Sponsor Insights

November Brand Power Rankings

As we head into the holidays and the final month of 2022, here are the 30 brands most searched by sponsorship executives on the SponsorUnited platform in November.

Alcoholic beverage brand Beatbox Beverages debuted in the #1 spot with its first appearance on the coveted list this year, hot on the heels of the company’s October announcement that it raised $15M to support its national retail expansion. With over 40 sponsorship or media deals in 2022–including becoming the Official Punch of the Alabama Crimson Tide in September– the beverage company more than doubled its 2021 total of less than 20 deals, 93% of which were with music festivals. 

MoneyLion also made the list for the first time this year, landing at #3. Last month was a big one for the fintech brand, which became the Official Money App and Jersey Patch Partner of NBA G League Ignite on November 3rd. MoneyLion also announced its first eight-member class of NIL partner athletes last month, which includes high-profile athletes across multiple sports, like UConn guard Azzi Fudd and USC wide receiver Brenden Rice. 70% of the brand’s partnerships are with athletes.

The Killer Brownie Company, November’s #4 most searched brand, entered the sponsorship space for the first time last month by announcing a partnership with the Cincinnati Bengals. The multi-year agreement makes the brand the Official Brownie of the team.

November Rankings

MLS Sponsorship Spending Sets a New League Record In 2022

There’s no denying the seemingly unstoppable momentum of Major League Soccer, as evidenced by the fact that brands spent a record $461M in sponsorships across MLS clubs this year. Let’s take a look at three reasons behind this new benchmark. 

The number of brands sponsoring MLS increased by roughly 25% in the last three years.
A few factors fueled MLS sponsorships’ growth, starting with the addition of six league-level sponsors this year: Avant, IHG, Socios, Sorare, Doordash, and Caterpillar. Meanwhile, the Alcohol, Media and Technology categories added the most brands during the 2022 season.

Digital assets grew within MLS venues.
Digital advertising in MLS increased more than 18% in 2022 across 13 different digital asset classes. The video board reigned supreme, as more than 500 brands utilized it this season—a 20% rise over last year.

adidas and Continental Tire remained the most active brands–followed by Socios.com, which aims to become MLS’ next long-term partner.
adidas, the league’s longest tenured partner at 26 years, and 12-year partner Continental Tire both have sponsorships with every MLS team. A newcomer this season, fan engagement platform Socios.com became both an official MLS partner and Official Fan Loyalty Partner of 26 MLS clubs–signaling its serious long-term sponsorship plans within the league.

Cause-Related Sponsorships Hold Steady in 2022

Cause-related sponsorships–mutually beneficial collaborations between brands and nonprofits–are enjoying a resurgence after the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset in 2020.  

These initiatives increased 21% in 2021, when more than 1,000 new brands entered the space, eager to benefit a cause through a partnership campaign. These deals have held steady through 2022, with nearly 3,500 brands and 1,700 properties participating in a cause-related sponsorship in 2022.

Categories most active in cause-related sponsorships in 2022:

  • Financial (11%)
  • Nonprofits, Charities, Associations (11%)
  • Healthcare (9%)
  • Auto (6%)
  • Insurance (5%)

Most Active Major Pro Sports Teams

  • Golden State Warriors (50+)
  • Philadelphia Eagles (40+)
  • Philadelphia Phillies (40+)
  • Miami Heat (35+)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (30+)

Top Cause-Related Initiatives:

  • Youth Foundations 
  • Health Issues 
  • Education 
  • Military/First Responders 
  • Environmental 

Three high-profile brands took center stage with their cause-related partnerships in 2022: 

adidas: The German sportswear giant takes the top spot with nearly 45 cause-related initiatives this year, focused primarily on environmental programs. The brand’s “Run for the Oceans” campaign was arguably its splashiest, with the company removing one plastic bottle from beaches and coastal communities for every 10 minutes a person ran between May 23 and June 8, 2022, tracked on the adidas Running app. To bolster awareness of the campaign, the German brand partnered with Major League Soccer and other sports organizations, as well as celebrities like Stefanos Tsisipas and Karlie Kloss.

Coca-Cola: Landing in second place with over 40 cause-related campaigns this year,  the beverage colossus partnered with teams including Real Betis, Sevilla FC, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Tampa Bay Rays to promote recycling of their Coca-Cola cans and bottles.

Nike: Third on the list with over 30 cause-related sponsorships, the Beaverton, Oregon-based sportswear titan channeled its efforts into youth-centric causes, partnering with teams like the New York Jets, Chicago White Sox, and Detroit Pistons to engage local kids in sports-related programs in the teams’ home cities.

Cause-Related

MLS Report 2022

DOWNLOAD REPORT

Brands Spend a Record $461M in Sponsorships Across Major League Soccer Clubs in 2022.
Technology and Utilities categories topped the sponsorship growth chart, accounting for 15% of new brand sponsors.

The MLS 2022 Marketing Partnerships Report analyzes 1,750 partnership deals across the league, clubs and athletes during the 2022 season. The report uncovered that $461 million in club sponsorship revenue was generated across 1,300 unique brands. The beverage-alcohol category and media brands topped the charts with the most active brands.

Key findings from the report include:

Sporting KC, Philadelphia Union and Austin FC attract nearly 100 brand deals each
All three clubs exceeded 90 sponsorship deals for the 2022 season, eclipsing the league average of 62. Sporting KC leads in terms of deal volume, with new partners including Don Neron Tequila, Socios.com, Google Fiber, and Compass Minerals, its new front jersey partner. Austin FC quickly surpassed all other MLS clubs in terms of sponsorship category diversity in just its second season.

U.S. World Cup player DeAndre Yedlin of Inter Miami CF leads with the most new brand collaborations this year
Returning to the MLS this year after a 7-year hiatus, DeAndre Yedlin has inked five brand endorsements this season. Yedlin partnered with three league sponsors–Heineken, Audi, and DoorDash–in addition to Quaker State and Captain Morgan. LAFC player Giorgio Chiellini took the lead in endorsements with 18, and the number of branded social posts with 28.

Cryptocurrency and FinTech propelled Finance to the top of 2022’s list of most searched categories
Crypto sponsorship deals within MLS quintupled to five from just one last year. Cryptocurrency was the most searched financial category within the SponsorUnited platform as more than 250 cryptocurrency brands worldwide were searched, with Coinbase, Crypto.com, and eToro leading the way. 

International and domestic brands ramp up activations with MLS
For the 2022 season, MLS gained six new league partners: Avant, IHG, Socios.com, Sorare, Doordash and Caterpillar. Brands like the Japanese beverage company Asahi tapped into the North America market for the first time through MLS, in addition international brands including Volkswagen, Bermuda Tourism Authority, and Inter&Co. The five most active brands among the league and individual athletes include Heineken (785 social posts), Audi (658 posts), BodyArmour (618 posts), Bank of Montreal (403 posts) and Delta (390 posts).

“MLS continues to impress with its increasing popularity, game attendance, and sponsorships, propelling the league to be the fastest growing in the world,” said Bob Lynch, Founder and CEO of SponsorUnited. “It’s clear to see how MLS franchise median value grew 5x more than other U.S. pro leagues through new investments made from companies like DoorDash, as well as continued support from brands like Adidas, who has been a league partner for the past 26 years. It’s an exciting time for MLS and I’m looking forward to seeing the continued momentum.”

Methodology:
This report was compiled using SponsorUnited’s proprietary platform data from January 15, 2022, through November 8, 2022. Social data compiled from property or person-controlled Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and LinkedIn accounts and social activity.

FIFA World Cup Stars Score Big With Sponsors

The 22nd FIFA World Cup kicked off yesterday with Qatar vs. Ecuador, where Ecuador won over the host country 2-0. The month-long event–whose sponsors include adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa, and Qatar Airways, among others–will showcase the world’s best players in a blockbuster broadcast event that FIFA estimates will draw an audience of over 5B viewers worldwide.

Stars like Alphonso Davies and Sergiño Dest will strive to shine, while storied veterans Lionel Messi and Ronaldo will aim to end their storied careers with a bang in their last World Cup appearance. We compiled the following roundup of the most sponsored athletes in the competition, in order of number of deals.

Neymar Jr

The Brazilian Paris Saint-Germain powerhouse has hinted that this year’s tournament–his third–may be his last. His sponsorship stable includes a whopping 36 brands, among them Puma, Netflix, Qatar Airways, Red Bull, Facebook Gaming, and Pokerstars. Red Bull, Neymar’s partner since 2016, is the main sponsor of his Five, the world’s largest five-a-side football tournament. Neymar’s deal with Puma–reportedly the largest individual sports sponsorship in history–earns him a reported $30M per year. His social media numbers reflect his mega-stardom: with a cumulative social following of over 340M followers, Neymar posted 127 times, engaging within the last 12 months more than 71M and averaging an impressive engagement of 3.6M per brand and 405.5K per post. 

Lionel Messi

With this year’s appearance, Messi and Ronaldo will join an exclusive club–which currently includes just four other players–to have played in five World Cup tournaments. The Argentine legend’s 25 deals include Adidas–a lifetime contract that pays him a reported $25M per year–Budweiser, Pepsi, Lay’s, Gatorade, and Konami. He’s also the only athlete to have a deal with Cirque du Soleil.

With over 510M followers, Messi has become a social media marvel, posting 61 times in the last 12 months for a total engagement of nearly 150M, and averaging an astonishing 8.7M per brand and 1.3M per post. Messi’s 8 Adidas posts alone garnered engagement of 18.6M. The Argentinian phenom posted 11 times in 2022 for his premium lifestyle brand, The Messi Store (total followers:1.5M), engaging 16.5M fans.

Cristiano Ronaldo 

This year’s tournament marks the fifth and final World Cup appearance of the Manchester United megastar, whose 21 partnerships include Nike, Clear, Binance, Herbalife, LiveScore, and Therabody. Sponsored by Nike since 2003, he signed a lifetime contract with the Swoosh in a deal worth a reported $1B. Ronaldo’s unrivaled global reach–he’s the most prolific person in the world on social media, with a total following of close to 760M–allows him to sign slews of exclusive deals, like his partnership with Talabat, a food delivery service company in the UAE.

With 496M followers on Instagram alone, his engagement numbers–a staggering 180M this year across 69 sponsored posts, averaging 12.8M per brand and 1.8M per post–eclipse all players on this list. Ronaldo 7 posts for his clothing and fragrance brand, CR7, garnered engagement of 41.3M, while his 5 posts for Nike scored 25.4M. Ronaldo also owns his own lifestyle hotel called Pestana CR7, with locations in New York, Madrid, Lisbon, Marrakech, Funchal, and his native Madeira.

Son Heung-min

The South Korean star of the Tottenham Hotspurs will make his third World Cup appearance in Qatar, entering the tournament with 14 deals: Adidas, Calvin Klein, Gillete, EA Sports, Tiger Beer, Republic of Gamers, NFTStar, Volvo, Tumi, OpenSea, SK Telecom, Korean Tourism Organization, Cartier, and Gentle Monster. 

The only European football athlete sponsored by Volvo and Cartier, Son is Calvin Klein’s brand ambassador in South Korea, and joins Alan Walker, Loserfruit, Nyjah Huston, and Karl-Anthony Towns as a partner of gaming equipment maker, Republic of Gamers. In 2022, his 33 sponsored posts engaged 13.2M followers, with a per-brand average of 1.6M, while his 20 Adidas posts totaled 11M in engagement.

Jack Grealish

Following his monumental, $139M move from Aston Villa to Manchester City in August 2021–which broke the British signing record–Grealish will make his World Cup debut in Qatar, entering the tourney with a stacked endorsement portfolio of 12 brands: Nike, EA Sports, McDonald’s, Icons Memorabilia, Gucci, Amazon Prime Video, Panini, PlayStation, Topps, Bose and boohooMan. Grealish is one of two World Cup players, along with Serge Gnabry, to partner with Gucci, earning a reported $1.2M. The Man City megastar’s 21 sponsored posts totaled engagement of 3.1M this year, averaging 352.7K per brand.

Guillermo Ochoa

Heading into his fifth World Cup, the Mexican stalwart known as “Memo” boasts 9 deals with Xbox, Nike, Trebel Music, Expedia, Michelob Ultra, Troquer, Hugo Boss, Dolo Neurobion, and Perfumerica. Ochoa posted 42 times for the 9 brands in 2022 , totaling 1.4M in engagement. This year, Americans Christian Pulisic and Carli Llyod joined Ochoa in a TV spot for Michelob Ultra–which also partnered with designer Guillermo Andrade to create a limited-edition, unofficial World Cup jersey for fans.

Virgil Van Dijk

This year’s competition will be the Dutch Liverpool defender’s first, but the Champions League winner already has 8 brand deals–with EA Sports, Nike, JBL, Cadbury, Tundra eSports, Meta Quest, Freia, and Sponsor Thailand–thanks to his notable success at the club level. Van Dijk is one of two European football athletes–along with Mason Mount–to have a deal with JBL. Van Dijk’s sponsored engagement on social media totaled 2.7M, with an impressive 455K average per brand. 

Trent Alexander-Arnold

The breakout star for Liverpool and England will compete in his second World Cup in Qatar, entering the tournament with deals with Therabody, Red Bull, Konami, WeAre8, Palo Alto Networks, Bang & Olufsen, and Under Armour, with whom he inked a multi-year deal worth a reported $2M annually. With close to 20M total followers on social media, the stellar right-back chalked up 5M in engagement and an average 628.3K per brand across 19 sponsored posts.

Alphonso Davies

The Ghana-born, 22-year-old standout will lead Canada in its first World Cup appearance since 1986. Besides Nike, Davies partners with Bank of Montreal, Topps, EA Sports, BioSteel, Crocs, Jordan Brand, and HATTRICKS, teaming up with the TK to create a digital football collectable game. Davies’ 33 sponsored social posts racked up a total engagement of nearly 2M this year.

Kevin De Bruyne 

Playing in his third World Cup in 2022 the Belgian Manchester City star’s sponsor lineup includes Nike, Therabody, UFL, Balln, SecretLab, Phemex, Wow Hydrate, and Lanistar. He’s also the only athlete endorsed by AI company, Balln, and crypto platform, Phemex. With a cumulative social following of 45M, De Bruyne engaged 2.1M fans across 18 posts, averaging 314.1K per brand.

Sergiño Dest

The 22-year-old defender–on loan to AC Milan from La Liga club Barcelona–will be playing in his first World Cup for USMNT, and has deals with Nike, BioSteel, AT&T, Hugo Boss, Icons Memorabilia, and EA Sports. Dest posted 5 times on social media this year, engaging 465K followers.

 

 

FTX’s Fall Presents Prime Endorsement Opportunities

For those curious about  the recent news regarding FTX’s fall from grace and its potential impact on Crypto sponsorships, here’s a real-time breakout of the total crypto sponsorship market. 

SponsorUnited tracked 311 crypto brands with sponsorships worldwide, of which FTX had an 11% share of total deals.

A few other insights:

  • 7% of crypto brands have more than 5 sponsorship deals, dominated by the top 10 in the graphic below. Meanwhile, 74% of brands have just 1 deal.
  • Despite the high profile partnerships, 79% of major pro sports teams in the NBA/NFL/MLB/MLS/MLB do NOT have a crypto sponsorship deal.
  • Of the 21% of deals done in those leagues, the most frequently purchased assets were:

1) Social media posts
2) TV-visible signage
3) IP Rights/use of marks
4) Event content/activation

FTX inked over 80 high-profile sponsorships over the last year, including a venue naming rights deal with the Miami Heat, as well as the first-ever umpire patch in Major League Baseball. With the recent news of the company’s stunning implosion, many properties will start searching for a replacement sponsor for some of the high-level assets mentioned above. Besides the teams and leagues that inked deals with FTX, a slew of star athletes also partnered with the cryptocurrency platform–including Stephen Curry, Tom Brady, Shohei Ohtani, and Shaquille O’Neal–and were featured in FTX-produced commercials and campaigns. 

Brands Cash In At The Cricket World Cup

The month-long, 16-team International Cricket Council (ICC) Men’s T20 World Cup–held this year in Australia–wrapped up Sunday (11/13), as England defeated Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to claim its second tournament title.

The competition garnered a total of 96 deals, 41 of which were brand partnerships–including England’s with cinch, the UK’s fastest-growing used car online marketplace, which saw the company’s logo emblazoned on the team’s jersey. Financial, Government, and Beverage–Non-Alcoholic took the top 3 spots on the category list. 

Nissan had the most assets of all the tournament sponsors, with 21. The Japanese carmaker’s Magnite SUV was the official car of the event, while other activations included a display of all-new models including the Qashqai and X-Trail. The Nissan brand also appeared on the three stumps behind the batter, giving the brand unrivaled visibility throughout the game. Nissan also “drove” the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 Trophy Tour, a huge activation that circled the globe with visits to 35 locations in 13 countries across four continents. 

Saudi Arabian oil giant, Aramco Services, took the second spot with 18 assets. The company provided bottle collection machines for recycling inside the Melbourne Cricket Ground while also activating their brand on the three stumps. English superstar Sam Curran earned the “Player of the Match” award, also sponsored by Aramco.

Global cryptocurrency exchange FTX landed in third place with 17 sponsorship assets throughout the championship. Its partnership as the official cryptocurrency exchange partner of the ICC came to a screeching halt just prior to the final match, as FTX branding was removed from one of the most-watched sporting events of the year amid the company’s headline-making collapse.

Sponsored Integration Is Brands’ Top Tactic on YouTube

Deals between YouTube influencers and brands are legion, as these charismatic personalities continue to build significant partnership portfolios. Sponsored integration within their YouTube videos is the leading way influencers work with brands. 

Over 550 brands saw sponsored integration within YouTube influencers’ videos in the past year. The most active brands were:

  • Betterhelp (sponsored videos with more than 15 influencers) 
  • SeatGeek
  • DraftKings
  • HelloFresh
  • NordVPN
  • Skillshare (85% of its deals include YouTube sponsor integration)

Top YouTube Influencers

MMG (Matthew Meagher) Madden Youtuber:. One of the most endorsed YouTubers with 44 deals–of which 91% include sponsored integration on YouTube–MMG ranks in the top 1% of all social influencers by deal count. Just this year, 68 of his videos featured sponsored integration. With 2.32M followers on YouTube, he’s also bolstering his TikTok presence: his current 1M followers saw 13% growth in the last 12 months.

MrBeast (Jimmy Donaldson) American Youtuber: With a whopping 110M subscribers, MrBeast is a bona fide YouTube sensation, and has racked up a staggering 200M gross following across all social platforms (YT, TT, TW, IG, FB). Mobile app Brawl Stars hit the endorsement lottery with MrBeast thanks to sponsored integration in his most viewed video ever, garnering more than 300M views since November 2021. 

Interestingly, MrBeast partners with less than 10 brands: 

  • Brawl Stars
  • DraftKings
  • Honey
  • Venmo
  • Current
  • Walmart
  • Experian
  • Coinbase
  • Nerf 

QSR Chicken Brands Sponsorship Success

Fried chicken is a perennial fast food favorite in America–and in the last 12 months, more than 100 brands bought sponsorships or media in the QSR Chicken category.

Brands bought the following assets most frequently:

  • Social Posts
  • Property Entitlements
  • Digital Content
  • Television Ads
  • TV-Visible Signage

Not surprisingly, social posts top the list of QSR Chicken’s favorite marketing tactics. The category counted more than 740 deals, totaling nearly 5K posts, across all partnerships in the last year. Each deal engaged an average 17.6K followers, with total engagement across all posts exceeding 13M.

Chick-fil-A and Raising Cane’s have the most sponsorships, and are also the most active brands on social media. 

Chick-fil-A

The Georgia-based fast food restaurant–whose chicken sandwiches boast an almost cult-like following–leads the QSR Chicken category with more than 195 sponsorship deals.

The brand has cornered the sports market in its headquarter city of Atlanta, partnering with teams including the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta United FC, and the Atlanta Braves. It also struck sponsorship gold this year thanks to deals with MLB 2022 champions, the Houston Astros, and Los Angeles FC, which won the MLS 2022 Cup in thrilling fashion on November 5.

Raising Cane’s

The chicken finger eatery takes the second spot with over 145 total sponsorship deals. One of the biggest brands to sponsor college teams and athletes with more than 25 endorsements, its partners include University of Georgia quarterback, Stetson Bennett IV, LSU women’s basketball player, Alexis Morris, and Kansas men’s basketball standout, Mitch Lightfoot.

Raising Cane’s also sponsors 3 MLB teams: the Houston Astros, the Cincinnati Reds, and the St. Louis Cardinals. As the country’s fastest growing chicken chain continues to expand aggressively–opening 100 new locations across 10 new markets this year, including PA, NJ, and DE–it will be interesting to see if the Plano, Texas-based company’s partnership strategy reflects these bold moves.

Coca-Cola FIFA World Cup Campaign

With the world’s biggest quadrennial sporting event just 10 days away, SU has been capturing unique brand activations and crossover campaign insights into the longstanding partnership between FIFA and The Coca-Cola Company, a FIFA partner since 1976 and an official sponsor since 1978. Let’s take a closer look at this epic partnership:

FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour by Coca-Cola

The World Cup Trophy Tour–which kicked off in Dubai in May and included 51 countries and territories–wraps up this week in Toronto, its last stop in North America (host of the 2026 World Cup) before the trophy heads to Qatar for the hotly anticipated 2022 event, beginning November 20. For the first time ever, the tour visited all 32 countries that qualified for this year’s World Cup–bringing Coca-Cola and FIFA one step closer to their goal of visiting each of FIFA’s 211 member associations by 2030.

In another first, all activations throughout the tour were digitally led–reducing waste and minimizing consumption of water, energy, and materials at each stop–in a nod to the beverage giant’s wide-ranging sustainability efforts. 

SponsorUnited was on the ground for the tour’s stop in Dallas earlier this week. The seamless, two-day event proved to be a terrific experience for fans, who enjoyed activities including fast-feet interactive games and foosball. At Coke Ink Studio, they could get “inked” with temporary tattoos of Coke cans bearing promises they’d make if the US wins the World Cup, part of the company’s sprawling “Believing Is Magic” campaign (detailed below). Other fan favorites: a photo opp with the trophy, sponsored by Coca-Cola, as well as a chance to create a Panini trading card with a selfie.  

“Believing Is Magic” Campaign

To inspire fans worldwide to share the commitments they make in support of their favorite teams, Coca-Cola unveiled the “Believing is Magic” campaign in September, spotlighting authentic moments of connection between fans, and the beliefs, rituals, and promises inherent in World Cup fandom. In keeping with Coca-Cola’s focus on digitally driven initiatives, the campaign features an online hub that connects fans across the world, and three digital films about the promises fans make if their team wins. 

Taglines like, “If we win I’ll get a tattoo” will also feature on special edition “promise” packaging worldwide–part of Coca-Cola’s commitment to immerse fans in soccer’s unifying magic.

Once the World Cup kicks off on November 20, Coca-Cola will also unveil a program that highlights fan superstitions during matches. New packaging also will showcase team colors and shared promises. 

World Cup 2022 Anthem: “A Kind of Magic” 

On October 19, Coca-Cola and Universal Music Group announced the unveiling of the FIFA World Cup 2022 campaign anthem–a multicultural reimagining of Queen’s iconic track, “A Kind of Magic.” 

A collaboration between three female recording artists–Danna Paola of Mexico, Felukah of Egypt, and Tamtam of Saudi Arabia–the song was released on October 21, as was the accompanying performance video, filmed in Mexico City. The video captures the excitement for one of the biggest sporting events on the planet, fusing Latin and Arabic culture with the impassioned world of the FIFA World Cup.

An electrifying performance of “A Kind of Magic” is scheduled for the World Cup opening ceremony on November 20, when Qatar will face off against Ecuador to jumpstart the FIFA festivities.