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Sports sponsorship spend to pass $15bn in 2020

Growth is being driven by the increasing dominance of sports programming on TV, which saw live sports provide 92 of the top 100 most-watched US broadcasts in 2018, and the ability of properties to better deliver engagement for brands through digital channels.

However, despite this growth, Two Circles analysis found that sports properties’ sponsorship assets are significantly undervalued, and collectively they will miss out on $5.7bn in unrealized value due to unsold inventory, unreported engagement and outdated asset-packaging.

Brand Spend on US Sports Sponsorship (2014-2024)


Sam Yardley, SVP Consulting at Two Circles, said: “As the last bastion of live entertainment, sports’ ability to deliver at-scale audiences is unrivalled. However, over the last 50 years, the vast majority of sports sponsorship inventory hasn’t changed, and we consistently see a disparity between what brands need to reach an audience effectively and quantifiably, and what assets they’re offered as part of a sponsorship proposition. Digital channels in particular aren’t packaged and integrated well enough.”

Two Circles analysis shows that the total value delivered to sports sponsors via properties’ digital channels will be 8.6% in 2019, compared to 80.8% for TV. Conversely, according to eMarketer, digital will make up 54.2% ($129.3bn) of all US advertising spend in 2019 ($238.8bn).

Value Delivery for Sports Sponsors by Channel (%)


Yardley added: “Sports properties need to deliver better returns for their partners, and create digitally-led packages that attract brands from sectors that don’t spend significant amounts on sports sponsorship. In doing so, they’ll drive greater spend, and not from brands in ‘traditional’ sectors such as financial services and automotive, which combined accounted for over half of US sports sponsorship spend in 2019.”

As a result of sports properties investing in and evolving their sponsorship businesses, Two Circles projects the amount being spent by brands on sports sponsorship will increase at a faster rate to hit $19.8bn in 2024, representing an average year-on-year growth of 6.1% between 2020 and 2024. The total value delivered to sponsors via digital channels will also grow to hit 17.3% by 2024.

The data and analysis were first revealed at a Two Circles Breakfast Series event in New York on November 20.

Note: ‘Sports sponsorship’ is defined a relationship between a US-based sports rights-owner (league, team, tournament, federation, governing body, athlete or venue) and a company through which the company receives marketing collateral in return for either a financial sum or business services

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