Sustainability voted the top priority amongst sponsors

Sustainability voted the top priority amongst sponsors

An annual survey published by the European Sponsorship Association (ESA) has reported sustainability and ESG as the top trend among its members.

The topic has become a priority for almost every brand, regardless of industry, with sponsorship offering a powerful platform for brands to highlight their green credentials. The subject of sustainability, however, is difficult for sponsors to navigate, with audiences responding fiercely to brands that appear to pay lip service to the issue.

The Sponsor's Leaders Club, a network of Sponsorship, Marketing and Communications Directors, will meet again in June  to discuss creating authenticity and impact through sustainable partnerships. Register your email to apply.

Authenticity and impact remain vital to driving a successful sustainability sponsorship. Those brands that tackle the issue head-on appear to have the greatest success as opposed to those that attempt to gloss over their role in contributing to climate change. For example, Ford recently announced a new partnership with the Ride London cycle event. The sponsorship is part of Ford's Park the Car campaign, encouraging people to walk or cycle short journeys instead of driving their cars. And when they need to drive, Ford’s sponsorship enables them to do so in one of their electric vehicles. You can read more about this partnership here.

The second key concern amongst sponsorship managers was the cost of living crisis, a new entry in the ESA's ranking. You can take a look at the full results below.

1. Sustainability

ESG/Sustainability/Purpose is in the top position by a significant margin. It has maintained this position since 2022 and has gained the term ‘purpose’ in the responses. ‘ESG & Sustainability’ came comfortably back into the first position in January 2022 and has shown its importance by increasing its dominance as the top trend for 2023.

2. Cost of Living

Global Economy / Recession / Cost of Living replaces COVID-related trends as the key environmental factor to impact the recovery of the sponsorship industry.

3. Measurement

Pre-covid measurement occupied 3rd place in the rankings, but once the pandemic hit, it dropped out of the top 10. As the industry returns to normal, measurement has once again become a vital issue.

4. Digital

Digital was pushed off the top spot last year when Sustainability rose to the No.1 position. It had been a firm fixture as the top trend since the start of the pandemic, although the meaning changed slightly through that time

5. Women's Sport

The year 2023 will be another strong one for women’s sports, with many big tournaments in the calendar. It is also seen as a pivotal year for the opportunity to invest in and support women’s sports, to be part of the change and the success. See our recently published article Three reasons why now is the perfect time to invest in women's sport here.

6. Live Events

The return of live events following the pandemic was critical to the survival of many areas of the industry. The backlog of postponed events overlapping with regular calendars has seen a much-needed bumper year.

7. Fan Engagement

Fan engagement has been another mainstay of the research returning to the top 10 after a drop-off during the pandemic.

8. AR/VR and Web3

AR/VR/Metaverse/Web3 demonstrates an evolution of broader concepts after the introduction of terms such as ‘Blockchain’, ‘Crypto’ and ‘NFTs’ in January 2022. In a recent article published by The Sponsor, failed crypto sponsors were responsible for over £830m in lost sponsorship value. You can read the piece here.

9. Esports

Esports is a re-entry this year, having shot up to 3rd place in April 2020. It then fell rapidly to 9th in October 2020 and 8th in January 2021 before dropping off in January 2022.

10. Innovation

Innovation in this trend referred to the creation of rights and activation. It didn’t specifically include technological innovation, a trend in its own right that did not make the top ten.

You can view the full report by visiting the ESA website.