12th July 2021

The number of new reported sponsorship deals in Ireland doubled in the first half of 2021 versus the same period last year, exceeding the comparable pre-Covid-19 level recorded in 2019 by 8%, according to new research by sponsorship consultants ONSIDE.


Despite a cautious return to live sports events in Ireland, the latest ONSIDE Quarterly Sponsorship Review shows that sport continues to dominate sponsorship activity in Ireland, with 84% of deals so far in 2021 occurring in the sports space. Financial & Professional services businesses and food and drinks brands were most active, with new deals including global investment advisor Triton Lakes’ new sponsorship of the IRFU Sevens teams and Red Bull’s new alignment with Irish Hockey aiding the recovery of sports platforms.


Commenting on sponsorship market dynamics at play so far this year, John Trainor, Founder and CEO of ONSIDE notes that “2021 opened positively with a string of high-profile major deals by the rebooted FAI with SSE Airtricity, Bank of Ireland, Weetabix and DHL, while a consistent stream of local and regional GAA sponsorships followed Cork GAA’s 7-figure new deal with Sports Direct in January. Recognising the variety of new investments agreed, TikTok established major ties with the 2021 St. Patrick’s Festival, while The Transport for Ireland (TFI) network of public transport services sponsored Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride. 6 in 10 of the new deals across the sponsorship industry came in the second quarter, with a noticeable rise in community, cause related and broadcast sponsorships, including Circle K securing the rights to sponsor the coverage of the upcoming Olympic Games on RTE.”


Reflecting a shifting landscape toward more ‘purpose driven’ investment, 71% of the public called out a non-sports sponsorship that appealed to them in the last quarter, 6% higher than the same time last year. Trainor noted that: “There is a growing alignment in businesses between sponsorship and corporate social responsibility being fuelled by consumers’ and employees’ higher expectations of brands in the past year, as doing good is now a must rather than nice to do strategy. And the leaders of this evolution are being seen, with a surge so far this year in the public’s recognition of non-sports sponsorship activity in music, arts, broadcast and causes”. Stand-out businesses winning strongest public affinity in the non-sports arena in the last quarter included Electric Ireland, partners of Pieta House, and Aldi, partners with Barnardos and FoodCloud.


Figures from the latest ONSIDE QSR show Bank of Ireland have achieved most first half growth versus 2019 in the public’s vote for stand-out sponsors across both sport and non-sport platforms, while Guinness and Vodafone remain the clear favourite sport sponsors of the Irish public in the first half of 2021, together winning the vote of 3 in 10 adults. While close, Ireland and British & Irish Lions Team sponsors Vodafone edged Q2 pole position among Irish females and the 18-44 year old cohorts, while 6 Nations main sponsors Guinness proved strongest among Irish males and the 45+ market.


Looking to the second half of the year, Trainor notes: “Q3 was the busiest quarter for sponsorship deals in 2019, and as major platforms like the Olympic & Paralympic Games and GAA Championships with fans prove their worth, the battle for sponsorship rights, particularly with an authentic community root, will intensify. In parallel, the Irish sponsorship market is gearing up to align with international trends that have poked their heads up in recent months including the influence of cryptocurrencies and NFTs as a new revenue-producing channel for rights holders. Trainor added that there will be challenges for the industry as the failed European Super League and Ronaldo Coca-Cola tremors work their way into new deals shaping the next generation of sponsorship contracts, while also flagging “an interesting issue that is just beginning to percolate in the U.S. around how much of sponsor inventory goes unused and what to do about it.”

Read the full report here.

– ENDS –