Sponsorship in Sport

Sponsorship spending on the four major U.S. pro sports leagues continues to maintain its upward momentum. Spending on the four major pro sports leagues and teams – NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL – totaled $2.62 billion in 2012, a 6.5 percent increase from 2011. In terms of total revenue, the NFL led the pack with $1.01 billion in total sponsorship revenue—the first time one of the four pro sports leagues has broken the $1 billion mark.

This is a far cry from the total amount of sponsorship spending on amateur sport – in the U.S. and in Canada. There is no question that professional sports teams have a much further “reach” than their amateur counterparts. Amateur individual athletes and teams struggle to gain sponsors. However, this is the group of athletes needing the most support. These amateur athletes train just as hard, have the same training costs and travel costs as professional athletes. By definition, amateur athletes are not paid for their passion, dedication and pursuit of excellence. Sure, some elite level Canadian athletes are “carded” – which means that they receive monthly funding for training assistance from the Athlete Assistance Program of the Government of Canada via Sport Canada. These and some others have received National and international fame through success at Olympic Games which lend itself to easier sponsorship attainments.

But what about the athletes that are not a part of the Athlete Assistance Program or these “famous” athletes? Even those that do receive assistance from the government still need help. The assistance is just that – assistance. It is not covering all of the costs needed for national and international success in sport. These athletes need sponsors!

Why should a company sponsor an amateur athlete?
Sponsorship offers corporate Canada a viable alternative to conventional advertising – it sends a brand message in a much subtler, long-lasting manner. Sport is a key part of Canadian culture, so it is an excellent venue for large and small companies to market themselves. It is a very effective way of associating a corporate brand with the values represented by a particular sport or athlete. This is an excellent way for companies to separate themselves from their competition.

How do athletes get these sponsors?
Athletes wanting sponsors for themselves or their teams need to be champions of their cause. This is not a time to be humble or shy. Athletes need to be proud of their training and accomplishments and use this as a tool to attract sponsors. Social media is one way to build and audience and gain exposure. However it is not as simple as having a Facebook page or Twitter handle. There needs to be a strategy behind these efforts.

So how does a company get involved? Who should you sponsor? What team or individual or sport? How can you make your sponsorship dollars work for your business?

And as an athlete, team or sport…how do you attract sponsors? What strategy should you use? What methods? Which companies (type, size, business market) should you try to appeal to?

The answers to these questions for both companies and athletes are complex. If you are an athlete or a company, we can help. At Fit Communications, we want to marry business with sport. We are the bridge between the two. We want both to succeed in their perspective fields because we believe in the passion and dreams that each has. Give us a call, we’re super nice!

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