A dip in confidence within the European sponsorship marketing community has reflected ongoing challenges in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest research from the European Sponsorship Association has found.
With some countries currently back in lockdown and vaccine programmes taking longer than anticipated, a regional disparity was detectable in the data but even in the UK, where vaccine rollout has been rapid, confidence dipped after the record highs of the previous survey in March.
The research also found that almost half of ESA members received support from their government to retain employees during the pandemic, with just under one in five continuing to do so.
The 10th edition of the ESA Sponsorship Sentiment Tracker (SST), conducted in April 2021, registered a drop in positivity about the health of the industry across all member groups except rights-holders, who felt more confident about the future of sponsorship.
In the latest wave of ESA’s regular survey, confidence receded by 0.4 points to an average high of 6.7/10, having reached a record peak of 7.1/10 in March.
There was an uplift in positivity among rights-holders (up 0.3 to 7.0/10), but optimism was in relatively short supply among agencies (6.8/10) and brand-side marketers (5.8/10).
Confidence dipped from 7.3/10 to 6.7/10 among respondents from the UK, with a drop of 0.2 points to 6.5/10 in the rest of Europe. Brands felt particularly pessimistic, with those outside Europe bringing down the confidence amongst this group to 5.8, the lowest of all three groups.
The SST has gauged the health and confidence of leading sponsorship organisations since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, attracting almost 1,500 responses from senior industry leaders across Europe.
Marketers taking part in the 10th wave of the SST also revealed the extent of their dependency on government funding in keeping industry jobs intact during the pandemic.
More than 44% of respondents said their organisation had received government support to retain employees since the start of the pandemic, with 16% continuing to do so. The highest rate of dependency among member groups was agencies (53%) with 31% of brands and 44% of rights holders also supported.
An average of 33% of employees were protected by the government funding, according to the survey, with three in 10 of supported organisations using the funding to retain more than 60% of their workforce.
ESA Chairman, Andy Westlake, said:
“The dip in confidence revealed by Wave 10 of the ESA Sponsorship Sentiment Tracker indicates that we still have some way to go before our industry can return to a ‘business as usual’ mindset.
“The regional disparity in confidence across Europe, and the variations in sentiment between brands, rights holders and agencies, also serves as a timely reminder that no two experiences of this pandemic are the same.
“In fact, all of the organisations that make up our member community are experiencing unique ongoing challenges as we make a collective effort to recover from the effects of COVID-19 and get our industry back on its feet. That’s why the SST is so vital and I’d like to personally thank everyone who participates in this survey for their ongoing support and collaboration.”
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