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Brand partnerships in sport

Nick Evans, head of commercial at the Commonwealth Games England, explains why it's important to form a partnership (not sponorship) with sports teams and events

Sport Sponsorship continues to grow at a rapid rate. At the last count an estimated £2 billion is invested in sport annually in the UK. This will undoubtedly rise.

With the boom in broadcast rights, digital reach and media profile, major events – such as The Ashes, Premier League football, Olympic Games and Formula1 – continue to deliver major value for brands. Global players scramble for increasingly expensive rights to associate with such enormously popular properties.

But what of the ‘lesser known’ sporting properties who are all on the search for sponsorship and commercial income? It’s a crowded market place, the demands for revenue are increasing and there are only a finite number of brands and companies looking to invest. This can lead to brands being inundated with offers and approaches from many different sporting organisations.

The message is simple – you don’t need to deal with the ‘crown jewels’ of major sporting events to receive real value from a commercial partnership. There are many sports properties that can provide exceptional returns. It very much depends on what the brand wants and the sport’s ability to adapt accordingly and provide benefits to their objectives.

We, at Commonwealth Games England, are in the ‘challenger’ category of sporting properties. As an international team we are phenomenally successful, but only compete every four years. So, without the global TV reach, broadcast deals and a ‘national stadium’, we have to provide creative and alternative options to the traditional sports sponsorship model.

We like to create partnerships and to like to look at things in a different way.

Most sponsorship approaches fall at the first hurdle because it’s very ‘us’ led. In many cases it’s self-serving and insular. Have you ever been on a date and heard the person just talk about themselves? It’s boring and you switch off after five minutes. Sponsorship approaches are exactly the same. Talk too much about you, without understanding what the brand wants/needs/requires – and it’s dead in the water.

However, partnerships can really work. They add value to organisations like Commonwealth Games England, they make a massive impact on the athletes and the brand in return receives excellent benefits. Then it becomes a true unison and not like a sponsorship sale at all. Instead it becomes a natural business alignment.

Image via Flickr/ kw2