Sponsoring something (or someone) is the act of supporting an event, activity, person, or organization financially or through the provision of products or services. The individual or group that provides the support, similar to a benefactor, is known as the sponsor.
Sponsorship is a cash and/or in-kind fee paid to a property (typically in sports, arts, entertainment or causes) in return for access to the exploitable commercial potential associated with that property.
While the sponsoree (property being sponsored) may be nonprofit, unlike philanthropy, sponsorship is done with the expectation of a commercial return.
While sponsorship can deliver increased awareness, brand building and propensity to purchase, it is different from advertising. Unlike advertising, sponsorship can not communicate specific product attributes. Nor can it stand alone, as sponsorship requires support elements.
A range of psychological and communications theories have been used to explain how commercial sponsorship works to impact consumer audiences. Most use the notion that a brand (sponsor) and event (sponsoree) become linked in memory through the sponsorship and as a result, thinking of the brand can trigger event-linked associations. Cornwell, Weeks and Roy (2005) have published an extensive review of the theories so far used to explain commercial sponsorship effects.
One of the most pervasive findings in sponsorship is that the best effects are achieved where there is a logical match between the sponsor and sponsoree, such as a sports brand sponsoring a sports event. Work by Cornwell and colleagues however, has shown that brands that don't have a logical match can still benefit, at least in terms of memory effects, if the sponsor articulates some rationale for the sponsorship to the audience.
All sponsorship should be based on contractual obligations between the sponsor and the sponsored party. Sponsors and sponsored parties should set out clear terms and conditions with all other partners involved, to define their expectations regarding all aspects of the sponsorship deal. Sponsorship should be recognisable as such.
The terms and conduct of sponsorship should be based upon the principle of good faith between all parties to the sponsorship. There should be clarity regarding the specific rights being sold and confirmation that these are available for sponsorship from the rights holder. Sponsored parties should have the absolute right to decide on the value of the sponsorship rights that they are offering and the appropriateness of the sponsor with whom they contract.
The sales cycle for selling sponsors is often a lengthy process that consists of researching prospects, creating tailored proposals based on a company's business objectives, finding the right contacts at a company, getting buy-in from multiple constituencies and finally negotiating benefits/price. Some sales can take up to a year and sellers report spending anywhere between 1–5 hours researching each company that is viewed as a potential prospect for sponsorship.
These are the terms used by many sponsorship professionals, which refer to how a sponsor uses the benefits they are allocated under the terms of a sponsorship agreement. Leveraging has been defined by Weeks, Cornwell and Drennan (2008) as "the act of using collateral marketing communications to exploit the commercial potential of the association between a sponsor and sponsee" while activation has been defined as those "communications that promote the engagement, involvement, or participation of the sponsorship audience with the sponsor."
Money spent on activation is over and above the rights fee paid to the sponsored property and is often far greater than the cost of the rights fee."
IEG projects spending on sponsorship globally to grow 4.5 percent in 2018 to $65.8 billion, including $24.2 billion in North America alone (a 4.5% increase from $24.1 billion in 2017). Europe is the largest source of sponsorship spending, with €26.44 million (US$29 million) in just the EU member states in 2014, followed by North America, the Asia Pacific region. Growth in Central and South America during 2010 did not materialize to the extent projected—3.8 percent versus a forecast of 5.7 percent—despite the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games in Brazil in 2014 and 2016, respectively. With the 2010 World Cup concluded, sponsorship activity should begin to heat up, thus the region is projected to be the fastest-growing source of sponsorship dollars outside North America, with a forecast growth rate of 5.6 percent for 2011.
Relaxed television industry legislation surrounding product placement has led to a small but increasing rise in TV programming sponsorship in the UK. However, commercial sponsorship of British sports teams and players is a multibillion-pound industry. For example, Adidas became the sponsor and supplier of Manchester United's kit for ten seasons, in a 2014 deal with a guaranteed minimum value of £750 million (more than US$1.1 billion).
As it has in most years over the past two-plus decades, sponsorship's growth rate will be ahead of the pace experienced by advertising and sales promotion, according to IEG.