Category/Industry Reports

The Grooming & Toiletry Products subcategory unexpectedly took center stage in the lead-up to last Saturday’s hotly anticipated UFC 300, when the world’s largest mixed martial arts league announced Revlon's Curve for Men as the Official Fragrance Partner of UFC in a first-of-its-kind deal. Let’s take a closer look at this dynamic industry.

There are more than 400 brands buying sponsorship or media in the category, with each averaging 4 sponsorship deals. Gillette tops the list with over 70 sponsorships, partnering with high-profile sports stars including Deion Sanders, Jalen Hurts, and Aston Villa’s goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. Rexona follows in second place with 35 sponsorships, including deals with Chelsea, Nitto ATP Finals, and the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Degree, Rexona’s brand name in North America, ranks third with 34 deals––the NCAA, Toronto Raptors, and Concacaf Gold Cup among them.  

Total social media engagement in this subsector exceeds 140M, 85% of which is driven by influencers. Not surprisingly, half of these sponsorship deals include endorsement rights––more than 5 times the average within the entire Consumer Products category, where only 9% of all deals include endorsements––showcasing the critical role partnerships with social media superstars play in this subcategory.

South Korean singer Kim Ji-Soo's social media campaign with Dyson Hair garnered the subcategory’s highest engagement in the last 12 months, with just two posts amassing a remarkable 8.4M interactions. Jisoo, as she’s widely known, also scored the highest engagement with a single post with Dyson, racking up 5.2M interactions on Instagram.  Indonesian influencer Ria Ricis’ campaign with Scarlett Whitening trailed closely behind, engaging 6M users across 44 posts. 

Financial brands have steadily come to dominate venue naming rights sponsorships within US sports, accounting for 35% of deals in the highly competitive sector across the five major pro sports. Notably, financial companies stateside far outpace their industry counterparts in Europe, which account for just 8% of these marquee partnerships within the top five soccer leagues across the pond.  

Banking brands are driving this growth, representing 58% of these deals with 20 unique brands across 26 partnerships. Industry giants including Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, PNC Bank, and Scotiabank have multiple naming rights sponsorships, highlighting the financial sector's aggressive pursuit of sports marketing opportunities. The emergence of fintech brands in this arena is especially noteworthy: the sector has secured four headline—making deals since having no naming rights presence in 2019—marking them as serious “challenger” brands to traditional banking and other financial subcategories.

Current FinTech Naming Rights Deals:

  • Acrisure Stadium - Pittsburgh Steelers and University of Pittsburgh Panthers
  • Q2 Stadium - Austin FC
  • PayPal Park - San Jose Earthquakes and Bay FC
  • SoFi Stadium - Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams

The strategic inclusion of venue assets in 73% of financial naming rights deals reflects brands’ enduring efforts to maximize TV visibility and audience engagement: assets like fixed logo/name on videoboard, digital ads on videoboards, and ribbon board digital ads comprise components of more than 80% of these sponsorships. 

Given the FinTech industry’s impressive inroads into these big-ticket sponsorships so far—and its steadfast ambition to cultivate younger, tech-savvy audiences with innovative branding strategies and a keen focus on digital engagement—expect FinTech brands to further expand their footprint in the sponsorship industry within the next five years, as they battle traditional banking institutions for premier marketing partnerships.

National Pi Day––celebrated today in honor of the number 3.14, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter––also offers a prime opportunity to explore the sponsorship data of a favorite circular snack: pizza. 

This savory slice of the pizza industry spans more than 300+ brands with sponsorship or media deals globally, each averaging around 4 sponsorships each. TV visible signage and social media posts rank among the category’s most popular sponsorship activations, included in over 30% of all pizza partnerships. 

With more than 5K locations in 45 countries, Papa Johns holds the title of most active pizza brand worldwide with over 100. Notably, 30% of the company’s sponsorships are within NCAA Division 1 college sports, where the pizza powerhouse partners with the Virginia Cavaliers, Louisville Cardinals, and Memphis Tigers. The brand’s sponsorship savvy extends well beyond US borders with more than 15 international deals, including 3 within the English Football League and another with Spain’s Baloncesto Fuenlabrada basketball team. Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, and Pizza Pizza trail Papa Johns (in that order) to round out the top 5, with over 30+ sponsorship deals each. 

Social media plays a pivotal role in pizza marketing, with more than 760 deals garnering over 6M total engagements in the last 12 months. Little Caesars’ link-up with the Detroit Lions scored the highest total engagement of a single deal over this period, tallying nearly 500K engagements across various platforms. 

In the realm of airline sponsorships, a handful of prominent players fly higher than the rest––namely Emirates, Delta, United, and Qatar, which collectively comprise one-third of the entire airline sponsorship landscape. The remaining two-thirds is divided among 225 others, further underscoring the dominance of these four marquee brands. 

Dubai-based Emirates made headlines last month with the announcement of a blockbuster deal naming it the Official Global Airline Partner of the NBA. The multi-year partnership also makes Emirates the inaugural title partner of the NBA Cup (formerly called the NBA In-Season Tournament), as well as the league’s first-ever referee jersey patch partner. As part of the sponsorship, NBA content will be available on all Emirates flights, including long-form documentaries and player profiles. 

IP rights and Instagram posts rank as two upwardly trending assets within the category, which currently spans 1,222 sponsorships. The latter has resonated especially with sports fans: several co-branded posts by the LA Lakers and Kansas City Chiefs––which partner with Delta and United, respectively––of players disembarking aircrafts have each engaged well over 200K Instagram users. 

Emirates, in particular, has maximized its total social engagement to the tune of 48M by strategically partnering with pro sports teams––like Real Madrid CF, AC Milan, and Arsenal––that boast substantial follower counts. Meanwhile, United’s creativity on social media earns the brand the highest engagement rate of the top 10 most active airlines in sponsorship, as evidenced by its post of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Mecole Hardman Jr. wearing a flashy, airplane-themed chain.

Mecole Hardman x United Chain

A third of US major pro sports teams have open opportunities for airline sponsors––led by MLS, where 68% of rights holders conspicuously lack one. Curiously, within Europe's top five football leagues, only a quarter of clubs partner with airlines, most notably Emirates and Qatar Airways.

That said, given the nearly 14% increase in airline endorsement deals worldwide last year versus 2022, all signs seem to point to more blue skies ahead for the airline sponsorship market in 2024.  

More than 20 Non-Alcoholic Beer brands are currently buying sponsorship or media, with an average of 10 sponsorships per brand. Given the market’s concentrated nature, these brands are seeing a big return on investment through high-impact sponsorships in this fast-growing segment.

The Non-Alcoholic Beer category has carved out an increasingly prominent niche in the global beverage market in recent years—especially in sponsorships, where the number of active brands has spiked 156% since 2021. These beverages’ surging popularity—US sales of non-alcoholic beer rose 32% year-over-year through September 9th, according to NielsenIQ—not only reflects consumers’ expanding appetites for healthier lifestyle choices, but also presents a solution for brands navigating the complex regulatory landscapes of sports marketing. In arenas where traditional alcohol sponsorships are restricted or prohibited, non-alcoholic beers offer a creative workaround, enabling companies to maintain a presence in the highly coveted sports sponsorship universe while championing responsible consumption.

Athletic Brewing Company leads the category with more than 60 sponsorships with rights holders including IRONMAN, the Seattle Mariners, and the Indiana Pacers. Heineken 0.0 is a close second with over 55 deals, partnering with properties like Formula 1, the Atlanta Hawks, and the Miami Dolphins. Ranking third with more than 15 sponsorships, Spain’s Estrella Galicia 0.0 focuses on motorsports, and counts Scuderia Ferrari, Carlos Sainz, Repsol Honda Team, and Marc Marquez among its high-profile partners. Earlier this month, the McLaren F1 Team made headlines with the announcement that Estrella Galicia 0.0 will be its Official Beer Partner for the 2024 season and beyond.

In other big news, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, announced on January 12th that it will become a Worldwide Olympic Partner through 2028—the Olympics' first-ever global beer sponsorship—and in another historic move, that its fast-growing Corona Cero zero-alcohol beer will be the Games’ global beer sponsor. 

With this groundbreaking deal poised to provide non-alcoholic beer with an unprecedented platform worldwide when the Olympics begin this July in Paris, watch this space for more sponsorship news in this quickly evolving industry. 

As fitness takes center stage in January amidst a flood of new year’s resolutions, the sponsorship landscape in Fitness Facilities and Connected Fitness is notably vibrant, with more than 940 brands buying sponsorships or media deals in these categories. 

Social media looms large—43% of these partnerships leverage digital platforms—underscoring both the importance of online engagement in an era when fitness experiences are increasingly digitalized, and how brands are adapting to evolving consumer preferences in both traditional and technology-driven fitness sectors.

Within the Connected Fitness category, brands like Peloton—which has nearly 200 sponsorship or media deals—Wahoo Fitness, WHOOP, and Zwift lead the way by number of partnerships. One that has yet to crack the top of the list but is an innovative brand to watch is the popular fitness app Strava, which has demonstrated its knack for forming impactful partnerships by launching a series of in-app activity challenges this month with a wide range of brands like Le Col, Smartwool, HelloFresh, Brooks, Whoop, and Factor. 

These link-ups are a strategic win for the partner brands, driving their visibility among Strava's active and health-conscious user base. With their focus on athletic apparel, Le Col and Brooks find an ideal audience in Strava's fitness enthusiasts, while nutrition-focused brands like HelloFresh and Factor benefit from exposure and engagement with a community that values healthy lifestyle choices. 

In the traditional realm of fitness facilities, brands are constantly finding new ways to engage fans at events. Planet Fitness dominates this category with over 90 sponsorships, more than double the second-place Goodlife Fitness. With seven sponsorship deals across Major League Baseball, Planet Fitness captures the attention of Houston Astros and Cleveland Guardians fans with its “Flex Cam,” which shows them flexing their biceps on the big screen. As part of its partnership with the Detroit Tigers, the brand sponsors the “Sing Along,” where attending fans can vote for a song to belt out at the stadium. 

The holidays offer a prime opportunity to highlight the Nonprofits, Charities & Associations category, in which more than 6,600 brands are buying sponsorship or media, averaging two sponsorship deals per property. Within major pro sports in the US, more than 140 are buying Community/Cause-related assets in this category, led by Youth Initiative Cause, Health Issues Cause, and Military or First Responders Cause, in that order. 

With 40 sponsorships, AARP is the category leader by number of deals, partnering with the Houston Astros, Sporting Kansas City, and the San Antonio Spurs, among others. Army ROTC, American Cancer Association, and He Gets Us tie for the second spot with 24 deals each, while the American Red Cross takes third with 20 sponsorships, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Marathon, and US Open Tennis.

The category saw an array of inspired activations this year. Pathways Alliance, Canada’s largest oil sands company, sponsored a “Quarterback Challenge” with the Canadian Football League, where participants tested their accuracy by throwing a football through one of three targets. Patriot Peak Foundation did a crowd-favorite “Huey Helicopter Flyover” during an Iowa State Cyclones game, and in another creative partnership, PAWS Chicago joined forces with Chicago Fire FC to introduce the players to the organization’s rescue dogs, where the athletes shared their personal experiences with man’s best friends to promote pet adoption.

With Black Friday less than 4 days away and Amazon building the Super Bowl of shopping with their Black Friday game, there's some interesting components to decode with sponsorships & endorsements:

📉 Over the last 5 years, rights-holders having a retail sponsor has decreased by close to 10% as both the sector has seen growth challenges combined with greater optionality in terms of where to spend their ad dollars.

🏟️ Sports teams and leagues still drive a large amount of retail deals, due to their proximity to the point of sale (e.g. tickets, merchandise, apparel) and their ability to drive foot and digital traffic through promotions and IP rights.

📲 The rise of the influencer is revolutionizing the way products meet people. Platforms like TikTok are becoming e-commerce hubs to compete with Amazon and people are fuel that drives it all: They wield the power to turn viewers into buyers, with a simple swipe-up or promo code. As retail dives deeper into digital, influencers are the new-age salesforce.

Few meals are more American than a good old-fashioned sandwich—and National Sandwich Day is tomorrow (11/3)—which serves up a prime opportunity to take a look at the Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) Sandwich subcategory, where 125 brands are buying sponsorship or media, averaging six sponsorship deals per brand.

Jersey Mike’s Subs leads the list by sponsorship volume with 135 deals. The NJ-based franchise has partnered with many prominent rights holders, including the NHL, the New York Yankees, and even Danny DeVito. In second place with 92 partnerships is Subway, the world’s largest sandwich chain with more than 44K locations in over 100 countries worldwide. The franchise—which partners with the NFL, the Toronto Raptors, and the UK’s Guild Esports—recently inked a deal with the Brazilian Olympic Committee ahead of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. With 60 sponsorships, third-place Jimmy John’s of Champagne, Illinois, focuses its endorsement efforts on college sports, including rights holders like the Baylor Bears, Illinois Fighting Illini, and the Myrtle Beach Bowl.

Nearly 30% of sandwich deals have a social media component, with TikTok accounting for almost 60% of all branded post engagement in the subcategory. Collectively, these brands generated 2.6M in total engagement across 4.2K posts in the last year—the top three of which belong to Subway, which dominates QSR sandwich brands with engagement of 1.7M.

Halloween means big business for candy makers: Americans spend an estimated $3.1B on sweets for gleeful trick-or-treaters each year. Currently, more than 600 brands are buying sponsorships or media in the Candy, Baked Goods, and Desserts category—an average of three sponsorship deals per brand.

While not a traditional Halloween treat, ice cream brand Dippin’ Dots leads the list with more than 50 sponsorships, including partnerships with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Memphis Grizzlies. British chocolate maker Cadbury—though typically associated with the Easter holiday—trails closely behind with over 45 partnerships, primarily with English football clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool. Third on the list is Snickers with nearly 40 sponsorships, among them an NIL deal inked earlier this month with South Carolina football running back Dakereon “DK” Joyner. 

The category racked up 19M in social media engagement from branded posts in the last year. Feastables, the chocolate bar brand owned by YouTube celebrity MrBeast (real name: James Donaldson), scored the most engaging post with 2.3M likes, shares, and comments on TikTok. The brand’s multi-platform social campaign featuring its founder—who has the most subscribers on YouTube, at more than 188M—also topped the list for highest engagement at 6.2M total interactions. Feastables made headlines in early October when it signed a multi-year jersey patch deal with the Charlotte Hornets—an NBA first for a content creator-led brand.

Energy is a high-powered industry, both literally and on the sponsorship front: there are currently more than 500 brands buying sponsorships or media in the category, averaging three sponsorship deals per brand. 

Notably, Five Serie A teams partnered with an energy brand in September. Italian side Udinese announced a naming rights deal last week with sustainable energy provider Bluenergy—already in its seventh consecutive season as the team’s energy partner—that will see the team’s Dacia Arena renamed Bluenergy Stadium for the next five years. Meanwhile, Atalanta, Inter, Roma, and Torino all recently partnered with Italian energy giant Enel.

National Grid boasts the most sponsorship deals in the category with 25+, including partnerships with high-profile teams like the Buffalo Bills, Brooklyn Nets, and New York Mets. British energy supplier Utilita follows with 20+ sponsor deals, having recently announced a jersey sponsorship with newly promoted Premier League team, Luton Town—the biggest endorsement deal in the team’s history. Saudi Arabian integrated energy and chemical titan, Aramco, takes the third spot with 20 deals. The state-owned behemoth has gone all-in on top-dollar deals in the motorsports industry, first becoming Formula 1’s sixth global partner in a long term partnership announced in 2020, followed by the 2022 news of its strategic partnership with Aston Martin Racing—which saw the team become the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team.

Over one-third of energy brands have a social media asset, with a combined total engagement of 5.9M. Two Aramco campaigns scored the category’s highest engagement in the last year: the first, with the International Cricket Council, racked up 836K across more than 130 posts, while the company’s social linkup with the ICC T20 World Cup rolled out 121 posts to engage 796K followers. The third-leading campaign by engagement, between German electricity provider LichtBlick and FC St. Pauli, captured the attention of 346K followers with over 200 posts over the last year.

The US market for alcoholic beverages, valued at $1.6 billion last year, is expected to top $2 billion by 2031, as America’s collective thirst for the world’s most popular recreational substance endures. Meanwhile, there are many changes afoot within this evergreen industry. Last year, spirits sales edged out beer sales, 42.1% to 41.9%, respectively, for the first time in at least two decades. And alcohol manufacturers are rapidly diversifying their offerings in step with consumers’ changing palates.

As the popularity of craft cocktails grows, younger consumers, whose legions are drinking 20% less alcohol on average than millennials—are seeking more low-alcohol options, like hard seltzers, a red-hot sector where new brands appear seemingly overnight. Their soaring popularity reflects a $17.2 billion market in the US in 2023, which is projected to grow a robust 8.5% annually through 2027. The ongoing evolution of alcohol sponsorships mirrors this dynamic industry landscape. While beer brands’ dominance in sports continues, wine companies are zeroing in on tennis as a way to connect with sophisticated, affluent fans.

In broader entertainment contexts, spirits brands—whose sponsorships comprised 48% of all new deals since 2021—and Ready to Drink (RTD) cocktail manufacturers, whose partnerships nearly tripled over the same period, are targeting consumers at concerts and music festivals, which continue to attract emerging brands keen to cultivate the loyalty of attendees with disposable income to spare.

As the alcoholic beverage sponsorship universe continues to evolve, we’re proud to unveil our inaugural Alcohol Marketing Partnerships Report 2023. Authored jointly by SponsorUnited’s Marketing Research & Insights, Analytics, and Marketing teams, it delivers an in-depth analysis of more than 1,735 brands, 21,550 assets, and over 18,600 social posts from January 2021 through September 2023.

Technology continues to reshape virtually every aspect of our lives—so it’s no surprise that the industry’s presence in the sponsorship universe is also growing and evolving in game-changing ways. No tech sector has generated more headlines recently than artificial intelligence (AI), a $100 billion market that’s forecast to grow twentyfold to nearly $2 trillion by 2030. AI and machine learning sponsorships increased 65% in the last year—a figure that’s poised to skyrocket exponentially as AI steadily infiltrates virtually every industry.

AI applications in pro sports are already transforming the fan experience, and driving business results for properties. In July, GameOn Technology announced the rollout of an AI-powered chatbot at the New York Islanders’ UBS Arena that will act as a virtual concierge for attendees at Islanders games and other events. And last January, the NBA—which leads US pro sports leagues in technology deals—extended its partnership with Meta to develop a new virtual reality experience for fans via Meta Quest, the league’s official VR headset. As AI’s ubiquity expands, these innovative deals will only multiply. Intriguingly, AI companies remain conspicuously absent from music festivals, which lead the list of properties partnering with tech brands as they seek to engage these events’ affluent, digitally savvy patrons. Meanwhile, rights holders—equally eager to engage younger audiences and convert them into lifelong fans—are turning to platforms like TikTok to identify brands that capture the attention of Gen Z, a demographic that now represents 40% of global consumers whose substantial spending power will endure for decades.

Countless sponsorship opportunities still abound for enterprising tech brands. Less than 20% of domestic sports properties partner with cloud service providers like Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services. And among the megacap tech titans, Apple has yet to venture into sports sponsorships, while Netflix and Tesla presently partner with no properties at all.

As the dynamism of the technology sponsorship landscape grows, SU is excited to unveil its inaugural Technology Marketing Partnerships Report 2023. Authored jointly by SponsorUnited’s Marketing Research & Insights, Analytics, and Marketing teams, it delivers an in-depth analysis of more than 1,300 brands, 5,250 assets, and over 11,000 social posts from January 2021 through August 2023.

Traditional banks are zeroing in on music-related entities—namely music festivals and concert venues—as they try to attract young music fans with sizable disposable income into clients for years to come while also supporting the local community and aligning with events that generate significant local economic benefits. Last month, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) inked a deal to sponsor Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour when it arrives in Toronto in November 2024, hoping to gain brand recognition with legions of Swifties packing arenas worldwide.

In addition to branching out into music sponsorships, traditional banks are maintaining their commitments to other avenues like sports. A case in point is the recent extension of a $25 million per year sponsorship deal with a major golf organization.

Meanwhile, neobanks—which exist solely in the virtual world—are taking a page out of traditional banking’s playbook, ironically, and going all-in on major pro sports sponsorships to attract mainstream audiences. Last February, Ally Financial Inc. announced a league-wide sponsorship making Ally Bank—the largest digital bank in the US—the Official Consumer Bank of NASCAR and NASCAR-owned tracks.

And in what is perhaps the most surprising U-turn in the sponsorship industry in recent memory, embattled cryptocurrency brands—reeling from the collapse of FTX and recent decreases in exchange volume—are retreating from the endorsement frontlines as they regroup and reevaluate their marketing strategies.

For all these reasons and more, we’re excited to unveil our inaugural Banking Marketing Partnerships Report 2023. Authored jointly by SponsorUnited’s Marketing Research & Insights, Analytics, and Marketing teams, it delivers an in-depth analysis of more than 650 brands, 5,600 assets, and over 15,000 social posts from January 2021 through August 2023.

The AI market is red-hot and getting hotter—so it’s no surprise that 95+ brands are currently buying sponsorship or media in the AI & Machine Learning category. And with some 58K AI companies worldwide, according to research firm Tracxn, there's a huge opportunity for other brands in this quickly emerging industry to make an early splash in the sponsorship world.

IT and software development company Globant leads the category with 17 sponsorship/media deals, partnering with rights holders like FIFAe, LaLiga, and the recently concluded FIFA Women’s World Cup. Mobileye, which develops autonomous driving technologies and advanced driver-assistance systems, reigns supreme in sponsorships among AI brands with 10 deals—Tresor by Car Collection and GT World Challenge Europe among them.

AI & Machine Learning brands have garnered social engagement of 2.5M with sponsored posts in the last 12 months—60% of which comes from TikTok, outperforming Instagram, Facebook, and X (formerly Twitter) combined. AI is quickly heating up on the uber-popular platform, which was home to the top three most engaging AI posts of the last year. The top performer—a co-branded post by AI platform Caktus (sponsor of Angel Reese and the Cavinder twins) and influencer TechJoyce—engaged 378K users. 

Not surprisingly, AI brands are also finding high-profile ways to activate in sports. DarkTrace, an AI cybersecurity company, sponsors the McLaren F1 team, which prominently features its logo on the rear wing of its cars. 

With back-to-school shopping in high gear, big-box retailers and online stores are taking center stage across the country. Shanghai-based online marketplace Temu, which entered the US market in September 2022, has garnered serious attention this year thanks to its inaugural Super Bowl ad last February, which marked the brand’s very splashy entrée into the sponsorship world. Within the last 12 months, Temu has inked nearly 15 sponsorship deals, all with athletes, artists or influencers—a popular strategy amongst retail brands.

More than 750 retail brands have partnered with boldface names during the last 12 months. Leading the charge on this front: retail giant Walmart, which currently boasts more than 40 celebrity endorsers, ranging from athletes like Patrick Mahomes, Devin White, and Cam Newton to musical artists including Kane Brown, Cardi B, and Becky G.

While Walmart leads the way in high-profile endorsements, Amazon takes the cake when it comes to deal volume among back-to-school brands. The world’s largest online retailer has more than 135 sponsorships (not including its sub-brands), most notably with the Seattle Kraken, whose home ice was renamed Climate Pledge Arena after the brand bought its naming rights–a nod to Amazon’s sustainability focus. Within these partnerships, Amazon’s social campaigns have chalked up total engagement of 10.7M across more than 1,400 branded posts.

Another favorite back-to-school brand is Target, whose sponsorship portfolio numbers over 50 deals. Most notably, the Minneapolis-based behemoth was the naming rights partner of the Minnesota Twins (2008), Lynx, and Timberwolves (both 1990). In 2017, Target made its first foray into MLS by becoming both a sponsor of the league and signing a deal with then-expansion team, Minnesota United FC, as its primary jersey patch partner.

As legalized sports betting steadily spread across the US over the last few years, companies like DraftKings and FanDuel swiftly recognized the potential of strategic sponsorships to gain a competitive edge in the battle for market share. DraftKings’ sponsorship deal volume grew 150% from 2020-2021–the same period many states legalized sports betting–while FanDuel expanded its endorsement stable 127% between 2020 and 2022, as these two major players paved the way for new partnerships within the fledgling sports betting arena.

The recently announced 10-year, $1.5B deal between ESPN and PENN National Gaming to launch online sports betting brand, ESPN BET, marks a watershed moment in this emerging industry, highlighting the increasing convergence of sports media and sports betting platforms–and compelling brands like DraftKings and FanDuel to further ramp up their marketing efforts in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Case in point: DraftKings latest campaign, launching August 21 ahead of the new NFL season, which leverages fantasy football enthusiasm and sports betting fervor on the heels of a $93.2B betting year in 2022, according to the American Gaming Association. Starring Kevin Hart–who appeared in its Super Bowl campaign earlier this year–and retired NFL quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, it features DraftKings’ new tagline, “the crown is yours,” which aims to create more consumer-centric messaging while building on existing brand equity. 

Celebrity endorsers offer a tried-and-true way to engage potential customers and cultivate virtually instant brand loyalty–as seen in FanDuel's own 2023 Super Bowl commercial, which featured retired New England Patriots powerhouse Rob Gronkowski attempting a live field goal attempt, and offered $10M in free bets for customers who wagered on the game with FanDuel Sportsbook. Such campaigns not only build buzz and make news, but also make platforms more approachable and appealing to a broader audience. 

When PENN National Gaming purchased Barstool Sports in 2020 to create Barstool Sportsbook, the company set out to utilize the red-hot brand’s personalities and massive following to gain market share in the burgeoning industry. In their new venture, ESPN and PENN will decide whether to use the power of sponsorships to try to poach bettors from other platforms, or to showcase ESPN’s own internal influencers–or both. Another intriguing option? To integrate betting into ESPN sports broadcasts and promote a potential ESPN+ betting channel, akin to Monday Night Football’s ManningCast on ESPN 2. Time will tell how this high-powered alliance’s strategy will ultimately unfold. 

With over 1,950 active brands buying sponsorships or media, the banking sector reveals a competitive scene averaging three sponsorship deals per brand.

Leading the charge by sponsorship volume is PNC Bank, an industry player that has woven an extensive web of partnerships which includes over 170 unique sponsorship deals. PNC Bank's strategic collaborations extend to diverse numbers of rights holders—from the Miami Marlins to the Houston Rockets—Pittsburgh based bank having a deal with all pro sports teams in the market, dominates the banking industry. 

Claiming the second position is Citibank, a brand that has solidified its presence through more than 130 total sponsor deals which includes—New York Mets, US Open amongst others. Bank of America secures the third spot, boasting over 125 sponsor deals. This esteemed institution has aligned its brand with prominent properties like Charlotte FC and the New England Patriots, demonstrating a strategic fusion of financial prowess with the allure of sports.

Delving into the realm of social media—a significant portion of modern sponsorship—40% of sponsorship deals within the banking sector include a social media asset. Among the most engaging posts, Barclays and the Premier League emerge as the most engaged with “Manager of the Month Winners” post on Instagram, generating a staggering 672,000 engagements. This partnership extends to an encompassing social campaign, spanning 98 posts and amassing over 6.26M in total engagements.

Notably, the partnership between Banco BPM and Italian football powerhouse AC Milan, emerges as a compelling contender in the social media space. With a cumulative engagement of 5.39M across more than 280 distinct posts, this collaboration successfully captures the essence of dynamic engagement between banking and sports. 

A prime example of effective collaboration is through Standard Chartered's Primary Jersey Patch sponsorship of Premier League’s Liverpool FC. In over 208 social posts, this deal secured a total engagement of over 3.9M.

Over the last 12 months there have been 840 active brands buying sponsorships or media in the Hospital category.

Nuffield Health was the most active brand with a total of 29 sponsorship deals, all of the properties they sponsor are located in the UK, such as Wolverhampton Wanderers, AFC Bournemouth and Norwich City. Baptist Health South Florida claims the second spot with a total of 21 sponsor deals. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital enters the podium of the most active brands with 20 sponsor deals. MedStar Health, Atrium Health, UCLA Health, Cleveland Clinic, Intermountain Healthcare, Tampa General Hospital, and UCHealth (Denver) complete the Top 10.

While property entitlements, digital content, broadcast ads, and TV-visible interior signage were some of the most frequently bought assets, social posts reigned supreme in the Hospital category, with total engagement of 13.3M more than 24K unique posts across all social media. An Instagram post between UCLA Health and the LA Lakers garnered the most engagement, with 514K.

Among other standout assets incorporated in deals in the category, regional healthcare company Orlando Health is the Primary Jersey Patch sponsor of MLS team Orlando City SC, while UCLA Health has been the Training Center sponsor of the Lakers since 2016.

Within sports worldwide, Hospitals have secured 49 deals with premier sponsorship assets such as Venue Naming Rights and Primary Jersey Patches across 36 brands. Only 8 brands have more than one such deal:

Orlando Health - 3

Novant Health - 3

WakeMed - 3

Trinity Health of New England - 3

Children's Mercy Hospital - 2

Children's Mercy Hospital - 2

Dignity Health - 2

UC Davis Health - 2

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