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Collingwood has overtaken the Sydney Swans as the biggest sponsorship earner among the top sports clubs, with revenue of $18.9 million in 2017, a year in which all but four AFL clubs increased sponsorship revenue.
New analysis by market research firm IBISWorld provided to Sponsorship News shows that total sponsorship and fundraising revenue flowing to AFL clubs rose by 8.3% to $208 million last season, up from $192m in 2016.
That figure excludes Port Adelaide, which is the only one of the 18 AFL clubs that doesn’t provide a breakdown of its commercial revenue streams in its financial reporting.
With sponsorship revenue growing 11.3% to $18.94m, Collingwood has reclaimed top place from Sydney, although the Swans also increased sponsorship revenue by 1.9% to $18.92m. The top four was rounded out by Adelaide, up from fifth after 16.9% growth to $17.1m, and Geelong (3.2% growth, $16.6m).
The biggest move up the ladder came from North Melbourne, which rose four places to 9th after sponsorship rose 43.7% to $12.3m. The Kangaroos' strong result and similar growth at GWS means a record 11 AFL sides had sponsorship revenue of more than $10m, up from 8 last year.
Other strong performances came from the two most recent AFL champions – last year's winner Richmond moved into 7th place after sponsorship increased 28.9% to $13.6m, while the flow on from the Western Bulldogs' 2016 premiership helped sponsorship revenue to grow 23.6% to $11.9m, putting the club in 10th spot.
Just four clubs saw sponsorship decline, including struggling Queensland clubs, the Brisbane Lions ($8.8m, down 7.4%) and Gold Coast Suns ($5.9m down 26.1%), which dropped to 13th and 17th on the ladder respectively.
Of the other two teams to see declines, Carlton can point to the $1.9 million owed by bankrupt former sponsor CareerOne, while West Coast saw sponsorship fall 2.3% to $7.7m but posted increases across all other commercial streams, including signage and advertising, which other AFL clubs bundle with sponsorship revenue.
"Increased exposure in growing markets across NSW and QLD and sustained dominance in VIC, SA, WA and TAS has made sponsorship of AFL clubs an enticing venture for corporations," said Nick Tarrant IBISWorld's senior industry analyst.
Tarrant told Sponsorship News that reliable strong TV viewership and the new revenue opportunities through the AFLW also contributed to increases in sponsorship.
Pies revenue tops $77 million; Eagles lead on profit
IBISWorld research also found that 14 of 18 clubs posted an operating profit last season, an improvement from the 10 teams to do so in 2016 – albeit with help from gaming machines.
The top earners were Collingwood, Hawthorn and West Coast, although the two Melbourne sides relied heavily on gaming revenue. At the other end of the ladder, GWS, Gold Coast and North Melbourne were the only sides to bring in revenue of less than $43 million.
"It remains clear that certain clubs rely heavily on their corporate hosting and pokies revenue streams. In 2017, 29.4% of Collingwood’s revenue came from hospitality and pokies, with Hawthorn at 26.7%," said Tarrant.
Collingwood was also least reliant on the AFL, with funds and grants from head office accounting for only 14.1% of the club's revenue. Conversely, some 60.6% of Gold Coast's revenue came from the AFL. The other teams to rely on the AFL for more than 40% of total revenue were St Kilda, GWS, North and Brisbane.