A year since professional and grassroots sport ground to an abrupt halt at the start of the pandemic, confidence is returning to the sector with 92 practitioners optimistic that the sports industry will recover in the next 1-2 years and 83 per cent optimistic that the sponsorship industry will bounce back in the same timeframe, according to new research by ONSIDE in collaboration with Sport for Business.

Both these figures have increased by 22% since September 2020.

The fourth wave of the Onside Sports industry Monitor, a survey of sponsors, rightsholders, broadcasters and agency members of the Sport for Business industry group supported this optimism with 42 per cent of sponsors confirming they have entered new sports partnerships since the start of the pandemic.

We sat down this morning with Onside founder John Trainor to discuss some of the key findings from the report.



“While 1 in 5 sponsors are still considering dropping out of existing sports sponsorships as a result of Covid-19, we have seen more than double that number enter into new sports partnerships” said Trainor.

“There has been quite a dramatic shift in the types of agreements sponsors are looking for with significant growth in the proportion of sponsors more likely to invest in sport-related community and grassroots, sustainability and cause-related initiatives in the next 12 months.”

“Even before the historic weekend for women’s sport spurred by Rachael Blackmore’s Grand National triumph, our latest research found strong momentum building with 15 per cent of sponsors saying they are a lot more likely to invest in women’s sports sponsorships in the next 12 months and 54 per cent claiming to be a little more likely, an increase across these two groups of 34 per cent since September 2020.”

Greatest Potential

The GAA (75%) and rugby (69%) started Q2 2021 as the platforms that sports industry insiders say provide the most potential benefits for sponsors, followed by the Olympics (56%) and Paralympics (52%).

In the build-up to the rescheduled Tokyo Games, several Olympic sports have enhanced their perceptions as potential sponsorship platforms, notably hockey and athletics as well as the Olympic and Paralympic brands.

Despite this optimism, it has been a tough year for rights holders, with 26 per cent confirming they have lost sponsors due to the pandemic.

“Of those that have agreed to amend agreements, 1 in 2 have had to accept a reduced rights fee,” added Trainor.   “There also remains a high volume of deals at the negotiating table. Of the 6 in 10 sponsors and rights holders who have entered negotiations, only 43 per cent have successfully agreed amendments, with 21% per cent still negotiating and 36 per cent having agreed short-term amendments but still negotiating the longer-term implications.”

Due Diligence

“With regulators around the world looking at the relationship between sport and its sponsors, it was interesting to see that 7 in 10 industry practitioners in Ireland are doing extensive due diligence on the business practices of an organisation before partnering with them.,” said Rob Hartnett, founder of Sport for Business.

“However, a finding of concern for our industry is that 1 in 2 practitioners believe there is a significant lack of diversity and inclusion in the sports industry in Ireland today, something requiring urgent attention from all involved.”

Over the coming days, we will share more of the content from the survey including greater detail on when organisations expect a return to fans and the degree of confidence they have in different events being completed on schedule.

Copies of the full survey have been made available to all those members who completed the survey and further information on the findings can be requested from info@onside.ie or rob@sportforbusiness.com


Sport for Business Partners