Introduction

Never before has the Irish sponsorship market been so competitive. A growing recognition from marketers as to the benefits of sponsorship, ensured investment increased by 8% to €134 million in 2016 in the Republic of Ireland.

Growth in Northern Ireland was similar, at 7%. Competition breeds fresh thinking; this was evident in the use of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and the continued growth of advertiser funded programming (AFP) as ways to activate sponsorship. 2016 also saw a continued increase in investment in women’s sport. This new injection of fresh thinking in sponsor
activations added demonstrable value to the experience for fans and rights holders alike. Data is a consistent theme of this report, and sponsorship is no different. Rights holders, who often rely on sponsorship revenues, will be under greater pressure to offer a measurable return on investment, detailed audience knowledge and the ability to segment and target. In 2017, the larger rights holders in the market will invest in the technology and expertise to deliver this service. This investment will also enable them to move away from providing sponsors with generic rights
schedules to offering solutions tailored to their business challenges.

Littlewoods-GAA-1068x623Data sophistication will facilitate this shift. Enhanced data capabilities will also create the opportunity for rights holders to maximise commercial revenues beyond sponsorship, through targeted ticketing and merchandise sales, for example. At the same time, sponsors will continue to be under pressure to attribute a commercial return to their sponsorship investments. Therefore, data will become integral to decision-making in 2017.
In 2017, we expect investment in sponsorship rights to increase by 5% to €141 million in the Republic of Ireland, driven by the wider appreciation of the role that sponsorship can play within the marketing mix. Littlewoods’ new sponsorship of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship and Camogie National League illustrates how the range of brands engaging in sponsorship is growing. The deal is the first between an online retailer and a major sports rights holder in this market. In Northern Ireland, we forecast an increase of just over 3% in investment levels.
The Six Nations, the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand and the Women’s Rugby World Cup are likely to further enhance rugby’s popularity across the island in 2017.

FESTIVAL

However, while sport in general will continue to make up the majority of sponsorship investment, we expect more marketers to look to the arts, ‘cause’ and community sectors as a means of growing share of voice.
Overall, greater competition and investment in data resources will serve to provide heightened experiences for fans and therefore stronger measurable commercial return to sponsors in 2017.