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Are these the Most Marketable Properties of the future?

Following the launch of SportsPro’s inaugural 50 Most Marketable Properties powered by SponsorPulse, our writers pick out ten emerging and resurgent properties to watch in the coming years.

21 October 2020 SportsPro

Consumer perception is a hugely important element of marketability, yet it is perhaps the most overlooked when it comes to weighing up sponsorship opportunities across sport.

Metrics like exposure and engagement are undoubtedly useful for evaluating a given property’s ability to reach target audiences and cut through the clutter, but determining people’s behaviours and attitudes towards that property, and their sentiment towards sponsors of said property, is crucial for deciding which are worthy of investment, and which are best avoided.

SportsPro’s inaugural list of the World’s 50 Most Marketable Properties powered by SponsorPulse ranks the top global sponsorship opportunities across sport by evaluating the perception of consumers across 18 of the largest markets worldwide. It is, by definition, a list filled with many of the most established and best-loved entities out there, yet there are innumerable properties that, for a multitude of reasons, failed to make the cut this time round.

With that in mind, SportsPro picks out ten properties whose emergence or resurgence positions them as ones to watch in the coming months.

Extreme E

With a focus on sustainable innovation and gender equality at its core, Extreme E’s impending arrival on the global motorsports stage could not be more aptly timed. Like that of its sister series Formula E, the all-electric off-road SUV championship’s raison d’être is to foster awareness and action in the fight against climate change – an issue that has come to resonate particularly strongly among manufacturers, sponsors and consumers alike – and many in the industry will be following its growth from a standing start with interest.

As well as becoming a force for good and highlighting the planet’s plight, Extreme E is developing a unique, ‘hybrid’ approach to content creation and distribution that will span both sports and scientific storytelling. Live rights agreements have been signed with broadcasters in major markets across the globe, while a planned, 20-part supporting TV series and 300 short films for digital and social platforms will take the series’ action from five remote locales to the homes and pockets of consumers everywhere.

Having recently been granted FIA International Series status, Extreme E’s pre-launch presentation has been slick and its momentum impossible to ignore. Backed by some of the biggest names in motorsport, including Formula One great Lewis Hamilton, McLaren boss Zak Brown and Chip Ganassi Racing, it is both a product of the times and a harbinger of a greener future for all forms of mobility.

Women’s Super League

Soccer inevitably dominates SportsPro’s 50 Most Marketable Properties list, but few properties in the sport can justifiably claim to have gathered the same commercial momentum in 2020 than the Women’s Super League (WSL).

This year, despite the obvious challenges, England’s top division has landed new international broadcast deals in key territories such as the US, Italy and Germany, while reports continue to swirl that UK pay-TV network Sky Sports is set to outbid arch rival BT Sport to seal a domestic contract that would include the first rights fee commanded on the league’s home turf since its launch in 2011.

According to sports media company Dugout, video engagement on its women’s soccer content has grown by 700 per cent over the past 12 months, with WSL outfits Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea all seeing gains in viewership. Meanwhile a spate of new high-profile summer signings has quickly born fruit. Manchester United, for instance, saw sales of shirts with the names of American pair Christen Press and Tobin Heath outstrip any of the United male players for the first three days after the World Cup-winning duo was signed in September.

Clearly, then, people care about women’s soccer, and the WSL, which is backed by title sponsor Barclays, is certainly reaping the benefits. More than two million people tuned in to watch the BBC’s Women’s Football Show in the first week of the season, and with private equity firms and the commercial juggernaut that is the Premier League circling for a stake in what could soon become an independent business, there is little to suggest that the 12-team WSL cannot continue its upward trajectory in the wake of the pandemic.

International stars like Sam Kerr have been flocking to the Women's Super League


Community event organiser Parkrun now puts on free 5km or 2km weekly runs in 20 countries, demonstrating the daily relevance of physical activity to millions of people across the globe. Indeed, the company is less an event organiser than an international movement, one whose stated mission is to create a healthier, happier planet.

Earlier this year, Parkrun entered into partnership with World Athletics to help the governing body leave community health legacies, establish permanent mass participation events and encourage participation around the world. It is hoped the new alliance will strengthen links between casual runners and elite athletics, as well as offering prospective sponsors an opportunity to align with both the grassroots and professional ends of the sport.

Following the partial lifting of coronavirus restrictions in numerous countries, the clamour for the return of Parkrun clearly illustrated the popularity of its events and the positive public sentiment that surrounds them. For many people, particularly those most economically disadvantaged or living with disabilities, Parkrun’s health and wellbeing-focused message and community-building DNA has become an invaluable source of connection, social support and regular, non-judgmental physical activity.

With a message of positivity and inclusion, Parkrun events have grown in popularity around the world

SweetSpot Group

SweetSpot Group is among the UK’s leading sports events and marketing companies. In 2004, the Surrey-based firm was behind the successful revival of the Tour of Britain, the UK’s largest professional cycling race which attracts well over one million roadside spectators each year, and a decade later it launched the Women’s Tour, a six-day event that is now the gold standard race for female professional cyclists.

Brands partnered with SweetSpot receive a full suite of marketing assets across a year-round portfolio of events headlined by its two flagship tours, both of which have gone from strength to strength in line with cycling’s surging popularity and growing governmental support for greener, healthier forms of travel across the UK. That fruitful combination saw OVO Energy, the previous title sponsor which helped bring equal prize money to the events for the first time in 2018, demonstrably develop its reach and profile, with its customer base said to have grown by a fifth during its three-year tenure.

As a founding event on the prestigious UCI Women’s WorldTour, the Women’s Tour now attracts an annual roadside audience approaching 300,000, as well as over three million fans through linear and online platforms. While the coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of this year’s physical event, SweetSpot adapted by organising the Škoda V-Women’s Tour, an entirely new, three-stage virtual race that was aired by BBC Sport and saw 18 professional teams and over 50 riders compete to raise funds for charitable causes.

SweetSpot Group's Women's Tour has grown quickly to become a highlight of cycling's prestigious UCI Women’s WorldTour

Ligue 1

French soccer’s Ligue 1 was the only one of Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues not to feature on SportsPro’s 50 Most Marketable Properties list – but only just. According to SponsorPulse data, France’s top division currently ranks 53rd in the global rankings.

Commercially speaking, Ligue 1 lags behind its European counterparts in many respects, but the elite level of club soccer in the country that spawned the reigning world champions has considerable potential for growth. Notably, domestic TV rights revenue is on the rise, with Mediapro and BeIN Sports having committed to paying €4.6 billion (US$5.3 billion) over the course of a four-season contract that kicked in this year. That deal represented a 60 per cent increase on the previous agreement – although there remains significant doubt over the stability of the contract amid the lingering uncertainty wrought by Covid-19.

It is, however, overseas that French soccer must make up ground on its rivals. Dominant Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint Germain, who rank 45th in SportsPro’s 50 Most Marketable Properties list, have proven how sustained investment and a clear strategy can elevate a French brand to global prominence. With the Professional Football League (LFP), organisers of Ligue 1 and the second-tier Ligue 2, now under new leadership, there is no reason why the French game cannot be seen alongside the very best in elite sport.

Ligue 1 saw the value of broadcast rights grow by 60 per cent during the last cycle

Fortnite World Cup

League of Legends and the Call of Duty League were the only esports properties in the top 50, but there has perhaps been no better advert for the burgeoning competitive gaming sector to date than last year’s inaugural Fortnite World Cup. The 2020 edition of the event fell victim to the coronavirus pandemic, yet its ranking of 68th in SponsorPulse’s global list indicates that its debut made its mark.

Indeed, the demographic that so many traditional sports have been chasing could be found in their droves during Epic Games’ weekend-long festival for its flagship title, one which is played by 350 million people globally. As many as 40 million gamers attempted to qualify for the 2019 Fortnite World Cup, which saw then 16-year-old Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf take home the winner’s share of US$3 million.

Its mega prize pot aside, the Fortnite World Cup marked one of the first times where the gaming world was successfully fused with the traditional sporting realm. Thousands of fans packed into tennis’ Arthur Ashe Stadium as millions more watched at home, bringing mainstream attention to an industry that has sometimes been guilty of delivering hope over substance. The grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center were also transformed to bring Fortnite’s virtual world to life, demonstrating the potential for sponsors to be integrated into on the ground activations at future editions.

In any case, the Fortnite World Cup is a property ripe for the age of the influencer and digital celebrity, and is only likely to grow in relevance and appeal.

Thousands of gaming fans descended on New York's Arthur Ashe Stadium for the inaugural Fortnite World Cup

Basketball Africa League

Due to launch in 2020 before its indefinite suspension in March, the Basketball Africa League (BAL) remains in the conception phase, but the coronavirus-enforced delay has not derailed longstanding plans to inspire an entire continent of over 1.2 billion people and tap into its underlying, often overlooked potential.

A joint venture between the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Fiba, basketball’s global governing body, the BAL will feature 12 top club teams from across Africa, with representatives including the national champions of Angola, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said that his league, which has steadily increased its presence in Africa since 2003, is “committed to using basketball as an economic engine to create new opportunities in sports, media and technology” across the world’s second-most populous continent. Silver’s backing brings with it immediate credibility and heavyweight commercial support for the BAL, which is the NBA’s first professional league owned and operated outside of the United States.

For brands, though, the opportunity inherent in the BAL go far beyond basketball. By 2050, it is projected that Africa’s middle class will reach 1.1 billion, and that smartphone use will hit 690 million across Sub-Saharan Africa. With purchasing power set to surge, there will be no shortage of consumers ready to watch games, sell out arenas and buy merchandise in the coming years.

The Basketball Africa League will feature 12 top club teams from across the continent

The Hundred

The much-anticipated inaugural season of The Hundred might be on hold until next year, but the controversial 100-ball-a-side competition has been one of the most talked about new sports properties since being unveiled by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in April 2018.

Armed with some of the world’s biggest names on big-money contracts, The Hundred is the ECB’s answer to the success of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which stands way out in front as the world’s most lucrative Twenty20 tournament. Much maligned by more traditional followers of the English game, it would be fair to assume that The Hundred hasn’t been designed with them in mind.

Instead, the eight-team, city-based franchise competition has been invented to make cricket visible, accessible and relevant to a younger audience, one which the ECB believes is not engaging with its existing, longer formats, and that has proved increasingly elusive for the governing body since it put English cricket behind a pay wall following the 2005 Ashes.

Coverage from British public service broadcaster the BBC should help solve that issue, and the clamour around The Hundred has also seen no shortage of brands keen to align with the competition early. KP Snacks was quick to sign up as the official team partner for the opening season, while there was also backing from US sportswear brand New Era and insurance provider Vitality.  

Whether supporters or detractors, The Hundred is likely to have people watching on with interest to see how it fares. If – and it is a big if – the British public embraces it in the same way the cricketing world has taken to Twenty20, then the ECB may well have a serious money-maker on its hands.


A post shared by The Hundred (@thehundred) on


In September, the Welsh mountain range of Snowdonia National Park played host to a modest yet potentially influential new sports venture. The Aphetor Games are the brainchild of Carsten Thode, the one-time chief strategy officer at Engine Sport, and are an attempt to reimagine the media model for sports events.

No fewer than 20 social media content creators were brought together for three days of competition across a range of adventure sports challenges, coverage of which was distributed across Aphetor’s channels and those of its participants. The plan was to turn over media distribution and creation to those competitors, bringing their audiences along for the ride and generating a multiplier effect in the attention earned for the event and its partners.

The involvement of hosts Chunkz, Yung Filly and Chelcee Grimes helped secure coverage across a range of mainstream news outlets, while several well-known brands, including Bose, Ellesse, Berghaus and Speedo, signed up for the inaugural edition. A full evaluation of the event’s performance is sure to come in time, but the concept alone could be enough to have sports marketers reassessing their own approaches already.


The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) can be considered somewhat of a surprise omission from the World’s 50 Most Marketable Properties list, but it is unlikely to be absent for long. Hovering at number 57 in the SponsorPulse rankings, North America’s premier women’s basketball league is embarking on a new era, fronted by a fresh influx of stars led by the New York Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu, and under the stewardship of former Deloitte chief executive Cathy Engelbert.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic threw the WNBA season into doubt – a truncated campaign was eventually safely completed inside a bubble at Florida’s IMG Academy – the players were celebrating a landmark collective bargaining agreement, one which guaranteed them better pay, enhanced family benefits and travel improvements.

Now backed by the likes of marquee partner AT&T, the WNBA is on an upward path in line with the rising interest in women’s sport. While the men’s major leagues saw their TV ratings slide dramatically during their return to play, the 2020 WNBA Finals generated a 15 per cent increase in eyeballs compared to last year, while the regular season drove a 68 per cent upsurge in viewership.

All of this is without even mentioning that the league’s stars have long been at the forefront of athlete activism in sports, just as they were this year when a number of players chose to sit out the season to focus their efforts on social justice. For brands looking to align themselves with diversity and inclusion, and with a property whose following is growing all the time, the WNBA will be impossible to ignore.  

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