The total value of the European sponsorship market increased 17.8 per cent to €27.85 billion (US$30.77 billion) in 2021, though is yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest ESA Sponsorship Market Overview.
The annual study from the European Sponsorship Association (ESA) and Nielsen Sports found that while the market showed signs of recovery last year, it was still 9.3 per cent below the 2019 level of €30.69 billion (US$33.9 billion). The level for 2021 was also only marginally above the 2017 figure of €27.69 billion (US$30.59 billion).
The European sponsorship market’s value fell 23 per cent in 2020, marking the first time it had dropped in almost a decade.
The various markets recovered differently, the study adds. The UK, for example, saw the non-sports sector plummet in 2020, while sports sponsorship barely shrunk. As a result, the value of sports sponsorship in 2021 rose only four per cent year-over-year (YoY), while non-sport leapt 85 per cent.
All markets in Europe recorded positive growth last year, though the spread varied significantly, ranging from one per cent to 32 per cent.
Study: Sport holds comparatively firm as European sponsorship market dives 23% in 2020
Sponsorship volume YoY change from 2020 to 2021 saw Russia come out on top with a 32 per cent increase, putting it ahead of the UK (20 per cent) and Italy (19 per cent). Russia benefitted from a massive upswing both in terms of its music industry, as well as from the economy as a whole, the study notes.
However, given the current political situation and worldwide sanctions handed to Russia in the wake of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, this recovery is expected to be very short-lived.
“As businesses stepped up their recovery plans coming out of the pandemic in 2021, sport sponsorship is on course to its recovery with the return of fans at live events,” said Marco Nazzari, managing director international, Nielsen Sports.
“Looking ahead to 2022, fandom has shifted from large audiences physically together to more remote yet more engaged behaviour through digital devices, impacting both sponsorship models and content distribution. Brands, sports rights holders and media owners must embrace this shift through marketing strategies to unlock revenue growth.”
Andy Westlake, chairman of the ESA, added: “It is a huge relief to all of us involved within the sponsorship industry that there are signs of recovery in the market that can be attributed to life returning to some sort of normality post Covid-19. We know the sponsorship sector is resilient and we have seen how creative we are in times of change to prove to our sponsors that investment is still worthwhile.
“Rights holders need to keep pace with the current economic trends, and the ever-growing thirst of digital consumption from fans needs to be understood by all for the green shoots of 2021 to flower in 2022 and beyond.”