Back to a Future of Double-digit Irish Sponsorship Growth in 2015

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The Irish Sponsorship market is set to return back to a future of double digit growth of 12% in 2015, reaching a new high of €152 million, according to the annual Onside Irish Sponsorship Industry Survey due for release from leading industry experts Onside Sponsorship this week.

2014 delivered significantly better than expected results for the Irish sponsorship industry, with 47% of sponsors increasing their spend last year, and 61% of rights holders in the market reporting an increase in their sponsorship revenues (7% more than had planned). The Onside annual review estimates sponsorship spend rose by 9% to €136 million last year, with 73% of sponsors in Ireland now spending more than 10% of their overall marketing and communication budget on sponsorship.

Building on this momentum, the future sponsorship outlook for 2015 is also strong, driven by the Rugby World Cup in England, wider macro economic growth, and a rise in sponsorship rights fees paid, as anticipated by 3 in 4 sponsors surveyed. John Trainor, founder and managing director of Onside notes: “While 2014 was for many right holders across Europe a year of transition in their sponsorship portfolios, 2015 will see greater attention invested by rights holders and sponsors on defining winning sponsorship deals for the next 5 years.” Beyond this year, Onside estimates expect that by 2016, sponsorship investment in Ireland could reach a high of €164 million, with 2016 UEFA Euros and Olympics, as well as a more bedded in European Rugby landscape, stimulating greater use of sponsorship rights in post-recession Ireland.

Banks are tipped by the industry survey to play a major part in this growth surge, along with healthcare and insurance sectors, while rugby, music, concerts & festivals and GAA emerged as the platforms believed to hold greatest potential, with the later seen to offer best ‘value for money’ for sponsors. The Onside consultants also point to evolving new categories to watch for beyond ‘the usual suspects’, including building / construction related sponsors, professional services firms and retail. Lifestyle Sports major new deal with Connacht Rugby and Munster Rugby’s new community based initiative with M&S were new deals in 2014 that exemplify this growing sector in sponsorship.

AIB received the highest recognition from sponsorship professionals for its revitalised GAA sponsorship in 2014, while Live Nation were recognised as stand-out rights holders for their work on sponsorships that include the 3 Arena, Bord Gáis Energy Theatre and festivals including Electric Picnic. Guinness, new sponsors of Pro12 Rugby, Musgrave (GAA), Heineken (Music and rugby), and EY (Awards) were also highly esteemed for their best in class practice overall in 2014.

Jonathan Sexton was identified by the industry as being the most marketable personality for brands in 2015, with 22% voting for the rugby star, piping Brian O’Driscoll to the post (19%). Rory McIlroy at 10 per cent (up 3%), and Katie Taylor at 9% (-3%) ranked 3rd and 4th, while Amy Huberman’s star continues to rise (+3%) as she again made up the remaining spot in Onside’s top five most marketable personalities. 53% mentioned a rugby personality, while 1 in 5 mentioned a female personality.

2 in 3 Irish sponsors see the Rugby World Cup 2015 as an opportunity to engage with their consumers, compared with 44% that saw the FIFA World Cup 2014 in this light last year. Leverage of sponsorship programmes via Hospitality is also set to see noticeable growth, with 37% of sponsors expecting to do more with this channel in 2015. Sponsor priorities in 2015 according to Trainor will include “smarter ways of unlocking the full power of content with digital and social distribution at the fore, more micro targeting and personalisation against bulls-eye fan groups and local communities, and heightened attention on sponsors’ positions around the rights and wrongs of who or what they sponsor.”

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