Canadian Sport Issues

As many of you know, members of the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists™ team and I guest on the Jungle Jim Hunter Radio Show each Saturday morning. We host a feature called “The Business of Sport,” which talks about sport and sport marketing. Jim and I tend to agree to disagree on a wide range of topics, but one on which we seem to agree is the state of our national sport organizations, especially winter sport organizations, and their sponsorship servicing record.

It is atrocious, to say the least. Most of the organizations were losing ground after the Vancouver Olympics. Many sponsors abandoned sports such as Alpine Canada, bobsled, and others. There was a lot of bickering. Many of the sport organizations griped about the Canadian Olympic Committee eating up all the money and not funnelling it down. Then, in mid-November, COC announced the resigning and adding of new sponsors to the tune of $100 million. At that point, the sport organizations started talking about how great COC was, forgetting how they had “trashed” them just weeks earlier. What a world of politics and focus on “me, me, me” instead of others!

In my world of building and maintaining sponsorship or partnership, it is all about determining the needs of the sponsor. It is about how the sport body can assist the sponsor in achieving its business goals. If the selling properties can do that, the sponsors will provide money. It is just another marketing channel. They supply money to newspapers, outdoor, radio, TV, social media, etc. and will do the same for sport organizations if they can deliver results. Then the sport organizations can use that money as they see fit so long as they deliver the promised assets and results to the sponsor. Instead, and too often, I see a few things. Jungle Jim calls it the “tin can approach” where the sport organizations beg for money pleading how badly they need help. This no longer works. That ship has sailed. Sponsors aren’t there to support the wants and needs of the athletes and their organizations; they are there to make investments with those organizations to improve their bottom lines. Second, too often we see the “take the money and run” approach. The sponsors do not get what they were promised. The only communication is the “renewal ask” a year later and the sport body cannot figure out why the answer is no. The sport organizations fail to service their sponsors.

The big problem is that these sport organizations fail to understand the business of sport. They must invest in sponsorship infrastructure. They need to know what they truly have to sell. They need to know what each asset is worth. Then they need to go out and professionally sell programs designed from the ground up for each partner, not have volunteers pitch gold, silver, and bronze packages to all their friends. They need to take the glossy packages that some agencies build for them and throw them away. They need to sit down with prospects and learn about their goals and build custom packages. They may have the sales force in house and develop the internal capacity or hire an outside agency to sell for them. Either route works, as long as it is done professionally. This is not rocket science. It is reality. And every time the sport organizations are told this, the answer is the same—“We cannot afford to do an inventory and valuation, and sell professionally.” In my world, they cannot afford not to. Perhaps for a short few years, they need to invest in the infrastructure of sponsorship to ensure long-term stability of their organizations.

So how did COC buck the trend and acquire $100 million in new and renewal business two years after hosting the Olympics? They did it right. They have professional salespeople. They invested in an inventory and valuation of their assets. They supplemented their own sales force with expertise provided by Twenty Ten Group out of Vancouver and Toronto. They hired an outside agency to help them. WOW… and it paid off! Perhaps the sport organizations might see the light—or am I dreaming?

These are just one person’s thoughts. Yours are welcomed as well. Please add your thoughts or comments below. Thank you for reading and your feedback.

Brent Barootes

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