What categories represent hot prospects in 2015? What companies should sellers have on their short list?

Below, IEG SR highlights 15 categories that are increasing sponsorship activity. The list includes both mature categories undergoing change as well as emerging categories signing their first deals.

 
Category Companies Industry Overview Sponsorship Hot Buttons
Eyewear LensCrafters
Glasses.com
Warby Parker
Oakley etc.
Warby Parker is shaking up the eyewear industry, and that is prompting new sponsorship activity. Case in point: Luxottica (LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Ray-Ban, etc.) this year acquired Glasses.com in part to offset competition from the popular upstart retailer. Luxottica has signed a new partnership with the Coachella music festival to promote the direct-sales brand. Eyewear retailers: Reach influencers; gain promotional platforms to drive store traffic. Eyewear brands: Support brand positioning; tout product attributes; showcase new products; engage influencers and trade partners.
Wearable Technology Apple
Google
Fitbit
Jawbone
Ralph Lauren, etc.
Whether they make products worn on the face, feet, chest or wrist, wearable technology companies are finding sponsorship to be a good fit. The rapidly growing category includes smartwatches (Apple Watch), personal fitness trackers (Fitbit, Jawbone, etc.), apparel (Ralph Lauren, etc.) and other items that can be used to monitor and track personal activity. Credit Suisse expects the market for wearable technology to increase tenfold over the next three to five years. Demonstrate product relevance; support fashion-first positioning; reach influencers; gain platforms for retail promotions; access new sales channels.
Cannabis Companies Growers
Dispensaries
Cannabis retailers, etc.
The Colorado Symphony Orchestra has taken its sponsorship strategy to a new high. Looking to tap a new source of revenue, the symphony in 2014 created a cannabis-themed music series to access sponsorship dollars from growers, dispensaries and other companies in Colorado’s burgeoning cannabis industry. Educate consumers; drive store traffic; demonstrate community involvement.
Coffee Dunkin’ Donuts
High Brew Coffee
Keurig
Stumptown, etc.
New product rollouts and a double-digit increase in sales are driving new sponsorship activity on behalf of coffee retailers. The increase in sales has helped prompt new sponsorships on behalf of both upstart and mature players in the category, with single-serve coffee products leading the charge. Promote new line extensions; gain on-site sales; engage sales partners.
Fantasy Sports DraftKings
FanDuel, etc.
Relaxed restrictions on fantasy sports by the NBA and other pro sports leagues is driving new sponsorship activity in the category. Most of the action is driven by two companies: DraftKings and FanDuel, both of which are flush with cash from investments from private equity firms and other sources.  Engage and reward gamers; build credibility; gain a point of differentiation.
Peer-to-peer Marketplaces Airbnb
Uber
Lyft
Storefront, etc.
The growing popularity of peer-to-peer marketplaces is fueling new sponsorship activity on behalf of Airbnb, Uber, Storefront and other companies. Case in point: Airbnb over the past year has signed new deals with the TCS New York City Marathon, Sundance Film Festival, Australian Boomers and other properties. Airbnb: Engage travelers and hosts; support “Belong Anywhere” brand positioning; build visibility in Australia, Asia and other key markets. Uber: gain new customers; demonstrate community involvement. Storefront: Access booth space and other assets that can be sold through its web site.
Jewelry Companies Alex and Ani
Pandora, etc. 
Jewelry companies are putting a shine on the sports and entertainment scene. Alex and Ani, Pandora and other jewelry brands are signing new deals to promote licensed product, access new sales channels and support brand positioning. One key driver: licensed merchandise. Pandora leveraged its Disney partnership to create a collection of Disney-themed jewelry, while Alex and Ani uses music and sports to promote themed bangles and charms. Create licensed merchandise; support lifestyle positioning; access new sales channels; gain promotional platforms.
Cruise Lines Carnival
Princess
Norwegian, etc.

 

With a batch of new deals over the past year, cruise lines show no sign of raising the sponsorship gangway. One key hot button: promoting new ships. Carnival partnered with the Dallas Cowboys to build excitement around the 2015 launch of Carnival Freedom, the company’s third year-round ship sailing out of Galveston. Promote new ships; showcase the onboard experience; enhance the onboard experience; acquire prospect database.
Chia Products Chia Co.
Mamma Chia
Health Warrior, etc.

 

Perhaps best known for its association with quirky terracotta figurines, chia is quickly making its way into the diets of health-conscious consumers. And the growing popularity of chia is fueling new sponsorship activity. Chia-based beverage, cereal and snack brands are signing new deals to build visibility and educate consumers about the health benefits of the flowering plant. Promote health and wellness positioning; engage health-conscious consumers; gain platforms for retail promotions.
Yogurt Dannon
Chobani, etc.
While they once focused on nonprofits as a platform to reach women, yogurt companies are broadening their portfolios to promote new products, expand reach and drive consumption beyond breakfast. One new focus: sports. Dannon in 2014 partnered with the NFL while Chobani aligned with IMG College. Promote new products; support health and wellness positioning; reach new audiences; access sampling rights; gain platforms for retail promotions.
Bitcoin BitPay, etc. While many questions remain over the sustainability of Bitcoin and other digital payment systems, one thing is clear: the category is increasing its investment in sponsorship. BitPay is blazing the trail with the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl, Kyle Busch Motorsports and Georgia Institute of Technology athletics. Other segments of the Bitcoin universe include Bitcoin ATM manufacturers, digital wallets and currency exchanges. Drive acceptance, acquire merchants; engage tech-savvy males.
Cider brands Woodchuck
Angry Orchard
Strongbow
Stella Artois, etc.
With nearly 95 percent year-over-year growth in dollar sales, sponsorship sellers would be wise to put the cider category on their prospect list. Companies ranging from large commercial brewers to small specialty brands are increasingly using sponsorship to support brand positioning, engage consumers and access platforms for retail promotions. Gain pouring rights; support brand positioning; gain platforms for retail promotions.
Carpet Mohawk Industries, etc. With previous ties ranging from zoos to the Puppy Bowl, Mohawk Industries is taking its sponsorship campaign in a new direction. Looking to promote its SmartStrand stain-resistant carpet in a real-life setting, the flooring company has signed on as official carpet of the Tough Mudder obstacle course series.  The company is activating the tie with retail promotions and content distributed through social media. Tout new products; promote product attributes; gain platforms for retail promotions.
Audio Companies Harman
Bose
Klipsch, etc.
Consumer audio companies are turning up the sponsorship volume to engage new consumers and offset competition from Beats and other youth-oriented brands. One area of focus: global marketing platforms. Bose in 2014 partnered with the PGA Tour in China and added global marketing rights to its three-year-old NFL sponsorship. Promote new products; engage millennials; create licensed merchandise; engage cosponsors for B2B sales; gain platforms for retail promotions.
Mobile Payment Google Wallet
Apple Pay
Square
PayPal, etc.
Mobile payment companies are changing the way consumers pay for products at events. Case in point: JPMorgan Chase leveraged its partnership with the Orlando Magic to make the Amway Center the first NBA arena to accept Apple Pay. Deals in the category are driven by financial institutions as well as mobile payment companies.   Drive transactions; engage merchants; enhance the consumer experience.