2023 was a financially arduous year for most brands, but that did not stop the continuous advancement of the sports sponsorship space. Sports sponsorship saw sizeable growth for all four of the major professional sports leagues in the United States, despite many projections forecasting otherwise. Here are some sponsorship highlights from each league in 2023:
The NHL has the least sponsorship revenue of all the four major professional sports leagues, sitting at $1.28 billion. But that is a 21% year-over-year increase from the 2021-22 season, which is the largest of any North American major sports property.
The league hit a record 70 sponsors this year according to the NHL Marketing Partnerships Report for 2022/23. The report also noted a 108% growth in team sponsorship revenue. The largest growth was in the betting and daily fantasy sponsorship space, which saw a 185% growth in the number of sponsorship deals.
A massive driver of these upped sponsorship numbers was the NHL’s introduction of new arena signage in the form of digital advertisement boards, which Jim Andrews elaborated on in a past TicketManager blog. These innovative virtual ad spaces allow the league to switch sponsorship branding on the ringside signage throughout broadcasts, giving way to nearly endless opportunity for in-arena signage sponsorship.
The four teams who made it to the 2023 NHL Conference Final games, the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Las Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars averaged a combined 125 sponsorship deals, which is 21% more than the league average.
The NBA went into the 2022-23 season coming off record sponsorship growth in the previous four seasons, thanks in no small part to the addition of jersey patch sponsorship deals that grew the league’s total sponsorship revenue by nearly a third, from 861 million to 1.12 billion, in just 2018 alone. Now, the league sits at $1.66 billion in yearly sponsorship revenue.
According to GlobalData, a data and analytics firm, NBA teams are projected to generate around $294 million in revenue just from jersey patch deals in the 2023-24 season.
The league has seen a decreasing sponsorship revenue growth rate since the 2017-18 season as more teams entered jersey patch partnerships. All but three of the NBA’s teams, the Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trailblazers, and Memphis Grizzlies, now have jersey patch deals of their own. Despite the dwindling opportunity for these lucrative patch deals, total sponsorship revenue continued to grow in 2023.
With financial struggles for many prominent brands in 2023 and the loss of around $20 million when FTX’s deals with the Heat and Warriors fell apart, sponsorship revenue growth for the league was expected to flatten out or even decrease. But the 2023 season still saw the association’s sponsorship revenue grow 1.3% to a record $1.66 billion, according to IEG. That figure takes into account arena, team, and league sponsorship rights fees.
New deals that can be credited for this growth include new league-level sponsorship deals with Sorare (a fantasy sports cryptocurrency), Hisense, a new arena naming rights partnership between the Miami Heat and Kaseya, and new global sponsorship deals from the league’s latest pre-season venture into Abu Dhabi.
Major League Baseball had a record year in 2022-23, thanks in no small part to rule changes like the addition of the pitch clock, that lead to viewership and attendance numbers that had not been seen in years. This record interest in America’s pastime translated directly to the sponsorship space.
The league’s annual sponsorship revenue grew to $1.5 billion in 2023, marking a near 23% increase over 2022. According to Forbes, over 500 new sponsors engaged with the MLB during the 2022-23 season across more than 30 different categories spanning from food to hotel/restaurant and more. This massive increase in total sponsors pushed the MLB ahead of the NFL by total volume.
While countless sectors of the business world got in on sponsorship in the MLB last year, the largest by far was financial institutions. The finance space accounted for more than $200 million in team sponsorship revenue, which was a nearly 38% increase over the 2021-22 season.
Like the NHL, a major new revenue source for Major League Baseball was their introduction of digital signage near the dugouts, which quickly became the most purchased new asset of the season. Over 67 brands used the new digital signage in 2022-23.
The NFL continues to cement itself as the undeniable king of professional sports in the United States. The 32 teams in the league generated around $2.35 billion in sponsorship revenue during the 2022-23 season. The number is up just over 15% from the previous season and their $2.35B total is more than 50% larger than the NBA and MLB.
The deal that had the largest effect on this was the league’s renewal with TicketManager friend and partner, Ticketmaster. Ticketing deals like this one, both on the league level and team level, saw an over 95% increase in revenue in 2022-23 and account for $253 million in team sponsorship revenue. The next three largest categories are financial, alcohol, and healthcare sponsorship.
According to Sportico, the most active NFL in-arena sponsor is TicketManager partner AB In-Bev and their brand Bud Light, followed closely by two more TicketManager partners, Ticketmaster and Verizon.
Unsurprisingly, the team with the highest individual sponsorship revenue was “America’s team,” the Dallas Cowboys. But the teams that saw the largest year-over-year increase in total sponsorship revenue were the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, and Denver Broncos.
Today’s society is more technologically advanced than ever before, and it will only continue to advance. New technology and data collection techniques have given brands access to more information than you can imagine. Hyper-specific data on attendance, conversion rates, viewing habits, what ads lead to purchases, what ads lead to website or social traffic, general consumer behavior, and so much more.
Companies use this data to decide what is the most effective avenue for them to market their product. The growth within the sports sponsorship space in 2023 makes one thing abundantly clear: the most successful companies recognize the power of live sports and events, and they are going to continue to invest their capital into the space.