The Evolution of the Sports Sponsorship Marketing Strategy: From Simple Signage to Tech-Driven Partnerships

sponsorship marketing strategy

Sports sponsorships have come a long way since the first recorded instances of product placement and signage at sporting events in the late 19th century. According to Statista, the global sports sponsorship market was worth an estimated 57 billion U.S. dollars in 2020 and is expected to grow to almost 90 billion U.S. dollars by 2027.


Sponsorship marketing is a strategic advertising approach where a company aligns itself with a person, event, or organization to enhance its image, reach its target audience, and increase brand awareness through exposure and association.

Sports and technology have evolved greatly in the past century, offering new opportunities for brands to raise awareness and build brand equity. But how can teams and brands maximize the potential of their partnership with the latest innovations in technology? How can both parties be certain the brand awareness created from assets like the jersey patch truly converts to revenue?

In today’s sports world, corporate partners want more value, while fans wish for more unique experiences. As the sports industry continues to evolve with technological advancements, teams and sponsors must prepare for new innovations in sports sponsorships.

That’s where collectID comes in. Our technology has the ability to completely change the game for sports sponsorships by turning physical merchandise into a dynamic asset and a direct communication channel, resulting in:

  1. Elevated fan engagement
  2. Fanbase insights from customer profiles
  3. Higher ROIs on merchandise
  4. Increased club and sponsor revenue

Keep reading to discover how collectID can deliver this value for you, your sponsor, and your fans in an industry that is ever-changing.

A Brief History of Sports Sponsorship Marketing in the US

The first sports sponsorship can be traced back to the 19th century when tobacco companies printed images of famous cricket and baseball players and placed them in their cigarette packs as a marketing tactic.

Fast forward to the 1920s, or the golden age of American sports. As people began listening to radio-broadcasted games, this opened the door for the first sponsored radio programs. About a decade later, the first televised sporting event occurred when the T.V. became commercially available. Both radio and TV unlocked endless sponsorship marketing opportunities from the increased reach and visibility provided by these new technologies.

Sponsorships took off in 1980-1990 when college bowl games were changed to sponsor names like the Sunkist Fiesta Bowl and the FedEx Orange Bowl. Stadium naming rights quickly followed soon after.

With the popularity of media and sports today, sponsorships are now a normal form of advertising for brands. Companies invest millions of dollars to associate themselves with athletes, teams, or events. The high value of each of these properties can make the sponsorship market a highly competitive space. Consequently, sports teams constantly seek innovative methods to enhance their sponsorship marketing strategy.

Types of Sports Sponsorships

Sponsorship marketing takes different forms but all have the ultimate goal of creating brand equity, driving sales, and creating mutual benefits for the sponsor and team. In many cases, these types of sponsorships can be integrated together to strengthen a sponsor’s marketing strategy. In general, they fall into these five categories:

Athlete Sponsorship

  • Athlete sponsorship is when a company provides financial support or resources to an individual athlete in exchange for promoting their brand or products. The celebrity status of professional athletes makes them valuable brand ambassadors to advocate for the brands that endorse them. Athlete sponsorships are becoming exponentially popular with the rise of social media. Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, reaches 538 million people through his Instagram followers.
sponsorship marketing strategy
Credit: Instagram
  • Not only do brands find opportunities with professional athletes, but they can now seek college athletes for endorsement opportunities with the NCAA’s policy change in 2021 where student-athletes around the US gained the right to make money from their name, image, and likeness (NIL).
  • collectID technology opens up new possibilities for athlete sponsorship. Let’s say a team was doing a sponsored meet-and-greet but wanted to ensure a die-hard fan would win the chance to meet their favorite player. With collectID technology, the club can see important customer data like the profiles that own that particular player’s jersey. Clubs can also give fans exclusive access to content like behind-the-scenes videos of players to drive merchandise sales and improve fan engagement.

Team Sponsorship & The Jersey Patch

Team sponsorship is a type of sponsorship between a company and an entire sports team, which may include a variety of marketing and advertising activities using the team’s platform and image. Companies may sponsor the equipment used by a sports team, such as shoes, balls, and uniforms. Across the globe, seeing a brand’s logo or multiple logos on a club’s jersey is quite common. Not until recently did US professional leagues begin to embrace jerseys as a sponsorship asset.

The NBA’s sponsorship patch program, which allows teams to sell patches on the left shoulder of players’ jerseys to advertisers, didn’t start until the 2017-18 season. Now, the jersey patch program combined is worth nearly a quarter billion dollars. The Brooklyn Nets, for example, signed a deal with Webull for $30 million a year and the Lakers signed a 5-year deal with Bibigo worth $100 million.

Credit: Basketball Forever

MLB clubs will also begin their 4×4-inch jersey patch sponsorship deals in the 2023 season. The value of these sponsorships will be worth even more than NBA patches due to the combination of patch size, longer TV shots, more games, and longer game times. According to Nielsen, the value of this exposure is an estimated $76,234 per game compared to the NBA’s $24,816.

Nielsen-media value of sponsorships deals in the 2023 season
Credit: Nielsen

Brands are investing heavily in jersey patches for the high visibility they offer, as players are prominently displayed in close-up shots and frequently followed by cameras. On the other hand, sports clubs need to convince brands to sponsor their team over others and prove the value of their jersey as an asset – especially once the novelty of patch sponsorships wears off.

One way clubs can improve the value of their jersey is by turning static patches into an interactive communication channel. Rather than a logo placed on a jersey, jersey owners would be able to tap the logo with their smartphone, unlock its unique digital identity, and receive exclusive content and features at any point in time.

Event Sponsorship

Long before athlete and sports team sponsors were event sponsors. A sponsored event is mutually beneficial as the event sponsors gain brand awareness from media coverage and the event host receives financial support to relieve expenses. Adidas, for example, is one of the primary sponsors of the World Cup and Apple Music is the official sponsor of the Super Bowl halftime show. Event sponsors may also gain exclusive rights to digital, signage, and activation space.

Value-in-kind, or in-kind sponsorship, is a popular way to relieve the event budget or add non-essential value to events. Rather than providing cash or investments like a financial sponsorship, an in-kind sponsorship provides goods, products, or services at the event in exchange for brand exposure. For example, a beverage company providing drinks in exchange for increased visibility, or a hotel providing team accommodation in exchange for exclusive promotion with attendees.

Stadium/Arena Naming Rights

A company sponsors the naming rights of a stadium. This type of sponsorship marketing often includes significant exposure through signage and advertising, as well as the ability to host events and promotions. Cryptocurrency exchange,, bought the naming rights to the former Staples Center under a 20-year deal worth $700 million in 2021.

Media Sponsorship

Media sponsorship is a marketing partnership where a company provides financial support or resources to the media entity in exchange for promoting their brand or products through the media entity’s platform and reach. The most traditional forms of media sponsorship are radio and TV, but now media sponsors can be found in podcasts, social media posts, and streaming services.

Static vs Dynamic Sponsorship Assets

The different types of sponsorship assets can be categorized as static or dynamic assets:

Static Asset

Most traditional sponsorship assets are static, or fixed assets. A static asset displays a brand’s logo, resulting in subconscious brand awareness and associative links between the sponsor and fans. Examples of a static asset include a sponsor’s logo displayed in a fixed position such as signage along the sidelines, a hoop pad, or a player’s jersey.

A downfall to static assets is while they create associations, there is no tangible evidence that these associations convert to revenue for the brand. They also lack the direct and interactive nature of dynamic assets.

Static Assets vs Dynamic Assets

Dynamic Asset

A dynamic sponsorship asset is an interactive asset that creates brand awareness while directly converting this awareness into sales. Rather than paying for their logo or name on an asset to increase visibility, brands pay for an interactive asset to target communication and CTAs towards fans to convert brand awareness into sales in real-time.

The fan experience is a top priority in sports today, and dynamic assets can elevate the fan experience. According to a report by Deloitte, fans at sporting events want an exciting atmosphere created by unique experiences exclusive to the stadium or arena, such as:

  1. One-of-a-kind memorabilia available for purchase in the stadium, or equivalents in giveaways
  2. New ways to use mobile devices to enhance the stadium experience such as watching replays and game highlights
  3. Fan-exclusive entertainment available post and pregame
  4. New ways to interact with the team, sponsors, and other fans
  5. In-event experiences tied to fan interests, new ways to review highlights, and real-time fan stories and experiences

collectID works with clubs and sponsors to make each of these experiences possible. collectID technology acts as the link between physical merchandise and a digital sponsorship asset, providing a direct communication and sales channel for brands. In turn, the dynamic nature of the asset creates fan engagement which converts to sales for the sponsor and the club.

Imagine attending a game and tapping your jersey or sweatshirt to get exclusive access to a VIP club, getting a free drink at a concession stand, or winning a meet-and-greet with your favorite player. collectID provides the ability for dynamic sponsorship that improves the experience of both the sponsor and the fanbase.

The Future of Sports Sponsorship: Utilizing technology to Enhance Sponsorship Value

Sport sponsorships have greatly evolved in the past one hundred years and will continue to do so as new technologies come to the horizon, such as blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT). These technologies can be used to raise the value of sports sponsorships, just as radio and television did when they were first introduced in the 1920s.

Winning consumers’ attention today is more difficult than ever before between streaming services, social media, video games, etc. Fans want exciting and interactive experiences from the teams they love before, during, and after the game. Sponsors want more fan interaction, engagements, sales, and specific analytics on how their partnership with a team works to their benefit.

These experiences can be created through collectID technology.

Rather than just a patch or name on a jersey, fans access an exclusive communication channel with special features to interact with your team and sponsor when they can tap the NFC tag on their jersey, scarf, or other merchandise with their smartphone and unlock its digital twin. Some of these features may be in-arena coupons and promos, giveaway opportunities, reward programs, loyalty benefits, and exclusive content.

Atletico Mineiro Jersey Manto da massa

Since every jersey has a unique digital ID, clubs, and sponsors receive customer data to gain insight into their fan base, their purchasing decisions, and more effectively target communication that resonates with customers. This combination of unique features and direct connection to fans takes sponsorship value to the next level.

Elevate Your Sponsorships with collectID – Contact Our Team Today!

Embedding collectID technology into jerseys and other fan merchandise introduces a dynamic sponsorship asset for clubs and sponsors to engage fans in a unique and innovative way as the sports sponsorship market continues to grow.

Our team at collectID works with sports teams around the world to pair their products with secure, smartphone-enabled NFC tags that create a unique digital identity for each item stored on the blockchain. Within the collectID ecosystem, the digital twin allows brands to place messages directly on a product to increase fan engagement outside of the game.

At collectID, the opportunities we can create to elevate your sponsorship strategy are limitless, and we are here to help you maximize the potential of your products. Our team can create a custom solution tailored to the needs of your team and your sponsor.

Don’t miss this opportunity to stay ahead of the game. Contact us today to get started!

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