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2024 Predictions: Sponsorship Industry Poised for Further Growth & Innovation

January 11, 2024

The sponsorship landscape across the sports industry is poised to evolve notably in 2024, as cutting-edge digital advancements and shifts in various sectors create new opportunities to boost brand awareness and fan engagement. From a remarkable revenue increase in US pro sports endorsements to unprecedented growth in women's sports sponsorship, the following five predictions highlight the sponsorship industry’s  dynamism and burgeoning potential. 

📈 US Pro Sports Sponsorship Market Set to Unlock $1 Billion in Additional Revenue to Reach $8 Billion in 2024

The US professional sports sponsorship market is on track to surpass $1B in additional team sponsorship revenue this year, potentially topping $8 billion in 2024—a nearly 20% boost versus last year. Since 2021, the number of brands buying sponsorships has increased 10%, paired with a 7% rise in the number of partnerships over the same period. Ever-expanding brand advertising options–—including jersey patch opportunities and helmet inventory–—are driving this momentum, as are new exposure assets across major leagues. Growth drivers like surging celebrity and influencer investments, more lucrative venue naming rights deals, adaptive rule changes, and strategic league expansions into new markets both at home and overseas are further fueling this seismic shift in the sports marketing landscape. 

⛹ Women's Sports Sponsorship Poised for Unprecedented Growth, Tapping Into $1B Global Market Potential

Sponsorships in the US women's pro sports market—encompassing the WNBA, NWSL, WTA, and LPGA—are surging, marked by a 25% increase in both brands investing and partnerships in 2023 versus the previous year. The average share of media coverage of women's sports nearly tripled to 15% of all sports media coverage in 2022, amplifying their flourishing visibility and allure to sponsors. Last week, the NCAA and ESPN announced a $920M, eight-year agreement that will give the network exclusive rights to 40 championships, including the Division I women’s basketball tournament. The blockbuster deal follows the NWSL's landmark $240M media rights deal with CBS, ESPN, Amazon, and Scripps announced in November. Meanwhile, the growth of NIL deals, particularly in women's college sports––where female athletes lead in engagement and number of brand partnerships—further underscores the ever-increasing financial viability and appeal of women's sports sponsorships.

🌐 AI: The Next Frontier in Fan Engagement and Brand Integration

AI’s integration within sports sponsorships is gaining steam, with more than 75 brands already leveraging AI, and an additional 115 investing in both sports and entertainment. This movement comprises part of a larger trend of some 58K AI companies worldwide that are disrupting an array of industries, sports among them. The Drone Racing League's fleet of AI-powered drones–which race through spectacular courses across virtual and physical competitions–is the cutting-edge “jersey patch” offering for companies keen to make a splash with the most innovative and immersive partnerships. Alternatively, Kellogg’s snacking spinoff Kellanova–sponsor of the Pop-Tarts Bowl and the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl–plans to use AI to inform content development to engage key demographics like Gen Z through groundbreaking experiences, highlighting its CMO's commitment to a digital-first strategy. Notably, despite AI’s skyrocketing prevalence, 95% of major US pro sports teams don’t have an AI partner currently—spotlighting the massive sponsorship potential in this exploding arena.

🔥 AR/VR Gold Rush: Rights Holders to Fuel Revenue Revolution by Catering to Evolving Fan and Brand Dynamics

Digital-first sponsorships—where traditional in-game TV commercials and social media campaigns on Instagram and Twitter reign supreme—now dominate the pro sports marketing landscape. Over 1,000 brands also invested in virtual signage in 2023, primarily in the NHL and MLB—nearly twice as many as in 2021. Companies like adidas, Coors Light, and Invisalign are pioneering this movement, engaging fans through AR in a variety of sports. From T-Mobile's telecommunications expertise to Tiffany & Co.'s luxury appeal, the expansion of AR in sponsorships is poised to deliver unprecedented interactive experiences, deepen fan loyalty, and create new avenues for brand exposure. As this trend accelerates, we anticipate a game-changing evolution in how sports stories are told and experienced. The coming years promise a renaissance in digital sponsorship, as leagues and brands unite to craft immersive, interactive fan experiences that can take traditional broadcasts into the exhilarating—and Gen Z-preferred—domain of second-screen interactivity. Speaking of, this week Apple announced the hotly anticipated launch of its new Vision Pro headset on February 2nd, which aims to transform how consumers experience gaming and video content, thanks to a virtual reality screen that feels 100 feet wide.  

🎲 Sports Betting Set to Dominate as the Next Major Player in Sponsorship Spend

The US sports betting market—with a projected valuation of over $40 billion by 2030—is a blazing frontier for sponsorship deals​​. FanDuel and DraftKings lead the charge, thanks to the former’s recent deal with Genius Sports and the latter’s with the NBA and NFL RedZone—signaling a ripe landscape for partnerships with streaming platforms to offer live betting lines and interactive experiences​​. Over 25 NFL franchises now boast gambling sponsors, signaling a shift toward physical and digital integration of sports betting in fan experiences—including in-stadium betting kiosks, mobile betting apps, and interactive gaming linked to live games​​. The Fanatics' acquisition of PointsBet's US business marks a significant step, hinting at a trend toward global consolidation in the sports betting industry. Total team sponsorship revenue from sports betting brands approached $300M during the 2022-2023 seasons. Meanwhile, the number of betting sponsorships in major US professional sports has spiked 70% since 2020 to 225 deals currently, and counting. Expect this trend to escalate as rights holders innovate to engage audiences and foster brand relationships in a digital-centric market​​.

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