Trends And Predictions For 2019

With the UK’s political class paralysed by Brexit and the global stock markets suffering from an extended malaise, making predictions for the coming year seems even more perilous than usual. But here are a few themes that look set to impact on sponsorship in 2019. And don’t forget that the final deadline for entering the 2019 edition of the UK Sponsorship Awards (UKSA) is coming up soon – January 22! And that the deadline for nominations for the Best Sponsorship of the Last 25 Years is this Friday, the 11th.  

Esports moves mainstream: In October 2018, Mastercard became the latest high-profile brand to throw its hat in the esports ring when it signed a multi-year global sponsorship of League of Legends. Deals like this are playing a key role in legitimising the appeal of esports among the mainstream marketing community. With digital research firm Superdata predicting that esports will be generating around US$2.1bn in revenues by 2021, expect more brands to enter the fray this year.

Sustainability in sponsorship: 2018 saw the issue of single use plastic suddenly rise to prominence. While many countries are stuck with a rump of climate change deniers and stakeholders seeking to roll back environmental protections, the overall message for brands is that young audiences are pretty proactive regarding the environment and expect brands to reflect those values. So expect to see a few more sponsors start to promote their green credentials to customers.

More sectors under scrutiny: Italy banned betting sponsorship in 2018 and the Labour Party has said it will take a similar line if it comes to power in the UK. In response to growing pressure the UK betting industry agreed at the end of last year to impose a ban on gambling ads during live televised sport. The pressure is likely to continue on the betting industry in 2019 and may spill over into sponsorship – not just in terms of regulation, but also the kind of partners that rights holders are willing to work with. Also expect concerns about obesity to start to impact on sponsorship decision-making in 2019.

Attention on Asia: Chinese brands are becoming ever more prominent on the global scene and this will continue to play into the sponsorship sector. But Japan too is about to enter a period of prominence. Late 2019 will see the country host the Rugby World Cup and Tokyo then has the job of delivering the Summer Olympics in 2020. All of this present challenges in terms of time difference but also opportunities for creative ‘East Meets West’ collaborations.

Stories vs Data: Big data took one hell of a beating in 2018 thanks to GDPR, allegations of Russian political interference and the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal. Data’s contribution to targeting will continue to be important in 2019, but sponsorship will continue to play a key role in helping brands tell their story to consumers. This fits into a broader trend which will see brands invest more in content and creativity as they attempt to engage with their target audience.

Political Divisions - Choose Your Side: Polarised politics are a challenge for brands. Already, 2019 has kicked off with London Mayor Sadiq Khan attaching a pro-European message to the city’s New Year fireworks display. And the BBC’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ABC Murders was laden with references to Brexit-inspired intolerance.  Throughout the year, brands will have to make their own judgement calls about how far they should back British and where they should stand on the issue of inclusiveness. In the US, Nike made a bold stand last year when it signed up the NFL’s kneeling star Colin Kaepernick. Some brands will see commercial benefit in making similar stands – others will decide on a more circumspect course of action.

Soccer is not the only sport: Football is not going through a great period – somehow managing to combine high costs to the consumer with increased instances of hooliganism. No wonder the sport is proving a turn off for a large section of the youth audience. Football’s loss, however, is a gain for other activities such as running. In Germany, marketing agency ISPO has just unveiled its own 2019 predictions in which it says: “Running and triathlon are attracting the interest of companies. What’s that about? The attributes of endurance, willpower, and eagerness to train. Automotive manufacturers, insurance companies, and electronics manufacturers are adorning themselves with running stars and Iron Men/Women.” Also in running’s favour is that it can be enjoyed as part of a digital community – making the experience less isolating and more social.

Influencer endorsements go mainstream: Online stars have tended to be a law unto themselves until recently – reaching out to youth audiences only via platforms such as YouTube. However the sight of Joe Sugg on Strictly Come Dancing and co-hosting the BBC’s New Year’s Eve celebration is a sign that some online stars are moving mainstream. While it is common for brands to market their products via influencers’ digital channels, 2019 might be the year when they start to leverage influencer appeal across more traditional channels.


Don’t forget, the entry process for the 2019 UK Sponsorship Awards is now live and runs until its January 22 final deadline. The 25th Anniversary edition of the Awards includes many of its usual categories (arts, sport, media etc), and also has some new innovations. The industry-leading event will be held in the London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square on March 26 2019 and typically draws around 500 sponsorship industry decision-makers.

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