5 Unique Types of Sports Sponsorships That Are Gaining Popularity with Brands
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Sports sponsorships provide a platform for brands to boost their visibility and connect with their audience. But long gone are the days where the only viable opportunities for brands were professional men’s leagues. These days sports sponsorships opportunities for brands are vast: ranging from up and coming sports like pickleball, to opportunities on the youth sports fields.
The emergence of unique sponsorship opportunities is a reflection of both evolving consumer preferences and innovations in marketing strategies and technology. Plus, with the cost of sponsoring pro sports higher than ever before, brands are open to alternatives.
Here are five examples of unique sports sponsorships that are capturing the interest of forward-thinking brands.
Drone Racing Sponsorships
The Drone Racing League (DRL) targets an audience that they’ve dubbed the ‘Tech Setters,’ made up of mainly 16-to-34-year-olds, 70% of whom do not watch professional sports. They estimate that this audience is projected to hit 1 billion people by 2030.
The DRL hosts races in a variety of formats: real drone pilots, esports gamers, and in the metaverse, which can appeal to a wide audience. This past season Drone racing streaming rose by 23% and social media followers of the sport grew by 45%. Advances in drone technology, particularly in FPV goggles and racing drone designs are making it more accessible and engaging for fans.
Sponsors like the U.S. Air Force see value in this growing, technical audience.
“The world’s best pilots fly in the U.S. Air Force and race in the Drone Racing League, and that’s the magic of our partnership,” explained DRL President Rachel Jacobson. “We put a spotlight on high performance through tech-driven competition, leveling up our fans with new, multifaceted STEM skills that are transferable across all industries, including entertainment, mobility and security.”
Pickleball’s growth and inclusivity make it an attractive platform for sponsors. According to the SFIA, pickleball participation has increased to 158% in the past three years. In 2022, it was recorded that nearly 9 million people were playing the sport. Sponsorship opportunities can be tailored to suit the goals and resources of pickleball organizations, whether they are major tournaments, or smaller community leagues. Some popular sponsorship assets in the pickleball space are tournament sponsorships, court branding, and custom equipment.
Pickleball’s biggest event of the year, the USA Pickleball National Championship, boasts a sponsorship portfolio of close to 30 brands participating.
Adaptive Sports Sponsorships
Companies aiming to enhance their commitment to diversity and inclusion can find valuable opportunities in supporting adaptive sports and athletes with disabilities. This involvement can take the form of sportswear brands endorsing disabled athletes and offering them specially designed adaptive sports apparel. A prime example is Nike’s sponsorship of Tatyana McFadden, a celebrated Paralympic track and field athlete.
Sponsorships within adaptive sports also open doors for partnerships focused on technology and assistive devices. Ottobock, for example, is known for its prosthetic and orthotic sponsorships in the Paralympics.
Esports Team Sponsorships
As the popularity of eSports increases, companies are increasing their sponsorship of professional gaming teams. These sponsorships may include logo placement on team jerseys, in-game branding, and content collaborations. Esport sponsorships fit into the digital space just as naturally as they do at IRL eSporting events, which opens up more inventory for interested brands.
Red Bull has been involved in eSports sponsorships for several years. The eSports scene, which resonates strongly with younger demographics, serves as an ideal arena for Red Bull to engage with its core audience. A standout instance of this strategy is their alliance with Team SoloMid (TSM), a prominent eSports organization with a history as one of North America’s top professional teams.
Youth Sports Sponsorships
Youth sports sponsorships represent an investment in the future by supporting the development of young athletes. Youth sports are deeply rooted in community, and can directly connect brands with the families and communities they serve. This focus on community engagement sets youth sports sponsorships apart from other types of brand partnerships.
As consumer interest in diverse sporting events continues to grow, brands will continue to diversify their sponsorship portfolios. Instead of solely pursuing traditional professional sports, there is a burgeoning opportunity for brands to align with novel and rising sports to captivate and connect with enthusiasts.