2022 Sports Sponsorship Year-End Review (And Trends for 2023)

SponsorUnited, the world’s leading sports and entertainment intelligence platform, tracking over 1.1 million endorsements and sponsorships across 250,000 brands released their 2022 Sports Sponsorship Year in Review Report.

The data was compiled using SponsorUnited’s proprietary platform data, which spans January 2022 to November 2022. It analyzed sponsorships for individual athletes, leagues, and teams.

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.”

The report provides a predictive analysis of what we can expect to see in 2023 for sports sponsorships:

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.”

SponsorUnited recently raised $35M to continue building out its platform.

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