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International superstar Shohei Ohtani has garnered an impressive 188% increase in social followers YoY. That has translated into signing more than 10 endorsements with brands globally. How does that compare to teammate Mike Trout? Trout’s social following has only grown 2% over the past year but it has not slowed down the amount of deals he has which are in the double digits.
How does this compare to other star players around the league?
Signing mega deals for a player’s “performance” has not always meant endorsement deals off the field. Two examples of this are Max Scherzer & Gerrit Cole who are the two highest paid pitchers in baseball. Each player totals only two deals, both have a deal with Rawlings, while Scherzer has a deal with Indeed and Cole with Nike. Notably, both of these players are not as active on social media as some other star players having under 1 million followers each.
Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper comes to mind when thinking about players like Trout having more than five endorsements off the field while signing big contracts for his game play. Harper has over 2 million followers on social media that his brand partners like Dairy Queen, Gatorade & Fanatics leverage. Harper’s followers average a 4% engagement rate on his social posts totalling over 380k engagements, the most of the five athletes mentioned. Ohtani leads the group with 11 total deals and highest
While over 10M viewers tuned in Sunday to watch the Masters Final Round, everyone else around the world was watching the Grand National. With a view count higher than the NFL Super Bowl, over 500M people tuned in to watch the three day 2022 Grand National events. The annual horse race in Liverpool had over 60+ partnerships, including naming rights sponsors for each of the three races over the long weekend.
With a viewership number like the Grand National, it pays to be a sponsor. So who cashed in big?
The Grand National’s Race Naming Rights Sponsors for the three-day event were:
Randox, Betway, SSS Super Alloys, Jewson, Close Brothers, Goffs UK.
Randox, Betway, Alder Hey, Marsh Insurance, House of Cavani, Park Palace Ponies
Randox, Betway, EFT Construction, Poundland, JRL Group, Weatherbys.
Randox and Betway cashed in on the high viewership count as they were the only brands with naming rights for all three days. Randox, a UK based healthcare brand, became the first non-alcoholic Title Sponsor of the Grand National in 2017 after signing a five-year deal as the Exclusive Title Sponsor (now with a new deal extension through 2026). Randox had 38+ in-person assets during this year’s event, including Interior Signage, Rider Jersey Patches, Horse Saddle Signage, and Integrated Content into The Grand National’s Printed Program.
Other assets that brands activated during the race included a Sponsored Award, Press Conference Banners, and Sponsored Services Provided. The race featured over 2x more deals than the average equestrian event, and over 50% of the deals included a form of Venue Signage. In total, there are over 300 brands that partner with equestrian / thoroughbred events globally, but 27% less brands partnering with UK based events than the US.
The 2022 Papa Johns Trophy winners were decided in the closing moments of the soccer match as Rotherham United scored a last-minute equalizer and beat Sutton United 4-2 in extra-time.
SponsorUnited was in attendance and captured over 70 sponsorship assets throughout the match, check out some of the activations and insights!
The MLB approved jersey patch inventory for the upcoming 2022 season. Teams aim to increase revenue to keep up with the growing cost of player contracts. According to SponsorUnited, there are over 165 brands actively buying sponsorships on uniforms among US Major Pro Sports. This includes helmets in NHL and jersey sleeves in MLS.
Of these categories, Healthcare takes the top spot as the most frequent sponsorship buyer for uniform exposure deals. Healthcare has 25% of all deals by a single category, followed by Financial and Technology categories. Will this trend continue in the MLB, or will new categories and emerging brands disrupt the scene?
In 2021, the MLB saw strategic partnerships thrive within the Education sector. This category brought in more revenue to the MLB than any other Major Pro Sport in the US. One category expected to see growth this season, according to SponsorUnited’s MLB 2021 Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report, is Cryptocurrency. The top three most-searched brands in 2021 by MLB executives throughout the season were FTX, Coinbase and Crypto.com. FTX also signed a moon-sized deal with the league.
After a season of empty stadiums in 2020, more than 400 brands produced content on the big screens located in the outfield as game/entertainment content on the videoboard was the MLB’s top activation in 2021. International Car Manufacturers continue to drive towards TV deals as they were the top category in 2021, a trend that is poised to continue for a 6th straight year.
The first race of the F1 season took place this past Sunday at the Bahrain International Circuit. Scuderia Ferrari won the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix in a one-two finish with teammates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on Sunday. The team has over 25 sponsors currently, with over 15M social media followers ranking 3rd across all F1 teams. 50% of the auto brands the team partners with are in the Aftermarket – Parts & Equipment sub-category.
Among F1 teams, Scuderia Ferrari ranks 5th in terms of sponsorship deals. At the race there were over 10 brands having a presence during the broadcast as well as with signage at the track.
Throughout the Bahrain International Circuit, Crypto.com had over five assets between the broadcast and venue after recently signing a deal with F1 entering this season. Signage included the Archway, Barrier, a fixed and rotating billboard as well as naming rights to the podium where the top finishers are presented.
Rolex has been a sponsor of F1 since 2013 and receives tons of exposure during races. As the Official Timepiece of F1, Rolex began the season with eight assets between the broadcast and venue. Similar to Crypto.com, Rolex can be seen with the similar assets while also having a Fixed Groundscape as well as having the event clock signage.
Teams Compete on the Field in El Clásico, While Brands are Competing Off the Field
With a combined annual commercial turnover of €700m, this Sunday, two of the world’s biggest football teams Real Madrid and Barcelona, match up for the second El Clasico of the 2021/22 La Liga season.
The rivalries extend from the pitch to their partners with competitors utilizing the power of the clubs to gain market share in their categories. This can be seen with Nike (FCB) v Adidas (RM), Mahou (RM) v Estrella Damm (FCB), and Cupra (FCB) v Audi (RM). The outlier in this being Coca-Cola, who are the Soft Drink Partner of both clubs, despite Gatorade (PepsiCo) also being the Official Sports Nutrition Partner of FC Barcelona, in comparison to Powerade (Coca-Cola) for Real Madrid.
Most recently, Barcelona agreed to terms with Spotify on a mega 4-year deal worth north of $300 million. This deal marks the teams first with a digital audio company while Real Madrid currently does not have one. The deal sees Barcelona’s stadium renamed to Spotify Camp Nou while also getting exposure on the team’s training kits.
Despite both teams having a social following of over 250M, Real Madrid leverages their social media more with over 1,200 sponsored posts (compared to FC Barcelona’s 450) resulting in over double the total engagement at 78.5M v FC Barcelona: 32.3M.
Both teams have global presence and awareness which can be seen through their partnership portfolio. Both teams have deals with large international brands Emirates (RM) and Rakuten (FCB) being the primary jersey patches, as well as smaller, regional deals with local and regional brands for the teams. Real Madrid has regional sponsors including KOK Sports (Asia) and RepX (LATAM), while FC Barcelona include Rakbank (UAE) and Taiping Life Insurance (China) among their partners.
Unlike what is being seen in the U.S., the betting category has shrunk dramatically across La Liga teams. This is due to new laws banning the advertisement of gambling companies across Spain, which had previously seen all La Liga sides having a betting partner in 2020/21, including seven with primary jersey patch deals.
Over 115 brands have taken advantage of signing a men’s college basketball player to a NIL deal since granted access in July 2021. Mercury NFT claims the #1 overall spot with 11 total NIL deals. The brand’s college portfolio includes Dontaie Allen, Keion Brooks Jr., Davion Mintz, Jacob Toppin, TyTy Washington, along with Coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats.
Rounding out the top four spots are Morgan & Morgan (10 deals), FTX (7 deals) and Raising Cane’s (7 deals). 48% of Morgan & Morgan’s total sponsorship deals are with collegiate basketball players while FTX continues to expand their portfolio across numerous colleges and leagues during the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
The technology category has over 30 endorsements within the NIL space with NFT’s accounting for nearly 50% of tech category deals. Ranked by sub-categories in technology, NFT is second after Non-Athletic Apparel/Footwear. Cryptocurrency is 5th as brands lean on the younger generation to promote the blockchain technology that has recently revolutionized the technology industry. Instagram is the most utilized social media platform by these athletes as it beats out Twitter in terms of the number of branded posts.
10 of the Kentucky Wildcat players have landed in the top 30 for NCAA men’s basketball players in terms of NIL endorsement deals. Here is the full list of the top athletes with 5 or more endorsement deals:
Three weeks into the 2022 MLS season, new brands have been seen entering the MLS sponsorship space for the first time, partnering with teams after the season opener on February 26th. Nashville FC named cryptocurrency brand, Valkyrie Invest, as a founding partner a week into the 2022 season. Nashville FC became the first MLS team to accept a full partnership fee in bitcoin.
Part of the partnership includes club naming rights to Nashville FC’s new 850-seat premium club, which will be renamed to the Valkyrie Premier Club. Valkyrie Invest was the #23 most searched brand this past week on the SponsorUnited platform seeing a jump from #7,492 the previous week. Many other brands have entered the MLS for the first time during the 2022 season.
Nashville SC X GEODIS
With Nashville SC set to begin play at their new stadium during the 2022 season, the team has secured a venue naming rights partner, GEODIS, which will rename the field to GEODIS Park. GEODIS is an international brand headquartered in France with their eyes set on an expansion in the United States as they have recently opened a new warehouse in New York.
Charlotte FC X Ruoff Mortgage
Ruoff Mortgage was named the Official Mortgage Company of Charlotte FC as part of a multi-year partnership less than a week into the club’s inaugural season. This deal marks the brand’s first partnership with an MLS club.
NYFC X Flo
Flo was named the Official Electric Vehicle Charging Partner of the 2021 MLS Champion, the New York City Football Club. The partnership marks the brand’s first Major Pro Sports partnership in the United States although they currently have a deal in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks in Canada.
Chicago Fire X Wintrust Financial Corporation
Chicago based company, Wintrust, entered the MLS for the first time in a multi-year partnership with the Chicago Fire FC, becoming the Official Banking Partner of the team. The brand will leverage assets which include exclusive pitch entitlement for all home games played at Soldier Field, as well as key signage throughout the stadium including the player tunnel and in-stadium LED signage.