European Sponsorship Market Rises by 17% in 2021 ESA Sponsorship Market Overview Finds

31st March 2022

The European sponsorship market recovered in 2021 after a lean 2020 which saw it declining by 23%, shrinking for the first time in almost a decade.

Whilst not returning to pre-COVID-19 levels, there have been welcome shoots of recovery in the market, with European countries having successfully rolled out their vaccination programmes, new research from the European Sponsorship Association in cooperation with Nielsen reveals.

The 2022 ESA Sponsorship Market Overview has found that the total value of Europe’s sponsorship market increased 17.8% over the last twelve months, rising to €27.85bn. This is still 9.3% below the 2019 level (€30.69bn) and only marginally above 2017 figures (€27.69bn).

The various markets recover differently, for example: as the UK had mainly seen the non-sports sector slump in 2020, with sports sponsorship barely shrinking, the recovery was accurately reflected in 2021 (Sport: +4% / non-Sport: +85%).

COVID-19 hit all national markets in Europe hard in 2020, with slight differences among the individual countries shown by the ESA Sponsorship Market Overview (range: from -19% to -33%). Although all markets did record positive growth in 2021, the spread in development was significantly greater (range: from +1% to +32%). The different national political and social approaches to coping with the pandemic are apparently reflected in each individual sponsorship market volume.

Sponsorship volume year on year change from 2020 to 2021 saw Russia come out on top with 32%, ahead of the UK (20%) and Italy (19%) leading the way in recovery. Russia benefitted from a massive upswing both in terms of their music industry, as well as from the economy as a whole. However, given the current political situation and worldwide sanctions bestowed upon them in 2022, this recovery will most likely be very short-lived.

Marco Nazzari, Managing Director International, Nielsen Sports, commented: “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. 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 European Sponsorship Association, 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.”

ESA members can see the full report here.
This report was produced using Nielsen Sports Market Intelligence and is available exclusively to ESA

members. The ESA Sponsorship Market Overview has been conducted annually since 2008.