Connect With Us

  • LinkedIn Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Instagram
  • opened-email-envelope_318-44146

© 2020 The Sponsorship Space All Rights Reserved

  • Avish Sood

30 Sponsorship Executives Discuss Opportunities and Trends Headed Into 2017


With the excitement of 2017 ahead of us, we wanted an opportunity to ask some of the world's leading sponsorship executives what sorts of trends they anticipate to see in the coming year. The Sponsorship Space had a chance to gather insights from 25+ executives from Australia to Canada to USA to England. These experts include senior executives within the sponsorship realm and known thought leaders in the marketing community.

Each executive was asked the following "How has sponsorship changed the past few years and what are some trends to look out for headed into 2017?". Here's what they told us!


Focusing on sports, as that is where my expertise lies: The basics of sponsorship remain the same, with companies looking to leverage sports properties to connect with their customers, stakeholders and employees. The biggest change is led by the fact that fans are now consuming sports through new channels. Athletes are more closely followed on social media than traditional channels of reading about them in the news. Sports matches are now being watched through Youtube or 15 second clips on Facebook. Events are now being streamed live, bypassing traditional broadcast channels. This means that for sponsors, the market is more fragmented, and riskier given there is limited historical data to back where the spend should go, and what ROI can be expected.

The good news is that the lure of sports is not decreasing, quite the opposite, with more sports gaining popularity thanks to globalization (think soccer in the US) and the ability for anything or anyone to go viral (think everything Olympics). This means that more brands are investing in sports sponsorship. We predict for 2017, as we saw with influencer marketing in 2015, new brands will enter the market, looking to emulate the success of major companies like Verizon and Nike, they will start small and grow budgets seeing the ability for sponsorship to deliver a strong ROI and be used in multiple areas - social media, PR, field marketing, logo visibility, building trust etc. We predict that sponsorship will not become a marketing channel on the side, but integrated into the other channels such as digital or content, and used to drive more results to existing campaigns.

Ishveen Anand (CEO & Founder, OpenSponsorship; Forbes 30 Under 30)


Sponsorship has evolved into a sophisticated marketing technique that goes much beyond promoting awareness and association of an event to a brand. Sponsors now know that the most authentic way in which they reach their targets is to provide and support an exceptional experience that the target will have with the event and their interaction with the sponsored product. Whether it is a team, a sport, an event, a cultural undertaking, the most powerful way in which a sponsor truly connects to a customer is to show that customer how their brand has added to the value of the experience. This can be through enhancing a live event, through digital or socially connecting with a customer as they experience the event through broadcast or even after the event where the sponsor allows the customer the opportunity to re-experience powerful moments of the event.

These areas of brand affinity are harder to measure and a future conversion is a harder connection to make to bottom line profits so going forward marketers and sponsored experiences will need to work well with research, data analytics, and people to see the fully realized value of a sponsorship over a longer arc of time.

Katherine Henderson (CEO, Curling Canada)

Data continues to be the linchpin to sports sponsorship, the teams that understand their data are ready to deliver sponsor campaigns that hit the mark. 2017 will see smart teams offering fully integrated campaigns that have been the domain of traditional agencies. Only teams and leagues can offer intimate knowledge of what content will work while integrating the sponsor message on game day and digital platforms.

Sean Callanan (Founder, Sports Geek)

Increased content, distribution and consumption has had a bifurcated effect. On the one hand, teams have less share of voice because of the ability for players, fans and media entities to efficiently get their message heard, which does increase fragmentation and theoretically spread out ad dollars. And yet on the other hand, this creates a deeper & more frequent engagement with the team, the ability for the team to create their own narrative unbound by geography, and it's provided a cost-effective means for brands to leverage their partnerships to a broader audience. The above, in conjunction with many other areas of innovation within advertising, media and technology is driving more complexity to sponsorship buying and selling, and therefore I would look out to how the gathering, organization and use of data, coupled with technology will facilitate smarter & more cost effective decision making.

Bob Lynch (CEO & Founder, Sponsor United)

Biggest change I've seen is with digital, which is no longer a passing fling. The mindset has shifted from “digital marketing” and more towards marketing in the digital world where digital is the default. That’s a big change. And it’s influenced how brands approach their investments…I don’t think I’ve seen any campaign in recent years that doesn’t have a digital component.


It sounds cliche, but #sportsbiz will increasingly focus on what the digital/social experience for fans is like - with a specific focus on developing and bringing more relevant and personalized content. Almost everyone will probably say social and digital, but as we all know, those are just mediums and mediums require good content to work.


J.W. Cannon (Senior Project Lead - Sponsorship & Events, UPS; 3x Forbes Top 50 #SportsBiz Account)

Sponsorship has changed dramatically in the past few years and it's more of an interaction in terms of showcasing your product. Also, brands are looking for ownership stake now in sponsorship from the ground up to create content and have dominance versus being one of many sponsors lost in the clutter.

Ben Sturner (Founder, Leverage Agency)

The days of a Sponsor only looking for a signage asset in left field, on the stadium scoreboard, or on the rink boards, are few and far between. Marketing executives are being challenged more and more by their company executives to prove the ROI and ROO of company sponsorship spending. Companies want tangible results, as budgets are further scrutinized each year.

Heading into 2017, sponsorship salespeople (clubs, leagues, venues, events) are being challenged more than ever. Sponsor companies are looking to take partnerships further, to integrate products or services into agreements and to customize property content so that brands feel immersed in the relationship. When all is said and done, the mark of a successful partnership in the eyes of the sponsor, is whether consumers can fully understand what the sponsor company offers in terms or its products and/or service offering. If a consumer cannot answer that question, the effectiveness of the sponsorship should be evaluated.

Today’s sponsorship equation is about finding a balanced win-win-win between 1) The Sponsor Company, 2) The Partner Organization and 3) The Consumer.


Andrew Agro (Director, Corporate Sponsorship & Business Development, New York Jets)

Digital that matters will be the differentiator in 2017. 2016 was dominated by social media, fake news and ''noise" on the Web. The next great opportunity will be for sponsors and for sponsorship properties to create relevant, timely digital and social content that the audience actually cares about.

David Hopkinson (Chief Commercial Officer, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment)

The measurement of return on sponsorship investment has never been more clear, with the rise of social media. This year, for example, we learned that hockey fans value a Retweet more than an autograph. For 2017, we expect to see more innovation to personalize sponsorship using social, most significantly with video. Video sponsorship, specifically with our Twitter Amplify program, is a core focus for us this year in Canada, and the launch of a live 360 video experience on Periscope is just one example of the innovative video tools brands can take advantage of in 2017. We can't wait.

Christopher Doyle (Head of Video Content Partnerships, Twitter)

Changes in the sponsorship industry are directly tied to fan/consumer migration away from broadcast media to digital platforms. As sports consumption evolves, this directly affects both media rights holders and fans, but puts the sponsor squarely in the middle. How do they react to these changing times, how do they utilize their agencies differently? ESPN and Turner, for example, know they are losing subscribers so they are trying to re-capture audiences via their integrated digital offerings. This puts the responsibility squarely on sports advertisers who’ve grown accustomed to large audiences as they seek to align with marquee events, hoping hyper social fans will spark a conversation about their campaign activations.

Despite a falling ratings storyline early in the season, the NFL still accounted for more than half of the top 50 most watched broadcasts in 2016 followed by the Olympics, World Series and NBA Finals. According to Ad Age, very few of the top 50 most watched broadcasts were non-sports programming, cementing live viewership as the common denominator on the list and the single most important ingredient to advertisers today.

Combined scale remains critically important currency for brands so I expect advertisers will collaborate with networks/IP rights holders to find innovative ways to integrate into live moments (e.g. Burger King/Mayweather/Baffert , Heineken/UEFA Champions League, etc.) by sometimes paying a premium, especially if budgets don’t allow year-round alignment as an “official partner.” For those who have aligned long-term, the fusion of agency collaboration across creative, buying, sports and digital is quintessential to success. Brands need to be led by data analytics so they can “identify” where target consumers are migrating to so sponsorship activations can extend beyond the confines of traditional amplification environments.

Michael Neuman (Executive Vice President and Managing Partner, Scout Sports & Entertainment)


Social media and big data has changed the way sponsorships are measured. We aren't guessing about what fans would engage with what brands, we are using algorithms, case studies, focus groups and more to gather information and make effective decisions for brands. 80% of fans use social media during live sporting events both in events and at home. That's an incredible percentage for brands who want to create a dialogue rather than the traditional monologue. The future of sponsorship will mirror technological advances. The new wave of fans are salivating for information and they expect, actually the demand the truth from brands. They want to be engaged by brands they trust knows them. Technology, augmented reality, habitual guessing, will all be part of the new 360 marketing model.

Over the past few years big data has allowed brands to take the guessing out of what their target consumer is doing, how they are spending their time, how they are influenced and how they spend their money. The influencer marketing wave his brands like a ton of bricks thanks to social media stars growing organic communities without any industry credibility. Sponsorship deals started to involve more influencers and less athletes or celebrities. Brands will move past sponsorship and advertising and evolve into owning portion of sports, championships and leagues - Red Bull effect.

Micro-targeting is the future. Brands will target their marketing efforts to much smaller groups rather than large groups at one time. This will put pressure on brands to tell more meaningful stories and have more diversity in them. One slogan isn't going to touch all their target demographics... so more communication objectives will be needed.

Ben Shapiro (CEO & Founder, PIVOT Marketing Agency)

Without a doubt, 2017 will bring the continued emergence of social platforms (such as Facebook Live) being used to broadcast live events – with new/innovative brand integrations. Also, with this in mind, properties together with their sponsors will need to innovate the live event experience and find new ways (virtual reality will be one way) to reach/engage fans who are spoiled with options.

With 2017 also marking Canada’s (side note: & CIBC’s) 150th, many brands will be looking for ways to tap into the heightened Canadian pride to mark the occasion. It’ll be a moment of reflection for all Canadians and aboriginal reconciliation will be a key theme for the country as a whole.

My hope is that 2017 finally marks the death of gold, silver, bronze sponsorship proposals!

Andrew Greenlaw (Senior Director, Sponsorship Marketing & Strategy, CIBC)

As more and more sporting events are broadcast around the globe sponsorship will continue to flourish exponentially. It wasn’t that long ago that international soccer (football) games were difficult to find on U.S. broadcast outlets. Now Premier League games are often shown live on major U.S. networks. NBA fans all over the world now have more opportunities to watch games. For example, in China alone games are available to watch on CCTV and Tencent. And sponsors benefit greatly since their brands are receiving a lot of exposure in these international markets. This trend will surely continue in 2017 and beyond.

Blain Skinner (Executive Director, Corporate Partnerships, Los Angeles Lakers)


Over the last few years, brands have been even more selective about how they want to introduce new sponsorships and activate current opportunities. Sports as a whole is a changing landscape; cord cutting is on the rise, millennials are turning to other options, and new technologies are constantly changing the playing field. The days of simply putting your name on a stadium, event, or property are long gone. Brands now have to fully integrate marketing and PR into their sponsorship deals through the use of social media, experiential marketing, etc.

In 2017, we will see the rise in Live Video, AR/VR, and new ways of streaming content. This will challenge sponsors to find new ways to obtain and hold people’s attention. In my opinion, influencer marketing will have it’s largest year to date in 2017. Athlete and fitness influencer marketing allow two major components to sponsorship. Current sponsors can activate these influencers to continue the conversation online for a fraction of the cost of traditional ads, while still driving consumers and fans to awareness of new products or campaigns. Non-traditional sponsors can use influencers as a “micro-endorsement” and access millions of sports fans who may not have known about their products. As more and more of the sports sponsorship market moves online, we will see this become more prevalent in 2017 to help further enhance sponsorship deals.


Dan Shuftan (Vice President, Sales & Brand Activations, opendorse)

How do you teach a computer to see? This idea still may seem far-fetched to many in the sports industry. Computer Vision, however, is a field of machine learning that already exists where programmers can train computers to recognize images, logos, and people in videos or images. Teaching a computer to “see” enables the machine to collect more data more quickly and more accurately than ever before to answer when, where, and how long was sports sponsor’s logo on screen during a broadcast. Computer vision is a good example of the biggest change that has and will continue to impact sports sponsorship. New technology allows sports sponsorship buyers and sellers of sports sponsorship to collect more data than ever before. This has caused buyers to want to use that data enhance their decision-making process. More specifically, sponsors now expect that big data can generate big insights and maximize the benefit of relationship with a team, league, event, or athlete across different channels based on a specific company’s strategic goals. The proliferation new technology to create and collect data will necessitate that sports properties quickly and effectively analyze data and highlight value created by a sponsorship. Communicating using a language based on data will be at the heart of conversations around sport sponsorship in 2017.

Adam Grossman (CEO & Founder, Block Six Analytics)

The past few years have seen the sports industry enter in to a digital age with the rise of social media. As the adoption of technology becomes paramount, brands will be able to develop sponsorship activations which extend beyond the hardcore fan to a broader demographic. An area we will see this start to explode in 2017 is around the match day experience. As UK and European stadiums continue to become fully connected with high speed Wi-Fi, HD screens, beacon technology and more, teams and sponsors will be able to deepen their engagement with fans, and in turn generate new revenue opportunities.

James Walker (Head of Sports Partnerships EMEA, Tagboard)

As a lawyer frequently drafting and negotiating sponsorship contracts, I have seen many shifts over the past few years. The most glaring change has been at first the inclusion of social media obligations, which changed to social media being a material clause. Today, there are some contracts that are solely dedicated to social media deliverables. It is hard to find any documents in the sponsorship space that do not at least devote a few lines to social media.

Look for brands in 2017 to focus more on figuring out a formula to better determine return on investments in this Internet and mobile dominated world. Additionally, expect activation to become a larger component of the overall sponsorship equation.


Darren Heitner (Founder, Heitner Legal)

Sponsorship has evolved from eyeballs through logo placements to working collaboration that actually transforms businesses. Sponsorship is becoming much more relevant, much more strategic, and much more effective than the previous moving billboard it used to be. With the influx of social and digital technology, sponsorship provides us a much stronger and clearer communication to the world. I think 2017 will be revolutionary with bigger brands actively working their sponsorship objectives rather than previous passive partnerships. I can’t wait!

Jackie Fast (Managing Director, Slingshot Sponsorship)

What to look for in 2017 for us at Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE) is being early adopters and embracing technology and using that in marketing to that targeted millennial consumer. MSE being a multi team building and the NBA opening up jersey patch inventory, you see the NHL did that for this year’s Winter Classic.

Couple of things we are keeping an eye out on are in no specific order…

  • Virtual Reality – Great Partnership with PepsiCo on utilizing VR on our concourse as people play hockey – real-world application to the everyday consumer.

  • Millennial – Washington DC has one of the highest millennial per caps in the nation. Every marketer is looking for new ways to engage this increasingly influential and affluent audience that often ignores traditional media consumption in favor of experiences. See Media

  • eSports – Mr. Leonsis recently invested in Team Liquid. MSE will seek synergies to leverage those eyeballs and this emerging market with our core assets.

  • Media – The launch of Monumental Sports Network, regional subscription based OTT network. As consumers slice and dice their content, MSE is in a great position to provide and monetize On- Demand short, digestible sports and entertainment content.

Chris Quinn (Vice President, Corporate Partnerships, Monumental Sports & Entertainment)

The trend in the sponsorship industry the last few years has been the move toward data-driven decision making and measurement, which really is an extension of the same shift seen in brand marketing as a whole. Brands are becoming more analytical, boutique specialist agencies have sprouted to support the need to prove effectiveness, and the smart properties have become proactive in providing sponsor-specific success metrics. Most players are now working with the same sets of data and the playing field is more level than it has ever been before.

Moving forward, I believe you’re going to see brands getting more and more creative in how they sponsor. With it becoming easier for every sponsor to see the value of each dollar spent on traditional assets – signage, classic media, etc – decisions on these will be made as functions of math equations more than anything else. Conversely, for more content-focused and deeper funnel sponsorship activation, brands will look for new avenues of engagement. Certainly in the form of new property types; E-gaming and other non-traditional entertainment properties are already being gobbled up by the big brands. But for these and traditional sports / entertainment properties, brands will seek more and more assets that can’t be found on a rate card. Creative social extensions, increased property-owned asset inclusion to better leverage built-in fan base, sponsorable streaming content – anything that can be presented organically and with an already-engaged audience. Valuable to sponsors, sure, but even more valuable to properties as the cost to incorporate sponsors in this capacity is often minimal.

Dan Frystak (Senior Manager, Brand & Sponsorship, CDW)

A notable change has been the increased focus on mutual partnership objectives and evolving measurements of sponsorship ROI. Long gone are the days of badging apparel and stadium signage with a ‘money for eyeballs mentality’ – inherently now rights holders and brands are implementing sophisticated sponsorship strategies and leverage programs built around genuinely connecting with their target demographic and the relevant stage of the consumer decision journey (awareness, consideration, purchase, loyalty) most pertinent to their company’s objectives. The flow on of this change in thinking is that one-dimensional sponsorship programs, along with the people/organizations running them, are being found out. In turn as a sponsorship professional, it’s becoming essential to have a diverse and dynamic skill set spanning strategic thinking, project management, digital, content creation, PR and experiential marketing.

We’ll hear less about sponsorship in 2017 (I’m not a fan of this word to be honest!) and more about strategic partnerships; already there is a shift in the industry with organizations moving away from the ‘exchange for value’ mindset often associated with sponsorship to an approach that encompasses strategic alliances of likeminded organizations. For a partnership to be successful, it needs to start with and focus on building trust, working together to deliver mutually beneficial relationships and the joint elevations of the respective brands, not just one organization servicing the other.

Jessica Cook (General Manager - Marketing & Integration, Sydney Swans)

Any stocktaking of recent sponsorship must note the ascendance of eSports. Commentaries (including my own) have discussed how eSports will learn from sponsoring brands and from traditional sports. Into the future, eSports might also teach traditional sports and brands a few things. Online connectivity and savvy arena tech are two areas where many traditional sports teams lag but where eSports excels. Brands and sports can also find templates in eSports for visual content and human branding that drive social sharing. An example here is the signing of David Bytheway (A British FIFA gamer with a great last name) by the German Wolfsburg club. David will wear the Wolfsburg jersey with the prominent VW logo.

This segues neatly to a broader overarching trend: social streaming. Past experiments with streaming are unfolding in the coming years as major partnerships. A good example here is PGA streaming of 31 events in 2017 on Twitter. Nielsen reports that from 2012 to 2016, teens reduced their traditional TV viewing by 38% and 18-24 year olds by 39%. Streaming fills the void in part. Sport’s natural symbiosis with live streaming has benefited rights holders and their sponsors to date. Moving forward will be both exciting and tricky as the volume and pace of content creation moves further into the hands of the viewers, fans and consumers. Sponsorship will have to learn how to roll with unpolished spontaneity.

Bettina Cornwell (Professor of Marketing, University of Oregon)

The most obvious change over the past few years has been the change in emphasis to digital channels. Every year it seems like there are more and more digital options to choose from, and these new methods of communication offer a more direct and more measurable way for brands to engage with fans. These options also align well to younger demographics which can offer a greater potential lifetime value to these brands.

Headed into 2017, and keeping in mind I'm a bit biased, I would keep a closer eye on how data collection and measurement continue to drive decisions in the sponsorship space. As marketing budgets get tighter and tighter, every dollar spent has to be justified which puts more and more pressure on everyone involved to show demonstrable ROI. It also puts more pressure on properties to be more sophisticated with how the sell and activate their partnerships. Better use of data and technology across the board is the common thread tying this all together.

Russell Scibetti (Vice President, Kore Software; Founding Editor, The Business of Sports)

The business of sponsorships has evolved significantly over the past few years driven by a number of different factors many of which are positive for the industry, but can still lead to challenges in the future. First, the evolving new media landscape has created new rights categories and in turn opened new revenue streams for properties to monetize. A recent example of this is the NFL working with Twitter this season to offer a live stream of the Thursday Night Football games. This media shift provides new entry points for brands, but also creates some challenges for official league partners as they fight to protect their rights and exclusivities. As new media channels evolve, properties should be mindful of which content rights to keep under their control and bring to existing partners to drive the value of their partnership versus which to monetize incrementally. Second, new non-traditional categories fueled by technological innovation and the new sharing economy are entering the sponsorship landscape. These new players are turning to sponsorships not only for brand awareness, but also to showcase their products by enhancing the fan experience. Ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft have been active sponsors since 2014 signing up events and teams to offer fans a convenient transportation option. Properties, as well as brands, will need to think carefully about how they define and potentially split categories and exclusivities to protect for future opportunities. Lastly, the proliferation of social media and influencers, including athletes acting as influencers, has created new engaging and efficient marketing mediums which have led to increasing pressure to justify the return on investments from large scale sponsorships. This will require that both properties and brands invest in good measurement tools to track impact beyond traditional touchpoints and brand awareness metrics. It is imperative that measurement evolves from providing general metrics that show quantity of reach and impact, but more importantly their quality.

This is an exciting time to be in sponsorships. The industry is expanding not only via the new mediums and opportunities outlined above, but also by the true globalization of sport. There is more competition on both sides as brands have access to more sponsorship opportunities, but also more brands are investing into sponsorships looking to organically integrate into the fan experience. This should, hopefully, lead to increased creativity not only in how deals are structured, but also in how they are brought to life. My hope for 2017 is that these changes will result in sponsorships going away and being replaced by true partnerships where both properties and brands are creating value for each other to move their businesses forward. If that happens we all win, not only because our industry flourishes, but also because as fans we will have tremendous access to the sports, athletes and content we love when, where and how we want to consume it.

Heidi Pellerano (Executive Vice President, Wasserman Media Group)

I’m so excited that sponsorship has had to change to stay relevant in a world where choice is everything and consumers are led by influencers and peer reviews, not flashing neon signs and billboards. Many in the sports sponsorship space have simply carried analogy practice over to digital platforms, thinking that a banner on a website or a digitized on-field LED sign is modern sponsorship, but this is so far off the mark! Activations, conversations and emotional connections are what make sponsorship effective in 2017.

And it means the internal workings of sponsorships have changed too. It’s no longer enough for an athlete to slap a logo on their shirt in return for sponsorship, they now need to really align with a brands values and story, as well as be actively involved in communications and experiences with their sponsors target market. Transactions are out and relationships are in! The most exciting thing is that it opens sponsorship up to a much wider participation pool….if sponsorship is about creating connections, then the relatable ‘everyday athlete’ or non-elite sports event can be a great conduit for that connection between a brand and their audience. I think the opportunities for true innovation are incredible, and so much more ethical than the old way of doing sponsorship.


Vickie Saunders (Founder, The Sponsorship Consultants; Author of 'Sponsorship for Athletes')

Sponsorship has changed by having the ability to create campaigns that allow brands to be more engaged with the properties and or teams. Having an understanding of the companies values and needs allows ways to amplify the brand and the messaging. Heading into 2017, digital and social campaigns are going to continue to grow and be an important part of sponsorships moving forward.

Joe Fontanetta (Director of Partnership Sales - Venues, Live Nation)

In the past too many sponsorships have been based on 'Chairman's Whim' or the 'Highest Paid Person's Opinion' (HiPPO), with whoever leads sponsorship for the brand having to retrofit that to their marketing strategy. In my view, for the majority (but not all), sponsorship is way behind marketing in terms of strategic approach and so in 2017 I hope we see:

- more education in sponsorship

- sponsorship being managed by marketing professionals and as part of the marketing strategy

- brands selecting, planning, activating and measuring with the same scrutiny as they would with any other element of the promotional mix

- rights owners offering genuine partnerships with brands, not just the same package as before now labelled as a 'partnership'

- rights owners taking a fresh view on what assets they can offer and build together with their partners

- better use of customer insight data

- better experiences for the end audience and not just through technology

- and measurement that goes beyond media equivalent value and social media likes.

I'm leading the European Sponsorship Association's working group to write a best practice guide to sponsorship measurement - so watch this space! Whilst none of these are revolutionary, I see 2017 being the year that sponsorship catches up to show what a powerful platform it can be.

Sophie Morris (Strategic Marketing & Sponsorship Director, Millharbour Marketing; Chartered Marketer; Board Director of the European Sponsorship Association)


Within the past few years sponsorship has shifted to become a true interaction between fans and the sponsor. Sports marketing elements continue to break through the advertising clutter and are one of the only emotional ties companies can lean on to create brand affinity on a long term basis. People have become less loyal to brands, and more interested in differentiating themselves with their purchases to align with their values. The same goes for the sponsor. In my experience, sponsors have become more interested in telling their story and emotionally connecting with their customers.

So with this, how does it shift what sponsorship will look like in the future? Companies still need the brand awareness but will also crave opportunities that truly speak their language to consumers. Using the emotional platform of a sports organization, which people are incredibly loyal to, sponsors will look to genuinely integrate their brand into engagement opportunities to compliment signage, radio, digital advertising and hospitality.


Jessica Smith (Vice President, Sponsorship, San Jose Earthquakes)

The sponsorship landscape has changed dramatically of the last 5 years and the pace of change has picked up. While this increased pace of change makes it challenging for sponsorship sales professionals, it makes it far easier to identify trends.

Some big ones that stand out based on what I hear from our clients (brands and rights holders):

Digital disruption: Digital marketing makes it possible for brands to advertise and only pay when a customer takes a very specific action. Like never before, brands can focus on their target audience and an action beyond “brand awareness” in what would have been their push marketing budget 5 years ago.

Audience (and activation) is everything: Perhaps influenced by digital marketing, brands are demanding more and more that properties know their audience very very well. I think that age, geography, gender and income used to be enough to detail an audience but now brands want to know buying habits, interests, industries and education and a ton more. Gone are the days of “the general public” and activations have to catch up and provide highly tailored solutions to niche audiences.

Know your value: Valuations used to be for giant rights holders only. Those days are long gone and I have worked with several clients of all sizes who were sent to me by their sponsors for a valuation. In other words, sponsors are demanding valuations and they see this as the responsibility (read: properties have to pay for them!) of the sponsorship seeker. Guessing at your value was always a bad idea but going forward it could have disastrous consequences on your sponsorship program.

Chris Baylis (Founder, The Sponsorship Collective)

Research, unique experiences and content, those are the three areas to look out for in 2017. Sponsorships can be a fun and frustrating business at the same time. While it has never been easy to secure sponsorship deals, one could argue that it is much more challenging now from even just a few years ago.

In sponsorship one has to learn how to sell your clients product effectively or you won’t be successful. One minute, you are a car salesman trying to figure out how to bring more people to your auto sponsor dealerships and the next minute you’re creating large-scale CPG retail programs to drive products sales. But that’s what makes it fun and that’s what separates the good salespeople from the great. Now more than ever there is a plethora of research that brands can use when evaluating a potential sponsorship program. This research makes it much harder and takes more work for a salesperson to convince a decision-maker that their property and assets is a solution to their goals. Brands can now have immediate actionable and trackable return on investment during every aspect of an event.

In addition, unique customer experiences and generating appealing content will both be important in 2017. With so many entertainment options available to consumers, properties have to be much more creative when making memorable experiences for fans. It’s not enough anymore just to sit courtside, they want to meet the players, get backstage and experience something truly special. At the same time, getting and keeping their attention is complicated, but with all the social technology available it can be done with eye-catching, passionate and fun content. Hiring an innovative brand content and social media manager is critical to your success.

Moving forward, properties will have to put less focus on themselves and more focus on their clients’ needs and how to achieve their goals while at the same time creating unique experiences for consumers to keep their attention with unique content. That sounds like a mouthful and it is, but like I said before it’s not easy but it’s definitely fun.

Karl Mawhinney (Vice President, Global Corporate Partnerships, Harlem Globetrotters)