Back to normal? Not quite yet… 2021 again showed a certain degree of normality.

Competitions took place in regular form (ATP Tour had 68 tournaments vs. 33 in 2020 – MotoGP had 19 Grand Prix Events vs. 15 in 2020 while a regular season of 21 event meetings) or returned after cancellation in 2020 e.g. European Aquatics Championships. While the sports sector largely returned to normal from the summer 2021 onwards, other areas continued to be plagued by breakdowns.

Music festivals, for example, were also mostly canceled in 2021. This affected major festivals all over Europe e.g. Tomorrowland/Belgium, Rock-en-Seine/France,Wacken/Germany. However, some did take place–especially in the U.K. e.g. Parklife, Green Man Festival,where there have been fewer restrictions since Freedom Day on July 19th.This indicates that the industry is recovering from the slump in 2020 but is not yet at pre-COVID-19 levels.

sponsorship volume increased by around 17.8% up across Europe.

*ESA Sponsorship 2021 and Nielsen Sport Market Intellingence

After a decline of 23% in the previous year, sponsorship volume increased by around 17.8% up to €27.85bn across Europe.

This is still around 9.3% below the 2019 level (€30.69bn) and just above 2017 numbers (€27.69bn).

However, when comparing the figures for 2020 and 2021, the postponement of some major events had to also be taken into account, which shifted the corresponding sponsorship volume. UEFA Euro 2020 and theSummer Olympics in Tokyo are two such examples to mention in this context.

Football remains one of the main components of the sponsorship market, by over 40% of share ahead of eSports and Gaming, Handball, Rugby Union, Basketball, Ice Hockey, Formula One, Golf, Tennis and Road Cycling to close the Top10 of the sports. Due to the strong media reach of national and international competitions, the sport reacts in a less volatile way to COVID-19 influences. Football again is at the top of charting because it is less dependent on on-site audiences than other sports with less media reach.

The total volume reference of the European Sponsorship Market segment in 2021 is still around 9.3% below the 2019 level and just above 2017 numbers.

Top 5 Sponsorship European Markets*per sponsorship deals not about sponsorship fees

Germany, €5.51 bn

United Kingdom, €4.47 bn

Italy, €1.55 bn

France, €1.39 bn

Spain, €1.35 bn

The development of the market will depend in particular on the rights holder’s ability to keep pace with economic trends.

ESA Sponsorship

The effects of the pandemic can still clearly be seen when looking at the 2021 sponsorship landscape –in a market that had only known one direction in the past– despite upward trends towards the end of the year. Provided no further large-scale limitations result from COVID-19, social life returns to normal and with it the consumption of sports and culture, a further recovery in sponsorship is now expected.

However, it is also interesting to observe the question of the after-effects on society in the form of changes in leisure behaviour, media consumption, etc. that will be a matter of our next news blog posts.

The development of the market will depend in particular on the rights holder’s ability to keep pace with economic trends. The explosive growth of emerging industries such as blockchain (+1,100%between 2019-2021) can only be sustainably conserved if rights holders invest in innovative business models and offer brands state-of-the-art communication opportunities. The growing digital consumption of fans requires a comprehensive strategic direction from all stakeholders and sponsorship must be multi-focused: multi-channel, multi-asset, multi-market, which, in turn, requires comprehensive, granular measurement.