses who have a personal connection. Unfortunately, as small businesses struggle financially and governments repay the debts incurred during the pandemic, there will be cuts in funding which will hit grassroots sport particularly hard. It is estimated that British grassroots sport is facing a £700m funding deficit due to Covid-19 (3). However, with 55% of UK consumers believing that “it’s important to me that the brands I buy from are committed to making our society better” (4) we are noticing a trend that larger brands are now understanding that they need to impact this territory more effectively in order to complement their national and international sponsorship rights. With broader brand positioning trends moving from global to local, this presents all brands with an opportunity to make serious inroads into this space. However, it is not an easy territory to conquer due to its scale and complexity, therefore a grassroots strategy needs sound planning rather than just being an afterthought or an initiative which can dress up the end of year shareholder report. When undertaken correctly, accessing the 22 million UK grassroots sports club members in a highly targeted manner can be incredibly effective.
Live Experience Demand
During the last two years, we have come to realise that our love of live events with our friends should not be taken for granted. We now relish attending large sports and music experiences far more than pre-pandemic. 77% of Generation Z are feeling very experimental and are likely to push the boundaries when considering what events to attend in 2022 onwards (5). Accordingly, brands now have the potential to reap so much more value from associations with these events, especially if they can demonstrate their intrinsic value in supporting these occasions. There has never been a more important time for brands to ensure that their strategic positioning within live sponsored events is correctly developed. The positivity and goodwill from fans attending events over the next 12 months (hopefully!) will be overwhelming as we celebrate the joy of these occasions with those closest to us
Enhanced Data Effectiveness
We’re not claiming the effective use of data is new, and this certainly isn’t the first trend predictor that has revealed that the use of data will be important over the forthcoming 12 months, however there is a fundamental industry-wide issue with data usage. Whilst many have been long predicting that it is the new oil, very few businesses have the capability to process and use data effectively; too much information is often unusable as marketers don’t know how to effectively personalise messaging to their consumers. Segmentation modelling likes to group us together, however we still have individual tastes, interest and drivers. With 80% of consumers saying that they’d ‘be more likely to do business with a brand that provides a personalised experience’ (6), this presents a real opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves from competitors. However, this cannot be lazy harvesting of email addresses in ‘a win tickets’ mechanic, which we see too often, as this is a thoroughly untargeted approach where the vast majority of entrants don’t experience any benefit. Brands need to add genuine value to the consumer’s experiences around their sponsored events through demonstrating their credibility, understanding and shared values.
Increased Athlete Associations
Athletes are becoming increasingly influential relative to traditional rights holders. The increasing importance of social media has no doubt been the catalyst for this trend as we now get greater insight into the lifestyles of the personalities who excel in the live events we follow. This is also an indictment on the traditional rights holders who have been slow to evolve and create more engaging sponsorship rights for potential brands. To highlight this growth, in 2021 Cristiano Ronaldo became the first person to surpass 500 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, dwarfing his club’s (Manchester United) presence three times over. He reportedly earned over $50m in 2020 from Instagram sponsored posts (7). As a result, brands are looking to add depth and reach to their sponsorship positioning by affording athletes greater prominence within their platform strategies. Whilst this comes with the dangers and pitfalls traditionally associated with individual endorsement such as scandals, injuries and loss of form, there is increased value in using athletes in driving awareness and credibility in addition to enhancing the creative activation offering of the platform. The key to success is correct strategic creation, safeguarding brands through contingency planning during contract negotiation and fully understanding the potential for the brand through these associations.
There will undoubtedly be turbulence this year as we continue our push through the pandemic, however sponsorship will continue to be a highly effective marketing channel. Capitalising on these trends will help shape brand platforms and ensure success over the next 12 months irrespective of any challenges which may come our way.
- GWI Consumer insights
- NielsenIQ Global Health & Wellness Study of 17 markets, September 2021
- Guardian 5th May 2020
- Kantar/William Grant & Son Trending 2021