Sponsorship is a process by which a company, organisation or individual provides an individual or organisation with funds, products or services for commercial advantage.Sponsorship is a business relationship and should be mutually beneficial to the sponsored individual and the sponsoring company.Most companies seek a return on their support or investment, ranging from goodwill within the community to more complex benefits such as media exposure, increased sales and brand awareness.Sponsorship is about building long-term relationships. The longer the relationship lasts, the greater the value that can be derived from it. It is not an exact science, however, and manifests itself in a host of different forms on many different levels.

Athlete Sponsorship is the area that specifically concerns you. The majority of elite athletes, despite being number one in their sport, age group, or discipline are not in a position to demand large sums of money. They can, however, ask for a realistic level of support Only a handful of elite athletes can demand large sums of money and afford to be choosy about who they deal with.
The bulk of major sport sponsorship spend in the UK and Europe is shared amongst the following industry sectors:

  • Automotive
  • Consumer electronics
  • Clothing
  • Information technology
  • Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG)
  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Financial services

These are not the only industries and athletes may have to think outside the box for companies to approach.

Many sponsorship deals are negotiated on the basis of a guarantee of UK, European or Worldwide TV exposure. Lower profile sponsorships will look to derive value in other ways.

Athlete Sponsorship

Nike’s contract with Tiger Woods is worth in excess of $100million, the most lucrative athlete endorsement in the world. His $40million deal with Buik is also amongst the world’s top 20 most valuable sponsorship deals. However, there is only one Tiger Woods in the world and he can be considered something of a sporting anomaly in terms of his global commercial value. You would be well advised, therefore, to set your sights a little lower! Click through to our Case Studies section to learn about the experiences of some of our GB sportsmen and women.

A Case Study, Tim Henman and Robinsons

In 1998 Robinsons soft drinks – a long-term partner of Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships and a brand synonymous with the sport - signed a two-year deal with Tim Henman to supplement its tennis sponsorship activity.

Why Tim Henman?

Tim was the perfect fit for the Robinson brand, he had become one of the world’s top players and his character was seen to complement the Wimbledon values of politeness, fair play and dedication to the sport.Being British, good looking and well mannered, Tim’s appeal to housewives – a key Robinsons market – was obvious
Given the dearth of successful British tennis players, Tim was also guaranteed to generate high levels of publicity in the UK media

How did Robinsons make use of Tim?

Tim was used to support and endorse all Robinsons tennis activity, including their coaching programmes, grass-roots development schemes and summer campsHe gave coaching sessions to competition prize-winners
His image appeared on the label of Robinsons products
He wore Robinsons patches on his match shirts and agreed to a number of Robinsons themed media commitments.This example is, of course, at the higher end of athlete endorsement sponsorships, but the basic principle remains the same whatever the level of sponsorship deal. A company supports an athlete and, in return, the athlete delivers value to the company through performances, media exposure and additional activity.

You should be aware that unless you are at the very top of your sport, sponsorship doesn’t come easy. It can be a hard slog and often entails writing 100’s of letters and getting very little, if anything, in return. Some companies will respond with a standard ‘thanks, but no thanks’ letter, others may not respond at all. You should therefore be prepared for the setbacks before you embark upon your search.

Many, however, find that persistence pays off and Ellen MacArthur is a great example of someone who refused to take no for an answer. When setting out in her sport she wrote to 1000’s of companies requesting support but received nothing but rejections. She refused to give up, however, and eventually secured a relatively low-level deal with Kingfisher, the retail giant. Kingfisher were so impressed by her that they then backed her to the tune of £2million to enter the Vendee Globe in a brand new Open 60 boat named Kingfisher. She finished second – and the rest is history. Kingfisher remained loyal through much of her career, helping her to achieve many of her sporting goals. Musto were also a sponsor in the early days, providing free clothing before she became the global star she is today. She has never forgotten their support and has been loyal to them ever since.

So, before embarking on your search for sponsorship, you should weigh up whether you REALLY need it. It will take a lot of time and effort and will almost certainly cost you money, in many cases for little or no return. It requires commitment and determination and it doesn’t end should you find yourself a sponsor. Making a sponsorship relationship work is also a huge commitment.

UK SPORT/www.http://sponsorship.uksport.gov.uk