2015 was the strongest year for sponsorship in some time. Investment increased by 11% in the Republic of Ireland to €124 million and by 10% in Northern Ireland to £8.6 (€11.2) million. Rights acquisition spend increased with many new deals and renewals; AIB became the first club and county sponsor of the GAA, Electric Ireland partnered with Team Ireland, Three renewed its successful partnership with the FAI and the SSE Arena (formerly the Odyssey) was unveiled in Belfast. Notably, more sponsors have grasped the importance of allocating suitable funds to activate their rights and the focus on activation, as the key route to investment return, was particularly evident. Aer Lingus and its IRFU partnership is one to highlight here as exceptional. Looking ahead to 2016, we expect investment in sponsorship rights to increase by 6.5% in the Republic, driven by tier one properties, in particular. Smaller rights holders will still struggle to achieve equivalent increases. In NI, after a better year than expected in 2015, we forecast an increase of just over 5%.
In 2015, the car market didn’t just return to sponsorship, it completely embraced it. Deals struck included Nissan & the Ray Darcy Show, Renault & the Late Late Show, Windsor Motors & Leinster Rugby, Audi & the Dublin International Film Festival and Land Rover & the Rugby World Cup. A highlight of 2015, the Rugby World Cup was a major success, driving record TV viewing and attendances at games. Sponsors of the tournament saw a major departure in rights packaging with official partners buying specific ‘ownable’ assets, purpose made for ready activation. Heineken’s Coin Flip was an excellent example of this, cleverly activated with a partnership on TV3’s The Sin Bin.
A hugely exciting year lies ahead in 2016. We will see superior activation strategies as marketers demand better use of their assets and rights holders create more bespoke rights packages, fitting more naturally with sponsors’ objectives. It is now well appreciated that sponsorship is one of the most powerful marketing platforms available. With multiple music and arts festivals, the Olympics and Euro 2016 to look forward to, in addition to the staples of the All Ireland and the RBS Six Nations, it is no wonder the sponsorship world is alive with excitement.
The big issue for the industry remains the lack of robust measurement and dearth of performance related data. This is a failing on all sides, but return on investment (ROI) must be the remit of the sponsor. Without doubt, the rights holder should provide performance data of its own, but real ROI is matched to business objectives and only a sponsor can measure this effectively.
Stay tuned to the Wire for more sponsorship insights from our Outlook 2016. Part 1/4.