The tumultuous nature of 2020 has undoubtedly had a profound economic impact on the sporting world. Nevertheless, no matter what the context, sports sponsorship is continually evolving. Whether it is through new consumer trends or new regulations within sport, brand categories are right to pinpoint sports sponsorship as a great vehicle to grow a brand. Global pandemic or not, sporting sponsorships expose brands to vast audiences that can propel an entire category into the mainstream. In this piece, we take a look at two very different, emerging categories that could have an increased presence across varying sports. Both are novel and relatively unknown to the average British consumer. Both, therefore, might find it difficult to gain the trust of traditional sporting fans. Crucially though, both seem to be trying.

Hard Seltzers

Having reported a 200% increase in sales in 2019 in the US and with a projected value of $6.5bn by 2024, Hard Seltzers have emerged as a budding new category for sports sponsorship. The success across the pond has led to the release of several British based products, all seeking to become a major player in the drink’s category. The RTD sparkling water products, usually infused with fruit, are often marketed as a cleaner and healthier alternative to consuming alcohol. Low in calories and with few ingredients, there is a health and wellness appeal while also offering an alcoholic beverage. They are often pitched towards a young, healthy, active and outgoing audience.

Balans, owned by Kopparberg, was the first Hard Seltzer to be launched in Britain, but has since been joined by several competitors. Brewing giant AB InBev has launched Mike’s hard seltzer, while emerging brands have also joined the space.

White Claw Hard Seltzer have partnered with the Chicago Marathon, while the NFL also have an Official Hard Seltzer in the form of Bon & Viv. Partnerships on this side of the Atlantic have also begun to take shape. Tough Mudder have partnered with Bodega Bay Hard Seltzer, potentially the start of a growing trend in sports sponsorship.

It will unlikely be plain sailing for the category, it is difficult to know if the success in the States will be replicated in Britain. However, Britain’s love of gin has been seen as a potential sweet spot for the growth of hard seltzers in the UK. Moreover, as the market continues to saturate, next summer could be the perfect moment for the category to engage further with sports partnerships.

Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies have long been viewed as a category that could compete with the dominant presence of betting in football. In July 2020, Carolyn Harris MP stated that the banning of betting companies being on the front of shirts for football clubs is “one of the most obvious things to do” within the new Gambling act. Across Europe, though seven of the current La Liga clubs have their current main sponsorship as a betting company, Spain are tightening their restrictions in a bid to reduce the vast betting influence. From the end of this season, the Spanish government has confirmed the introduction of a ban on betting companies’ sponsorship in La Liga. Not only will the new decree ban any betting companies appearing on shirt sponsorship, but it will no longer be allowed to sponsor stadium names or any other aspect of the clubs.

La Liga have made moves in shifting towards crypto through their partnership with the Singapore-based GCOX (Global Crypto Offering Exchange). The aim of the partnership is to promote the league internationally and incentivize fans abroad using blockchain technology.

One of the main limiting factors for Bitcoin trading platforms is their reputation. In such a new yet saturated space, it is not easy to persuade people that trading this online currency is a reliable and trustworthy process. Nevertheless, recent years have seen a dramatic increase in cryptocurrency platforms spending within sports sponsorship. Watford FC were one of the first football clubs in the world to accept digital currencies at their club’s online store, showing how beneficial a partnership can be. The partnership was important on two levels, not only was the product was promoted through the sleeve logo, but by accepting online currencies, Watford were encouraging the progression of Cryptocurrency into the mainstream.

Trading platforms like Stormgain and CoinDeal have exploited this growing trend by engaging in deals with Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively. Clubs across Europe including Benfica have too embraced this growing category by accepting online currencies at their online store.

With tightening restrictions for betting partnerships only increasing, there seems a clear space for a category to take over; this one is one to watch!