Money spent on sponsorships for events and meetings declined 1 percent in 2009 in the United States, to $16.5 billion. There's good news, however, for association meeting planners: Spending on association events actually increased last year and is expected to climb again in 2010, according to the IEG Sponsorship Report, published by IEG Sponsorship Consulting, Chicago.

The overall decline last year marked the first time since IEG began tracking sponsorship spending 25 years ago that the total had dropped in the United States from the previous year. "Those unprecedented numbers reflect a marketplace that never recovered from the economy's freefall towards the end of '08," said William Chipps, senior editor at IEG, in a press release. Sponsorships outside North America rose about 4 percent, to $27.5 billion.

"Associations did the best—they outperformed other sectors and had a growth rate of about 3 percent," said Diane Knoepke, vice president at IEG, speaking at a session at the Professional Convention Management Association 2010 Annual Meeting in Dallas. Spending on association sponsorships increased from $482 million in 2008 to $496 million in 2009. Conversely, sporting events, the largest category, performed the worst, with organizations like NASCAR and the National Football League taking the biggest sponsorship hits, Knoepke said.

Taking a closer look at the association numbers, Jim Andrews, senior vice president and editorial director at IEG, said 2009 was a year of contrasts. Organizations that had year-round, holistic approaches to sponsorship managed to grow revenue—in some cases substantially. "Those that still sell events and other ‘inventory' piecemeal took it on the chin and lost revenue as corporations looked to cut any and all spending that they could not tie back to business gains," Andrews said.

For 2010, IEG is forecasting an overall increase in sponsorship spending of around 3.4 percent, to $17.1 billion. Sponsorship dollars for association meetings and events is expected to increase by about 3.4 percent in 2010, to $513 million, Andrews said. "We anticipate money coming back into the overall sponsorship marketplace from sponsors who feel they can loosen the purse strings as the economy improves. The rate of growth for associations is only slightly higher in 2010 because there will be increased competition for some of those corporate dollars, especially from the cause/charity sector," he added.

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