Banking, Airlines and Gambling Take Investments to a World Record

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The sponsoring companies will invest almost 41,000 million euros in linking their brand to a top-level athlete, club or event until the end of this year. This is the figure in the latest global study on investment in sports marketing and sponsorships.

Evolution of Spending on Sports

That sport is one of the main gateways for brands to connect with global audiences is well known. But the evolution of spending on sports marketing in recent years confirms that companies are increasingly looking at the playing fields with greater enthusiasm. Since 2014, global investment in sponsorships related to major events and top-level sports clubs has grown at an average rate of 4% year-on-year, going from 33,000 million invested in 2014 to 41,000 million with which this year will close.

Never before have companies dedicated so many financial resources to sport, which today is one of the most profitable and efficient marketing channels for large brands to penetrate new markets and consolidate their image. However, not all economic sectors compete at the same level. Those with the best records are achieving and leading the scorers table when it comes to sports sponsorship are four: airlines, banking, games of chance and the automotive industry.

Except for the large suppliers of sports equipment, such as Nike or Adidas, seven out of every ten euros invested in the world in sports sponsorship come from a company linked to the four aforementioned sectors.


Airlines represent 13% of the world’s investment in sports sponsorships. The most active airlines that have contributed the most to raising the bar for sports marketing spending are Qatar Airways and Emirates. Both have a very diversified positioning strategy, spreading their logo in multiple international events and sports of all kinds. In the case of the Qatari airline, its contract as FIFA’s main sponsor for the Men’s World Cup to be held in this country in 2022, the Women’s World Cup that this year takes place in France and the next eSports Soccer World Cup stands out. In addition, it also has important sponsorships in international tennis, equipment and squash tournaments. However, Emirates is probably the private non-sports equipment company that devotes the most resources to sponsoring competitions and clubs around the world. Although some of its contracts have confidentiality clauses regarding the figures, it is estimated that it invests more than 500 million euros a year in sports. The Arab airline is linked to Formula 1, sponsors some of the best international horse races in the world, sponsors cricket and Australian football clubs and is the world’s largest sponsor of golf, with no less than 22 sponsored international tournaments. But it is in football where he shows more muscle, stamping his logo on the jerseys of up to eight clubs: Milan, Arsenal, Hamburg, New York Cosmos, Olympiacos from Greece, Benfica, PSG and Real Madrid.


Real Madrid appears to have made the four European Cups won in the last six editions of the tournament profitable, as they have not only renewed their sponsorship with Emirates upwards, but have also signed the most lucrative contract in the history of football with their supplier sports, Adidas, which will pay more than 1,100 million euros to continue equipping the Bernabéu team for the next 10 seasons. Only with the income generated by the shirt (110 million from Adidas and 70 million from Emirates), Madrid can finance the acquisition of new galactics.

Regarding the automotive industry, at an international level, the sponsorship contract that Toyota signed with the International Olympic Committee in 2016 to become its main sponsor until 2024 stands out in recent years for 800 million euros.

36% More Investment

The figures not only show the good form of sports sponsorship, but a further increase is expected in the coming years. Two Circles estimates a 6% annual growth in investment in sports marketing by large companies, reaching 56,000 million euros in 2024.

According to Gareth Balch, CEO of this agency, there are three growth vectors that will drive sponsorships. On the one hand, there is the rise of women’s sports, which in some sports such as soccer is reaching audience levels comparable to men’s soccer.

Thanks to this, it is being achieved that in some competitions the cash prizes between the male and female winners are equal, as is already the case in the Wimbledon tennis tournament. On the other hand, there are electronic sports or eSports, which are beginning to move millionaire figures (the winner of the next Fortnite World Cup will earn a higher prize than Rafa Nadal for winning the last Roland Garros). And thirdly, the new scenario of digital content consumption, which opens up the possibility of new proposals and formats to link brands and audiences through sport. In fact, it is increasingly common for brands and companies to sign sponsorship contracts with clubs and athletes to jointly exploit their digital channels.

One of the pioneer brands in exploiting the profitability of social networks through sports sponsorship is the Hawkers sunglasses firm. This startup from Elche became the first Spanish company to be an official sponsor of an NBA team. Specifically, the Los Angeles Lakers. The agreement, in addition to allowing the company to design models of glasses with the Los Angeles team logo, included the exploitation of the image of the North American team on the brand’s social networks. This strategy allowed Hawkers to position itself as the second most popular sunglasses brand on social media in the world, only behind Ray-Ban.