PRESS RELEASE: 13th April, 2021


A year since professional and grassroots sport ground to an abrupt halt at the start of the pandemic, confidence is returning to the sector with 92% of practitioners optimistic that the sports industry will recover in the next 1-2 years and 83% optimistic that the sponsorship industry will bounce back in the same timeframe, according to new research by ONSIDE in collaboration with Sport for Business. Both these figures have increased by 22% since September 2020.

The fourth wave of the ONSIDE SPORTS INDUSTRY MONITOR survey of Sponsors, Rightsholders, Broadcasters and Agency members of the Sport for Business industry group supported this optimism with 42% of sponsors confirming they have entered new sports partnerships since the start of the pandemic.

Commenting on the green shoots of optimism, John Trainor, Founder and CEO of sponsorship analysts ONSIDE notes: “While 1 in 5 sponsors are still considering dropping out of existing sports sponsorships as a result of Covid-19, we have seen more than double that number enter into new sports partnerships”.

Trainor added: “There has been quite a dramatic shift in the types of agreements sponsors are looking for with significant growth in the proportion of sponsors more likely to invest in sport related community and grassroots, sustainability and cause-related initiatives in the next 12 months.”

“Even before the historic weekend for women’s sport spurred by Rachael Blackmore’s Grand National triumph, our latest research found strong momentum building with 15% of sponsors saying they are a lot more likely to invest in women’s sport sponsorships in the next 12 months and 54% claiming to be a little more likely, an increase across these two groups of 34% since September 2020.”

GAA (75%) and rugby (69%) started Q2 2021 as the platforms that sports industry insiders say provide the most potential benefits for sponsors, followed by the Olympics (56%) and Paralympics (52%). In the build up to the rescheduled Tokyo Games, several Olympic sports have enhanced their perceptions as potential sponsorship platforms, notably hockey and athletics as well as the Olympic and Paralympic brands.

Despite this optimism, it has been a tough year for rights holders, with 26% confirming they have lost sponsors due to the pandemic. Trainor noted: “Of those that have agreed to amend agreements, 1 in 2 have had to accept a reduced rights fee. There also remains a high volume of deals at the negotiating table. Of the 6 in 10 sponsors and rights holders who have entered negotiations, only 43% have successfully agreed amendments, with 21% still negotiating and 36% having agreed short-term amendments but still negotiating the longer-term implications”.

Rob Hartnett, CEO at industry group Sport for Business noted: “With regulators around the world looking at the relationship between sport and its sponsors, it was interesting to see that 7 in 10 industry practitioners in Ireland are doing extensive due diligence on the business practices of an organisation before partnering with them. However, a finding of concern for our industry is that 1 in 2 practitioners believe there is a significant lack of diversity and inclusion in the sports industry in Ireland today, something requiring urgent attention from all involved”.