Global Sports Sponsorship Analysis of the Car Industry


The car industry is one of the traditional main players in sponsorship having invested in sport heavily from the 1960s onwards. To a large extent, the industry’s sponsorship expertise was gained through its partnerships in motorsports, where car manufacturers have been important suppliers.

Indeed the industry is virtually embedded in a symbiotic relationship with motorsports teams and supplies engines, parts, technical assistance and, in many cases, production vehicles. This report, however, specifically excludes motorsports because car industry backing for the sector is so big that it would require a separate report in itself. Also, the very high levels of investment in motorsport would skew the results to such a degree it would make it more difficult to understand what the industry is doing outside motorsport.


This report, which analyses 503 deals across the world, shows that the car industry is now spending $1.285 billion on general sports. What is of particular interest is that some of the biggest deals in the industry are very recent, notably Toyota’s Olympic TOP sponsorship, Chevrolet’s shirt deal with Manchester United and Nissan’s investment in both the UEFA Champions League and Rio 2016.

Having suffered more than most following the 2008 global financial crisis, it suggests that in marketing terms at least, the industry is showing a renewed confidence.


Despite analysis suggesting that emerging manufacturers are still some way behind in terms of sponsorship maturity, analysis of the deals among current major global brands points to a mixed approach in terms of sponsorship strategy.

Clearly brands such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Hyundai and Toyota show a very consistent approach in terms of use of sport. They tend to choose a select number of sports that match their brand image and target demographics and acquire rights that provide exposure and activation opportunities in their key markets.

What is noticeable, however, is that some other manufacturers appear to be operating on a much more ad hoc basis, with rights clearly being determined at local level. Such companies might argue that their approach is down to not seeing sponsorship as a key marketing tool or that local subsidiaries are free to create their own strategies based on their in-depth knowledge of specific markets. Despite this, there are numerous instances in the report where strategies clearly have no global consistency.


Being the world’s number one sport by a big margin, it is hardly surprising that soccer takes more than a third of the sponsorship spend from the car industry. What is unusual in sponsorship analysis reports is to see golf and Olympics so highly ranked. The Olympics are largely accounted for by Toyota’s major TOP sponsorship agreement with the International Olympic Committee, but golf has managed to attract a range of sponsors, predominantly among the luxury car sector, suggesting that the sport’s image really has moved on and is attractive to companies seeking a modern image for their products. Other major recipients include basketball, American Football, tennis and US College sports, which have witnessed several very large deals in recent years.


Not surprisingly, the USA is the biggest sponsorship market with a total estimated spend of $333m. Global sports properties follow on $255m with the UK in third place on $124m, although this is largely down to the Manchester United/Chevrolet deal, which is global in terms of activation objectives. Germany accounts for $90m of spend and interestingly China is next on $86m. As discussed, a significant portion of that investment is from western brands, with only joint venture company FAW-Volkswagen’s major basketball deal showing a major commitment from a domestic company.

This content was supplied by IMR Sports marketing. Read the full summary or purchase the full report at  

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