The sports sponsorship market is a goliath industry, worth an estimated 57 billion in 2020. Naturally, a market with such a large scope must evolve over time to maximize its impact and grow year over year.
James Paul Adams (also known as Beau Adams) of Cypress, Texas—founder of Breakout Athletic Network—recognizes that the sports sponsorship industry is ripe for several changes as key trends work in tandem to revolutionize the space. Here, James Paul Adams explores a few predictions for the evolution of sports sponsorship.
Human Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility Take Center Stage
Recently, there has been ongoing conversation regarding corporate social responsibility and how companies should be taking all of the steps necessary to prioritize sustainable goals. James Paul Adams maintains that this trend will continue in the realm of sports sponsorship as companies and athletes invest in causes that are close to them.
For example, the prioritization of social causes has been evident in sports at the highest level already, with the Beijing Olympic Games of this past February and the Qatar FIFA World Cup standing out as clear example where organizations have felt pressures to address numerous environmental and human rights issues.
As companies look into more ways to show that they are making changes with our world in mind, we can expect that this message will be accompanied by partnerships with athletes who share similar stances. It has already been shown that the average consumer wants to purchase from companies who publicly share similar philosophies to them, and bolder stances in the sponsorship industry will be a powerful tool for garnering fan support.
Advancing Technology Will Give Way for New Sponsorship Opportunities
As a sports industry expert who specializes in digital solutions, James Paul Adams recognizes that we are far from finished seeing the sustained results of digital disruption and tech innovation. Instead, we can expect that the advancing technological innovations will pave the way for many big changes within the sports industry — and sponsorship stands out as an industry already ripe for change.
Heidi Browning, Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Executive Vice President of the NHL has spoken to how tools such as Web 3.0, creator platforms, and social audio stand at the intersection of data, fandom, and culture and will have a profound impact on the evolution of sports sponsorship opportunities. Fans are eager for new ways to connect around their passions, and brands recognize that the ones who prioritize this finding most successfully will have the most success in the sponsorship space.
Creator platforms are of particular interest to James as he evaluates the future of sports sponsorship, and he maintains that creators will fill an important role in the pipeline for creating content for brands and bringing awareness to events in the space. These platforms will be crucial for athletes as well as they will serve as a way for companies to build rapport with popular players and access their fan bases through sponsorship.
Crypto Grows as a Major Player in Sports Sponsorship
Within the past few years, crypto has grown in influence within the sports space and the world of sponsorship is no different. Currently there are as many as 230 existing sponsorship agreements between cryptocurrency firms and there was a 488% increase in such deals from 2020 to 2021.
Soccer has proven to the sport most impacted by the boom of crypto’s popularity as of late. In 2021, 79 European soccer agreements were signed with crypto firms. Furthermore, 46% of clubs in Europe’s top five leagues in France, England, Italy, Spain and Germany have already taken the plunge to sell sponsorship rights to crypto industry players. FIFA has also agreed to a deal with the Singapore-based crypto company Crypto.com ahead of the 2022 Qatar World Cup, showing that the sport is ready to bring its partnerships to the international stage in 2022 and beyond.
James Paul Adams notes that it is a bit early to tell exactly what the shift to crypto partnerships in the sponsorship industry will have on factors such as product endorsements and the implementation of technology to streamline existing processes. However, we can expect that these partnerships will bolster the existing crypto industry and likely lead to some interesting technology that will innovate existing digital platforms used for sponsorship purposes.
A Renewed Focus on Women’s Sports
When addressing women’s sports in a contemporary context, it is important to note that there is a lot of conversation relating to sponsorship and investments in the space. Many have drawn attention to the fact that women sports just do not seem to get the same amount of love as men’s sports, especially in areas such as funding and ongoing investments. Some women’s basketball fans may remember when the NCAA made news for the disparities between what female athletes and male athletes received at the 2021 tournament.
Luckily, things are already starting to change, and we expect that sponsorship will only increase in the present. Not just because it is the right thing to do, either—as there is notably a growing demand for more female faces in the sponsorship space.
At an international level, big companies are making strides to contribute to partnerships in women’s sports. In February, LinkedIn connected with the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 alongside existing partners such as Pandora, Starling Bank, and the LEGO Group. Furthermore, fans are growing more interested in women’s sports. Data shows that National Women’s Soccer League viewership went up 493% from 2020 to 2022. Similarly, unbundled sponsorship investment in women’s sports is estimated to rise 146% from 3021 to 2022, further reflecting growing fan interest.
One of the clear benefits for expanded sports sponsorship opportunities for women athletes is that it can open the conversation for better compensation and a more inclusive environment for talent in female leagues.
What Will Decide the Future of Sports Sponsorship?
While there are a wide variety of trends currently working to revolutionize sports sponsorship, one thing that each has in common is that they are largely in the hands of the fans. This is because they are the common denominator when evaluating trends that will continue throughout 2022 and beyond. The future looks bright for sponsorship, and as brands harness the powers of digital innovation a renewed focus on ethics, we can certainly expect that we will see a great set of options for athletes hoping to expand their scope.