What companies are spending more money on sponsorship? What categories should properties target?

New product launches, evolving media consumption habits and consumers’ growing preference for experiences over things are driving new sponsorship activity in the beverage, retail and other categories.

Below, six categories that represent viable sponsorship prospects in 2018.

Experience Providers
Millennials’ preference for experiences over things creates new sponsorship category.

Companies ranging from ski resorts to indoor skydiving and sports-themed experience providers are increasingly using sponsorship to build awareness, showcase their offerings and gain new customers. The deals reflect the growing trend of consumers spending less of their discretionary income on physical goods and more on experiences.

Deals in the category include iFLY and Live Nation, Topgolf Crush and Circuit of the Americas, and Mammoth Resorts and the LA Kings.

Hot Buttons:

  • Promote experience offerings
  • Gain promotional platforms that drive retail traffic

Spiked Seltzer
Hard seltzer brands increase use of sponsorship to gain a point of differentiation in an increasingly competitive category.

Looking to capitalize on soaring sales in the seltzer water category, beverage companies are increasingly launching hard seltzer options.

And a growing number are using sponsorship to promote the products, with a focus on endurance sports. Boston Beer Co. this year signed a new sponsorship of the Alaska Airlines Bay to Breakers footrace on behalf of Truly Spiked & Sparkling, while Mark Anthony Group sponsors the Warrior Dash obstacle course series on behalf of White Claw Hard Seltzer.

Sponsorship activity is expected to heat up even more as other companies enter the hard seltzer race. Case in point: Constellation Brands will launch its Svedka Spiked premium seltzer in 10 northeastern states next month.

Other brands in the hard seltzer category include Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water, Nauti Seltzer, SpikedSeltzer and Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Water.

Hot Buttons:

  • Reach health conscious females
  • Promote hard seltzer as an alternative to beer and spirits
  • Access sampling/sales rights
  • Access promotional platforms to drive retail traffic

Fermented tea uses sponsorship to support transition from niche beverage to mainstream viability.

While a growing number of consumers are enjoying the health benefits associated with kombucha, many people still have not tried the fermented drink.

Kombucha manufacturers hope to change that by sampling their products at music festivals, food festivals and other events this summer. And their timing could not be better: Kombucha sales grew 44 percent from 2016 to 2017, per Nielsen. Recent deals include KeVita and the Boston Calling music festival and the Albert Lee Bite of Seattle.

Other players include Brew Dr. Kombucha, GT’s Living Foods and Health-Ade.

Hot Buttons:

  • Access sampling rights
  • Promote health benefits
  • Gain platforms for retail promotions

Secondary Ticket Sellers
Industry consolidation may lead to new sponsorship activity.

While StubHub, Ticketmaster and other secondary ticket sellers have long used sponsorship to engage fans and drive sales, industry consolidation may spark new activity across the sports and entertainment landscape.

TickPick this week announced an acquisition of RazorGator’s retail assets for an undisclosed price. The company last month replaced StubHub as the official secondary ticket marketplace for the Firefly Music Festival.

Hot Buttons:

  • Reach ticket buyers
  • Promote service offerings (best price guarantee, etc.)

Streaming Video Services
OTT brands increase use of sponsorship amid shifting media preferences.

With more consumers cutting the cord in favor of other entertainment options, streaming TV services are increasingly using sponsorship as their go-to marketing platform.

YouTube is leading the charge: YouTube TV this year expanded its sponsorship portfolio via a multiyear partnership with the National Basketball Assn. (presenting sponsorship of the NBA Finals, etc.) and a contract extension with Major League Baseball.

The partnerships follow other recent deals in the category including DirecTV Now and the Governors Ball Music Festival and Hulu and the NHL (2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs and Final) and NBA (NBA Playoff Series).

Other players include Dish’s Sling TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue and Fubo TV.

Hot Buttons:

  • Access content
  • Promote content offerings
  • Acquire new customers/build prospect database

Increased competition and new distribution channels create new opportunities in the apparel category.

Increased competition from sports apparel companies (Nike, Under Armour, etc.), premium brands (Duluth Trading Co., etc.) and subscription underwear services (Adore Me, Mack Weldon, Panty Drop, etc.) is driving new sponsorship activity in the underwear category.

One of the category’s newest deals: Fruit of the Loom and Lollapalooza. The company will use the tie to promote its new Everlight underwear line.

Online underwear companies also sponsor. MeUndies in 2016 partnered with the Immortals esports team after learning that one of its players doesn’t wear underwear. MeUndies leveraged the tie with a 1980’s-themed video that featured the players and their search for love.

Fruit of the Loom may also use Lollapalooza to promote its Fruit to Your Door subscription service.

Hot Buttons:

  • Promote new products
  • Gain platforms for retail promotions
  • Leverage influencers for social amplification