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Sponsorship Trends in 2018 - Content is King!

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the IEG/ESP conference on sponsorships. It was nice to get to Chicago, despite the cold and the snow.(It was a change from Florida and my second snowfall in 7 years!)

The conference is a great event that has brands and properties discuss the current trends in sponsorships with those organizations providing real examples and case studies.There were some surprising takeaways from the conference that reflect the industry and what is happening now in 2018.

Survey Results

IEG provides a state of sponsorships survey each year, asking brands what they want in a partnership program.Their “What Sponsors Want and Where Dollars Will Go” is a yearly update of the industry and a great reference tool.Spending in North America is on the rise, from $23.1 billion to $24.2 billion.Each sector will see growth and the sectors (ranging from largest to smallest) include Sports, Entertainment, Causes, Arts, Festivals / Fairs/ Annual Events, and Associations/Membership Organizations.The Festivals and Events category will see estimated spending of $936 million, up from $903 million.However, it is only 4% of the total sponsorship spend, with Sports representing 70% of the sponsorship spend. Typically, 17% of the marketing budget is spent on sponsorships.

What is most critical is that the report states that nearly six out of 10 sponsors stated that they want to exit early from at least one of their sponsorship partnerships.This follows what sponsors now deem important to them for benefits from the sponsorship.

Benefits are important to the partnership program and the most important benefit was Category Exclusivity, which has been the top benefit for several years.Traditionally, the second choice was On Site Signage.However, this benefit has dropped to sixth place this year.What has moved up to second place is Presence in Digital/Social Mobile Media.In third place, was Tickets and Hospitality, fourth was Rights to Property Content for Digital and Other Uses, and fifth was Rights to Property Marks and Logo.Rounding out the benefits in order after On Site Signage was Rights to Promote Co-Branded Products, Access to Personalities, Access to Property’s Audience and Data, and finally, Broadcast Ad Opportunities.

With this study as the backdrop, there were other important takeaways from the conference.Below are some of the main points that were a thread throughout the conference and reflect the findings of the study.


Recapping a partnership is important for the property to complete.Where there is some question is how to measure the benefit and what measurement is important to the partner.Knowing the expectation of the partner is important before entering into the partnership.Brands believe that the attitude toward the brand, the amount of positive social media activity, and awareness of products or the brand are the top three important metrics.Properties need to be able to provide the measurement and change of attitudes toward the brand and help the partner meet their marketing goals and objectives.


Since logo placement has become less important, digital content has risen. Today, everyone is a content creator.It is up to properties to develop and manage content and think of ways to involve partners into that content.More importantly, measurements are more than just impressions – it is how the audience engages with that content.


Hand in hand with the content is the authenticity of it.The content needs to reflect the brand of the property and how it engages that audience. This requires a plan of action prior to the event and includes all aspects of media – paid media, social, branded content, and even third party media.In addition, what is important for a property to remember is how does the content help the property and also how does the partner fit into that.To help with the authenticity, a property should know its audience and where the audience is located and use that knowledge to create content.

The Future

As properties develop their partnership strategies, it is important to change the current sales scenario.Sales is not its own entity.With any property, all departments need to work together to build the property and brand.Content is important, and each property must be that content creator; that is accomplished by knowing your audience.A property must invest in its operations and technology to meet these new demands and develop ways to measure the content.Finally, these items need to be used to create and sell partnerships and the associated measurements to potential partners.

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