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US Sports Enjoy Sponsorship Hike, November 18, 2010

The four major North American sports leagues are expected to see sponsorship revenue increase by 7.6 per cent in 2010.

The rise is partly down to the return of the financial and automotive sectors after a decline last year brought on by the weak US economy.

Spending by companies backing the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL) is projected to increase to more than $2.28bn from $2.12bn last year, according to IEG, a unit of advertising giant WPP that tracks such spending.

The same leagues saw sponsorship revenue fall 3.9 per cent last year, IEG said.

"The four major pro sports leagues and their teams have largely regained their sponsorship footing after a devastating 2009," IEG senior editor William Chipps explained.

The NHL is expected to lead the way with a 9.4 per cent increase in 2010.

The full year-end review next month for all US sports sponsorship spending should show a greater increase than the 2.8 per cent projection made at the beginning of the year despite struggles by amateur sports, motor racing, golf and tennis, IEG said.

North American sports had been hit hard over the past two years by the recession, which not only led consumers to cut back on attending games, but corporate backers to pare down on sponsorships as well as the purchase of expensive luxury suites and high-end tickets, reports Reuters.

However, Chipps said the rebound this year showed there was pent-up demand after so much corporate budget-cutting, especially by financial services firms. Leagues such as the NFL and NBA also eased rules prohibiting team sponsorship deals with lotteries and alcohol companies.

He pointed to the NHL's deal this month with Discover Financial Services and the NBA's September agreement with Spanish bank BBVA as proof.

The NFL also replaced official credit card sponsor Bank of America with Barclays this summer.

The NHL showed the largest gain, rising to an estimated $327m this year from $299m in 2009, IEG said.

The hockey league was followed by the NBA (up 8.5 per cent to $536 m), the NFL (up 7 per cent to $870m) and MLB (up 6.7 per cent to $548m).