New report identifies ESG as key in sponsorship decision making, with AI looming

January 1 – Brands are continuing to make ESG (environmental, social, and governance) as the most important criteria in their sponsorship decisions, according to a new report.

The 2024 Sponsorship Trends Research: New Horizons, released to the European Sponsorship Association (ESA) named ESG as the year’s top sponsorship trend identified by members for the third year running.

ESG investing is generally defined as a set of standards for a company’s behaviour used by socially conscious investors.

Environmental cover safeguarding the environment, including corporate policies addressing climate change, social criteria examines how it manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and governance deals with a company’s leadership, financial controls, and in the case of sports, governing body statutes.

Sam Booth, Director of Sustainability at AEG Europe, said: “With each passing year the effects of the climate crisis become more pronounced, international governments become more focused and consumers more concerned. Those who continue to perform well in this subject will ensure they’re future-fit and will become increasingly attractive to fans and brands alike.”

The second most popular trend identified in the report was Cause/CSR, which the ESA said underlines the “commitment of the sponsorship community to purpose-based campaigns and activations”.

The ESA said the most notable new entry in third place in the 2024 list is AI (artificial intelligence), with sponsorship agencies mostly identifying the technology as a game changer for the year ahead. Whether that is ultimately a change for good remains to be seen – certainly media (pretty much from top to bottom) views it as a danger, not just to their business but to AI’s unerring ability to distort the truth. For many sponsor that could potentially be an agenda-setting (though immoral) benefit.

Sophie Morris, ESA Chair, said: “The ESA Annual Trends report is our yearly check on what will drive growth for the industry and it’s no surprise to see ESG remain in the top position and by a very large margin.

“Environmental sustainability is still the dominant element but the wider topics within ESG are becoming more important. A big change from previous years is the supercharging of Cause/CSR into a standalone trend and the perhaps inevitable rise of AI as a trend to watch out for, particularly amongst agency members.”

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