Sponsor insights

Partnership Reports

2022 Sports Sponsorship Year In Review

December 14, 2022

Endorsement and media deals grew 20% YoY for both female professional and NIL athletes, with a 102% increase in brands buying sponsorships or media deals across NIL alone

The 2022 Sports Sponsorship Year In Review offers a comprehensive view of sports sponsorships and endorsements this year. Compiled using SponsorUnited’s proprietary platform data from January 2022 through November 2022, the report analyzed sports sponsorships across leagues, teams, and individual athletes.

Top findings from 2022 include:

MLB had the most sponsorship deals in professional sports. The league saw 3,350 sponsorships this year though the NFL trailed closely behind with 3,000 deals, its $1.8B in sponsorship revenue was 50% higher than MLB’s $1.2B.

Women’s sports saw a 20% increase in partnerships year-over-year. NWSL’s Alex Morgan and tennis star Serena Williams led the list with 27 deals each, while college softball superstar Lauren Burke came in second with 22 partnerships.

The top 5 most endorsed global athletes had 209 combined total deals. Norfolk State’s track and field phenom Rayquan Smith was the most sponsored athlete of 2022 with 58 deals, followed by cricket player Virat Kohli with 44. Race car driver Kurt Busch inked 40, Brazilian footballer Neymar Jr. had 36, and NFL star Austin Ekler rounded out the list with 30 deals.

NIL (name, image, likeness) saw major social sponsorship growth. Football led with 598 deals, including 12 players with social media-focused deals worth $1M+. Men’s basketball followed with 328 deals, and women’s basketball took third with 234 deals.

“2022 has been a year to remember for the sports sponsorship industry,” said Bob Lynch, Founder and CEO of SponsorUnited. “From the bounce-back in sponsorship deals and entitlements led by disruptive categories and companies, to the significant expansion in social endorsements–particularly on TikTok for female athletes–this year has brought a wave of new opportunities for brands across numerous industries.”

Besides an incisive recap of 2022 highlights, the reports provides predictive analysis of what we can expect to see next year:

Women athletes are poised to dominate sponsorships. Brands’ sponsorship of female athletes grew 20% in 2022, with 70% growth in social engagement–where women are on track to eclipse their male counterparts in social engagement by 2024.

Digital assets will continue to grow in dominance. Digital signage, streaming, and other digital sponsorships offer opportunities for brands to connect to fans in new ways that are unavailable in traditional media.

Sports betting services will provide a growing media platform for new sponsorship deals. Partnerships with streaming platforms offer live betting lines, promotions, and interactive viewing experiences.

Major pro sports and athlete charity sponsorships are expected to grow by 25%. The number of charities & non-profits with athlete sponsorship deals has increased 85% since 2019. Lifestyle brands sponsorships in particular are predicted to grow.

“As we move into a new year, we can expect to see greater growth within newer sports sponsorships areas, particularly in digital,” added Lynch. “Sports fans across the leagues want more ways to engage with their favorite teams and players. We can expect to see brands exploring these new channels more in 2023 and beyond.”


This report was compiled using SponsorUnited’s proprietary platform data from January 2022 through November 2022. Social data compiled from property or person-controlled Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and LinkedIn accounts and social activity. The report found that 14K+ brands bought over 20K sponsorships across 11 professional leagues and their teams - the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, WNBA, NWSL, PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, WTA Tour and ATP Tour. It also revealed that 2,500+ brands have bought over 4K sponsorships across individual professional athletes.

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