Sponsor Insights

Top Insights From Our 2022 Reports

SponsorUnited released 12 sponsorship & media reports across leagues, categories, and industries in 2022. Here’s a look at some of our best performing social media posts last year, featuring insights from each report. 

2022 Sponsorship Year In Review: Most Endorsed Global Athletes–Norfolk State standout Rayquan Smith ranked #1 with 58 deals.

MLS 2022 Marketing Partnerships Report: MLS clubs generated $461 million in sponsorship revenue in 2022.

MLB 2022 Marketing Partnerships Report: Japanese brands bought backstop ads all season when baseball phenom Shohei Ohtani stepped up to the plate: 22 brands scooped up signage at Angels home games, while 11 brands followed “Shotime” to 10 other teams’ stadiums. The first inning was sponsors’ prime time, all but guaranteeing exposure with Ohtani on the bump or at the dish.

Women In Sports 2022: Most Endorsed Female Athletes–the NWSL’s Alex Morgan took the #1 spot with 27 deals.

Music Artist Marketing Partnerships Report: Indie folk band Bon Iver inked the most partnerships with 39 deals–94% of which were with groups/organizations.  

NHL 2021-22 Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report: The NHL league account posted more on social media than any other pro sports league–and 2x more than the second-place NFL. No NHL team or player has a larger social following than the league itself.

2021-22 European Football Partnerships Report: “Since our teams started working with SponsorUnited a year ago, work processes have become more efficient, agile, and productive, giving us the opportunity to reach the right people in each company, as well as to know in detail what is the trajectory of each brand.” 

– Jose Luis Crespo Bola, LaLiga

NBA 2021-22 Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report: The NBA and Hennessy, the league’s first Global Spirits Partner, joined forces to unveil two one-of-kind basketball courts.

2021-22 Marketing Partnership Finance Report: Five brands–ally, Fifth Third Bank, LendingTree, PayPal, & Webull–sponsored uniforms in 3 or more different leagues/associations. 

NFL Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report: ​​The NFL and Roblox partnered to launch the “NFL Tycoon” game within Roblox–an experience that aimed to engage the next generation of football fans in the metaverse by allowing fans to build, play, and learn in their own NFL world. 

As part of Tide’s environmentally focused efforts, fans entered to win a “Tide Cold Washer.” A talking washing machine featured 10 NFL players, including Matt Ryan, who was featured in new TV spots.

MLS 2021 Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report: 18 teams within MLS during the 2021 season had a single jersey sleeve partner.

Technology Sponsorships Annual Report: The Brooklyn Nets were the first professional sports team to arrive in the metaverse, creating 3-D renderings of their games within seconds–allowing fans to place themselves around (or even on) the court during play. 

100 Most Searched Brands of 2022

As we dive into a new year, here’s the list of the 100 most searched brands by sponsorship executives on the SponsorUnited platform in 2022.

Toyota led the way at #1. With over 1,100 sponsorship/media deals, the Japanese automotive giant boasted major sponsorships with properties all over the world, including AS Roma, Buffalo Bills, and FC Dallas. The company ended the year by announcing that it’s becoming the Official Vehicle of World of Outlaws, the home of premier dirt track racing for more than 40 years. Over 150 of Toyota’s 2022 partnerships were media deals with local news shows and networks.

Dunkin’ was the second most searched brand on the platform. The company jumped into the NIL space last February by signing University of North Carolina basketball player, Deja Kelly, and University of Georgia track star, Matthew Boling, to Team Dunkin’, whose roster now includes over 30 standout student athletes. Dunkin’ also rolled out limited-edition donuts with the Tennessee Titans and University of Georgia Athletics last summer.

Soft drink powerhouse Coca-Cola took the third spot. With more than 1,700 partnerships, the company sponsored 55 music festivals in 2022, including Tomorrowland, Lollapalooza, and the Governors Ball. Coca-Cola also became an Official Sponsor of Liverpool and the Tottenham Hotspurs, and was the presenting sponsor of the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour.

Verizon, the fourth most searched brand of 2022, sponsored more than 30 music festivals, including Coachella, Forecastle Festival, and III Points. Last April, the telecom titan became the Official Founding Partner of League of Legends: Wild Rift Esports for North America, followed by a high-profile turn as Official Partner of the F1 Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix in May. Verizon also partnered with over 100 properties across the top five major US pro sports leagues. 

Some of last year’s trends were reflected in the top 100 search–namely, the rise and fall of the crypto industry. Crypto.com, FTX, and Coinbase were among the top 25 most searched brands. Overall, the financial category had a strong year, with 3 financial sub-categories–banking, cryptocurrency, and fintech–ranking among the top 5 most searched.  

QSR Category Report

2022 Category Takeaways:

  1. QSR Burger pulled away as the top QSR sub-category, now having 23% more sponsorships than any other sub-category.
  2. QSR Coffee & Tea surpassed QSR Sandwich in total sponsorships in 2022.
  3. QSR Chicken surpassed QSR Pizza in total sponsorships in 2022.
  4. The number of QSR Social Partnerships increased by 23% in 2022, yet engagement and number of posts per deal have decreased in the same timeframe.

NFL Christmas Games

The National Football League will have its first-ever Christmas Day tripleheader this year.

Take a look at how the competing team’s social game and sponsorship portfolio compare.

World Cup Final

As the players get ready to take the pitch for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Final, we compare the two team’s brand portfolio and social game.

2022 Sports Sponsorship Year In Review

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Endorsement and media deals grew 20% YoY for both female professional and NIL athletes, with a 102% increase in brands buying sponsorships or media deals across NIL alone

The 2022 Sports Sponsorship Year In Review offers a comprehensive view of sports sponsorships and endorsements this year. Compiled using SponsorUnited’s proprietary platform data from January 2022 through November 2022, the report analyzed sports sponsorships across leagues, teams, and individual athletes.

Top findings from 2022 include:

MLB had the most sponsorship deals in professional sports. The league saw 3,350 sponsorships this year though the NFL trailed closely behind with 3,000 deals, its $1.8B in sponsorship revenue was 50% higher than MLB’s $1.2B. 

Women’s sports saw a 20% increase in partnerships year-over-year. NWSL’s Alex Morgan and tennis star Serena Williams led the list with 27 deals each, while college softball superstar Lauren Burke came in second with 22 partnerships.

The top 5 most endorsed global athletes had 209 combined total deals. Norfolk State’s track and field phenom Rayquan Smith was the most sponsored athlete of 2022 with 58 deals, followed by cricket player Virat Kohli with 44. Race car driver Kurt Busch inked 40, Brazilian footballer Neymar Jr. had 36, and NFL star Austin Ekler rounded out the list with 30 deals.

NIL (name, image, likeness) saw major social sponsorship growth. Football led with 598 deals, including 12 players with social media-focused deals worth $1M+. Men’s basketball followed with 328 deals, and women’s basketball took third with 234 deals. 

“2022 has been a year to remember for the sports sponsorship industry,” said Bob Lynch, Founder and CEO of SponsorUnited. “From the bounce-back in sponsorship deals and entitlements led by disruptive categories and companies, to the significant expansion in social endorsements–particularly on TikTok for female athletes–this year has brought a wave of new opportunities for brands across numerous industries.”

Besides an incisive recap of 2022 highlights, the reports provides predictive analysis of what we can expect to see next year:

Women athletes are poised to dominate sponsorships. Brands’ sponsorship of female athletes grew 20% in 2022, with 70% growth in social engagement–where women are on track to eclipse their male counterparts in social engagement by 2024.

Digital assets will continue to grow in dominance. Digital signage, streaming, and other digital sponsorships offer opportunities for brands to connect to fans in new ways that are unavailable in traditional media. 

Sports betting services will provide a growing media platform for new sponsorship deals. Partnerships with streaming platforms offer live betting lines, promotions, and interactive viewing experiences.

Major pro sports and athlete charity sponsorships are expected to grow by 25%. The number of charities & non-profits with athlete sponsorship deals has increased 85% since 2019. Lifestyle brands sponsorships in particular are predicted to grow. 

“As we move into a new year, we can expect to see greater growth within newer sports sponsorships areas, particularly in digital,” added Lynch. “Sports fans across the leagues want more ways to engage with their favorite teams and players. We can expect to see brands exploring these new channels more in 2023 and beyond.”

Methodology:
This report was compiled using SponsorUnited’s proprietary platform data from January 2022 through November 2022. Social data compiled from property or person-controlled Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and LinkedIn accounts and social activity. The report found that 14K+ brands bought over 20K sponsorships across 11 professional leagues and their teams – the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, WNBA, NWSL, PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, WTA Tour and ATP Tour. It also revealed that 2,500+ brands have bought over 4K sponsorships across individual professional athletes.

Inside College Football’s Busiest Season

With the end of the year quickly approaching, that means it’s College Bowl time. 41 bowl games were announced over the weekend and will kick off mid-December. Some bowl games have histories that span decades while others have stories that are just beginning.

The Capital One Orange Bowl | Tennessee (6) vs. Clemson (10)

Capital One has been the title sponsor of the Orange Bowl since 2014. 6% of Capital One’s 560+ deals are with Division 1 Bowls, Tourneys & Championship. While they are the title sponsor of the Orange Bowl, they also have sponsorships with other college bowls like The Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Allstate Sugar Bowl to name a few. 

The Allstate Sugar Bowl | Alabama (5) vs. Kansas State (11)

The Sugar Bowl, along with the Orange Bowl and Sun Bowl, are the second-oldest bowl games in the country. Allstate has been the title sponsor since 2007 and is currently the brand’s largest partnership. Close to 100 brands are buying sponsorships and media with the Sugar Bowl. No category dominates the bowl’s partnership portfolio, the top three categories- media, QSR and Auto- make up less than 30% combined. 

The Rose Bowl | Utah (8) vs. Penn State (11)

“The Granddaddy of Them All” aka The Rose Bowl oldest operating college football bowl game. Capital One has been a presenting sponsor (not the title sponsor) of the previous two Rose Bowl’s. This year’s presenting sponsor will be Northwestern Mutual . 

Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl Presented by Stifel | Fresno State vs. Washington State

Since The Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl’s inaugural season in 2021, the bowl has partnerships with 59 brands including 9 Auto brands- the largest category sponsor for the bowl- inclusive of Toyota. This bowl is 1 of Toyota’s 30 college bowl deals while it’s Stifel’s one and only college bowl partnership.

Cheez-It Bowl | Florida State (13) vs. Oklahoma

The Cheez-It Bowl, formerly known as the Camping World Bowl (2017-19), the Russell Athletic Bowl (2012-16), the Champs Sports Bowl (2004-11), has undergone several title sponsors since 1990. Cheez-It has partnered with 25 other bowl games in various capacities over the years. 25% of Cheez-It’s 110+ deals are with Division 1 Bowl games.

 

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

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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.

USA vs. England FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

The much anticipated USA vs England FIFA World Cup match begins in just a few hours. Take a look at some of the new and extended partnerships brands have activated across both teams.

USA

11/16, Legends Partnership Extended with USA
Less than a week before the USMT’s first World Cup game of 2022 vs. Wales, Legends announced a partnership extension with the U.S. Soccer Federation. The new multi-year agreement builds on a previous four-year partnership to keep Legends as the provider for all U.S. Soccer Store experiences both online and at events. New objectives of this agreement include future plans to implement an elevated version of the Visa Fan Studio, a mobile unit that can be stationed at U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Team matches.

11/7, U.S. Soccer and Volkswagen announce partnership extension
Almost a month before the start of the FIFA World Cup, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced a multi-year partnership extension with Volkswagen. The extension follows the German manufacturers continued growth of electric vehicles, including the ID.4 SUV and upcoming ID. Buzz. New efforts for the partnership include a focus on sustainability and electrification, as U.S. Soccer and Volkswagen will team up to work towards actionable sustainability initiatives and encouraged EV adoption.

11/3, Anheuser-Busch singed a multi-year sponsorship extension with U.S. Soccer
The longest strategic partner of the U.S. Soccer Federation, Anheuser-Busch, announced a partnership renewal that builds off the pre-existing 35-year relationship. The extension includes Kickoff Parties before select World Cup matches that include live entertainment, giveaways, and guest appearances from influencers and alumni. Matt Davis, the Head of Sports Marketing of Anheuser-Busch, focused on supporting the continued growth of the U.S. soccer’s growing fanbase.

ENGLAND

5/30, Nuffled Health announced new partnership with the England FA
As part of a five-year partnership, Nuffled Health was announced as the FA’s Official Health and Wellbeing Partner. The partnership aims to improve the wellbeing of individuals and communities through the mental and physical benefits brought by the game of football.

5/23, Marks & Spencer (M&S) announced new joint partnership with England FA and more
To help promote the brand’s food division, M&S tapped England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland FA as part of a joint partnership. The campaign began in July, and includes both physical inventory and content integrations featuring star players from the country’s national team rosters.