Sponsorship is a multi-billion dollar industry. But information on sponsorships, such as who is sponsoring them, the different forms they take – and the channels through which sponsorships take place (think not only websites and social media posts, but also physical signs and sports team jerseys. ). Lack of information is a challenge for both brands and sponsorship recipients. Brands don’t always know how much to charge sponsors, while sponsors aren’t always aware of current sponsorship deals.
Frustrated by the lack of transparency in the sponsorship space, Bob Lynch, vice president of corporate partnerships for the Miami Dolphins, said in 2016 In 2017, SponsorUnited founded a software-as-a-service platform that provides analytical data on the sponsorship industry. SponsorUnited says it tracks more than one million sponsorships across 250,000 brands, including every major league sports team based in the US.
“When I joined the Miami Dolphins after a decade in media, I realized there was a significant lack of complexity and transparency and standardization in sponsorships,” Lynch told TechCrunch in an email interview. I realized that if you could democratize access to non-sponsorship deal information, the whole industry would want access to it.”
Lynch said SponsorUnited serves approximately 2,900 brands and properties, including Fortune 500 companies, talent and branding agencies and media companies — and investors seem pleased with its growth so far. Sponsor United Today, a $35 million Series A funding round led by Spectrum Equity closed at a post-money valuation “north” of $100 million. Combined with previous investments from Milwaukee Bucks owner Mark Larry and San Diego Padres co-owner Ron Fowler, the infusion brings the startup’s total to $38.6 million.
“Up to this point, SponsorUnited has raised minimal capital, choosing to lean as we build our data capture infrastructure and platform,” Lynch said. But as we gain critical mass beyond assets (eg teams and events) across brands, media, agencies and global expansion, we see an opportunity to further accelerate growth by automating and measuring valuable data.
Lynch describes SponsorUnited as “a terminal for Bloomberg’s marketing partnerships.” It is a search layer on top of a database of sports, shipping, music, entertainment and media sponsorship deals, brands and properties. SponsorUnited directly accesses all data without touching third-party sources and uses it in a way that allows companies to integrate it with other data around sponsorships, including internal spending, investment and engagement.
A quick Google search shows many companies trying to solve the same problem as SponsorUnited. There’s Global Data, sports-focused SportBusiness and SponsorPitch, to name a few. When asked about these competitors and others, Lynch noted that Sponsor United tracks more sponsorship categories than most and has invested heavily in its tech stack, using automated and manual methods to compile sponsorship data.
“We’ve built, renovated and expanded a vast database — more than five million databases — across more than 500 asset types,” Lynch said. “We will continue to invest in technology to measure and replicate the processes through which sponsorship data is tracked.”
So what’s next for Sponsor Unit? Lynch said he’s keeping an eye on trends in the metaverse like sponsorships (as long as they’re a thing), collegiate athletes’ deals sparked by a Supreme Court ruling last year and TikTok’s growing reach with a younger audience. The pandemic continues to be a boon for the sponsor unit, says marketing firms looking to track how deals move from live events to digital.
In what could be good news for the sponsoring unit, a 2021 survey from Caravel Marketing found that 52% of corporations plan to increase their sports team sponsorship budget in 2022, while only 16% plan to cut spending. Lynch said that these costs would need to be accounted for by sponsoring United services even if the economy eventually collapsed; Finding the right partnerships and “optimizing” existing sponsorships will be important as budgets tighten, he asserts.
“The complexity and number of trading assets and platforms that are bought and sold in this industry is increasing at an exponential rate,” Lynch said. “Our data provides valuable insights not only for IT, but also in the C-suite – chief marketing officers, chief revenue officers, chief customer officers and others.
Stamford, Connecticut-based SponsorUnited — which does not disclose revenue figures — expects to have 100 employees by the end of the year, Lynch added.