Given the results of the Consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to adjustment and development of sports sponsorships research, the representatives of sponsor brands estimate that they will not drastically reduce sponsorship investments in 2020. Creation of own content and greater consumption of digital content is expected in the future, while the use of new technologies is recognized as crucial in the evolution of sponsorships. Given the fewer sporting events in the near future, both sponsors and rights holders plan to change their communication strategy as an alternative measure. Both sides agree that more mutual cooperation will be needed, and at the same time, they recognize the importance of sustainable development and health promotion activities as a trend.
Sponsorship represents one of the key pillars of sports funding, therefore researching the consequences of the pandemic and its effects on the development of the sponsorship industry in Slovenia is of wider importance. This led to the emergence of the Consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to adjustment and development of sports sponsorships research. The company Sport Media Focus, inter alia, the organizer of the SPORTO Conference, has conducted the survey between May 5th and June 19th, 2020, together with the research partners of the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Sport, University of Ljubljana Faculty of Economics, Olympic Committee of Slovenia and Slovenian Marketing Association. The research included 23 companies representing a significant share of invested funds in Slovenian sports, and 22 major and marketing-active owners of sports properties (clubs, associations, sporting events organizers).
Please find a brief summary of the key findings concerning the four research topics.
Current situation assessment: 60% of sponsor brands does not plan to terminate any of the sponsorship agreements
70% of sponsor brands included in the sample estimate that the effects of COVID-19 will reduce the sponsorship budget by less than 25% in 2020. 60% of sponsors do not plan to terminate any of the sponsorship agreements; the rights holders are more pessimistic since as many as 86% of them believe that they will lose at least one sponsorship partner.
Assessment of changes and trends: own (digital) content
The viewpoint of trends in the sports sponsorship industry due to the consequences of the pandemic is similar among brands and sports property owners. With a higher degree of agreement, both expect that a growth in creating their own content will follow (as many as 95% of sponsor brands participating in the survey), and that the use of new technologies (as many as 85% of rights holders participating in the survey) will be crucial in the evolution of sponsorship.
Given the anticipated smaller volume of events in the near future, both sponsors and sports properties plan changes in communication strategy as an alternative measure. Both sides strongly agree that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in increased consumer demand and consumption of digital content. The sponsor brands also expect, among other, that the rights holders will need to offer alternative assets/solutions for sponsorship activation if competitions are cancelled.
Sponsorships: motives, activation of rights and performance
As the most important sponsorship objective, both the sponsors and the rights holders point to increased recognition and reputation of the brand, followed by their sustainability and corporate social responsibility.
The estimate of the planned amount of funds invested in sponsorship activation indicates the development of the Slovenian sponsorship market; 23% of enterprises plan to activate even more funds as is the value of the sponsorship investment.
The survey also finds that the perception of sponsorship performance differs between brands and rights holders. The rights holders consider fulfilment of contractual obligations as the most important element in the evaluation of success, while the brands emphasise users’ preference for their brand and increased recognition of their products/services.
Wider social impacts and the role of the state: the importance of sustainable development
Both the brands and the rights holders strongly agree that in the future, the most important activities benefiting the society, used in marketing communication, will be health promotion and sustainable development activities.
In terms of the state as a stakeholder, brands see its active role in the sports sponsorship industry primarily in investments in projects with wider social impacts (sustainable development) and sports properties primarily in tax relief for sponsor brands.
The research concludes that the consequences of the pandemic have brought new insights and even more focused visions in the field of sports sponsorships. The events related to COVID-19 are thus not seen as negative impacts on sponsorship cooperation, but as an incentive for even more qualitative integration – both sponsor brands and rights holders have recognized that the best solution is firmer cooperation.
The results will serve for preparing a longer-term research, which will monitor changes and adaptations to sponsorship in the Slovenian market over time.
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