The Best Companies for Sports Sponsorship
Before you dive in, if you are interested in sport sponsorship, check out these titles in our “sponsorship for sports” series:
5 Sports Sponsorship Valuation Strategies
5 Examples of Bad Sports Sponsorships that Missed the Mark
Sports Sponsorship Measurement and ROI Metrics to Track
7 Best Sports Sponsorship Activations
How do Sponsorships Benefit the Sports Organization and the Sponsor?
How to Write a Sports Sponsorship Proposal
Why is Sponsorship Important in Sport?
The Definitive Guide to Sports Fan Engagement
The Rise of Insurance Companies in Sports Sponsorship
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Alcohol in Sport Sponsorship
If you’ve only skimmed through the information in this guide (which, you really should take the time to read everything), then spend some time with this section at least. It’s a recap of all the steps needed for sport sponsorship success.
Sports sponsorship can fund your team so you can afford new uniforms or travel expenses. You can also increase your promotional standing with the right sponsor. Yet how do you find that seemingly elusive right sponsor in sports?
Here are the top companies for sports sponsorship:
- Red Bull
- Optimum Nutrition
- Dick’s Sporting Goods
- State Farm
This list includes some most heavy-hitters as well as smaller names so that no matter your level of proficiency in sports sponsorship, there should be a sponsor on this list that’s right for you.
10 of the Best Companies for Pursuing Sports Sponsorship
Few American brands are better known or more beloved than Pepsi, which is owned by PepsiCo Inc. Besides just providing sugary beverages to the masses, Pepsi has made itself an integral part of the sports world by sponsoring major-league games in a variety of sports. At current, Pepsi is partnered with the NBA, NHL, and NFL.
Until 2015, Pepsi had sponsored Major League Soccer or MLS, and it was partnered with the MLB through 2017. Those leagues have both since switched to Coca-Cola as their respective sponsor.
Cricket teams such as the Pakistani national team have also got Pepsi’s backing. Their test match clothing and game gear feature the distinctively colorful logo of Pepsi’s. This just goes to show that your sports team doesn’t have to play in the NFL, NHL, or NBA to catch Pepsi’s attention and possibly earn their sponsorship dollars.
From one beverage brand to another, Red Bull’s energy drinks are also synonymous with sports. Compared to the list of sports that Pepsi sponsors, those sports supported by Red Bull are admittedly more extreme. If you’re an athlete who’s into skateboarding, free-ride mountain biking, skiing, BMX, or cliff-diving, then Red Bull might be the sponsor for you.
Other areas of sports sponsorship that Red Bull offers include ice hockey, football (not American football, but soccer), and motorsports. In the latter sport, Red Bull has a Red Bull Racing Formula One team, and they once had a NASCAR team called Team Red Bull.
Red Bull even has its own sporting events. One is the Flugtag, which is a German word that means “flight day.” To participate, you need to make a flying machine that can launch off a large ramp and into the water. The Red Bull Crashed Ice Tour is an ice-cross downhill skating event while the Red Bull Soap Box Derby is a race in soapboxes.
According to Caffeine Informer, Coca-Cola is the king of soda in 2021. This soft drink manufacturer is also the king of sponsorships. They’ve been an Olympic Games partner since 1928, and Coke has recently added the Paralympic Games to its list of sponsors as well.
If yours is a soccer team, Coca-Cola might be interested. On their website, Coke says that “our support of football is at all levels – from grassroots with the Copa Coca-Cola, to 100+ Professional Football teams, federations, and National teams.” Yes, football means soccer in this case.
Coca-Cola’s soccer sponsorships started way back in 1958, so this area of sponsorship is as long-standing as its others. Coke became a part of the FIFA World Cup as a sponsor in 1978 and has been with the sports organization ever since.
Outside of soccer, Coke also sponsors sports/events such as PGA Golf’s Tour Championship, NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB, and NASCAR. In the latter sport, Coke puts its name on the Coke Zero Sugar 400 and the Coca-Cola 600 races. They even give away a vintage Coke vending machine to the winner at every Coca-Cola 600 race.
Let’s talk about some smaller target sponsors, shall we? Optimum Nutrition is one such company to add to your list. With a history dating back more than three decades, Optimum Nutrition sells protein, vitamins, and other supplements for athletes. Whether you want to build muscle, maintain it, get stronger, or have more energy, there’s an Optimum Nutrition product.
Optimum Nutrition sponsors individual athletes as well as whole teams or leagues. One large sponsor of theirs is the rugby union team Saracens Football Club in London, England.
The sports footwear brand Reebok is another good one to look into for sports sponsorship. Founded in 1895, Reebok specializes in CrossFit, running, and fitness shoes and clothing. Adidas has owned Reebok since 2005.
Reebok was an official CrossFit sponsor for more than a decade, which included annual support of the CrossFit Games. The brand also sponsored the Portugal national basketball team as well as the Spartan Race. This athletic series includes obstacle races like the Spartan Sprint or Spartan Ultra. Spartan Race events take place in more than 30 countries, proving that Reebok has quite a far reach!
Dick’s Sporting Goods
In a similar vein to Reebok is Dick’s Sporting Goods, a Pennsylvania-based company that was founded in 1948. Besides athletic footwear and clothing, Dick’s sells an array of sporting goods, including gear and equipment for just about any and every sport you can imagine.
Dick’s offers youth sports sponsorship as well as community outreach sponsorships that encompass the “teams, leagues, and athletes in the communities we serve,” per their website. If your sports team meets that definition, then a sponsorship with Dick’s could be huge for you!
In 2016, Dick’s was an official retailer for the Summer Olympics and Paralympics’ Team USA. The sports store also has the naming rights to the Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, which is a soccer stadium that the Colorado Rapids plays in.
The German brand Puma is within the top three largest sportswear brands, so if you’re shooting high for your sports sponsorship, you could pursue a partnership with them. Puma actively sponsors or has sponsored a large variety of sports teams, and when I say a large variety, I mean it. Here is the complete list:
- American and Australian football
- Olympic committees in Jamaica and Cuba
- The national volleyball team
- Water polo
- Men’s and women’s track and field national teams
- Table tennis
- Rugby union players, club teams, and national teams
- Handball club teams and national teams
- Motorsports like Formula E, IndyCar, NASCAR, Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters or DTM, and Formula One
- Gaelic Games or GAA
- Figure skating
- Cricket, including individual players and club teams
- Football clubs and national teams in South America, Oceania, North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa
Moving away from sports brands now, the insurance company State Farm has a sports sponsorship resume on par with Puma. The NBA charity program called NBA Cares Charity Challenge was presented by State Farm. NBA’s skills competition is known as the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night.
When Arizona State University and the University of Arizona compete, the varsity games all go under the moniker State Farm Territorial Cup Series. Similarly, the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University games are called the State Farm Lone Star Showdown.
Every year, the Bloomington-Normal, Illinois basketball game the State Farm Holiday Classic is a seasonal staple. This event features high school-level talent. State Farm is willing to take younger and professional athletes alike under its collective wing, which can serve as an opportunity for you.
I of course have to talk about all the naming rights deals that State Farm has. There’s the State Farm Center for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign basketball games, the State Farm Arena where the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks play, and the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The NFL’s Arizona Cardinals play here.
Budweiser, an Anheuser-Busch product, is within the top five most popular beers for 2020 according to USA Today. The brand that calls itself “the king of beers” is associated with leagues such as the MLB, with a licensing rights deal to the tune of $20 million per year.
Bud is much more involved with motorsports, especially NASCAR. Some of the most popular drivers the brand has sponsored are Scott Goodyear back in 1994, Mario Andretti from 1983 to 1984, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. from 1999 to 2007.
In soccer, Budweiser sponsored the MLS team the Los Angeles Galaxy. In 2020, the beer brand promised to mail personalized beer bottles to soccer goalkeepers who Lionel Messi scored against to celebrate Messi’s 664 goals over his career.
The Castrol brand has been in the gas and oil industry since 1899, so they know a thing or two about motorsports. If your sports team drives anything on wheels, look into getting a sponsorship with Castrol.
From Formula One to the World Rally Championship and NHRA drag racing, Castrol has been involved in lots of motorsports over the years.
In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, their racing facility is called Castrol Raceway in a sweet naming rights deal. The lubricant manufacturer sponsors NASCAR’s D.J. Kennington in the NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Canadian Tire. Castrol also sponsors Rick Kelly of Australia’s Kelly Racing as well as the Australian racing team Tickford Racing.
Outside of motorsports, Castrol has dabbled in sponsorships in such sports as English football, rugby, cricket, and American football, but the company is really known for its motorsports partnerships anymore.
With nearly a dozen great companies on this list, your sports team has plenty of avenues to pursue sponsorship. Compiling a list of target sponsors though is just the beginning!
You’ll need to issue your audience survey if you haven’t already done so, then gather your assets and evaluate them. Once your sponsorship package is put together, you can begin looking for common contacts in one of the above sponsorship companies. Finally, you can reach out and have meetings that could earn you the sponsorship deal.
If you need help with the above, check out my free training called How to Grow Your Sponsorship Program. It will undoubtedly come in handy!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.
After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.
Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.