Understanding sports sponsorship in the 21st century

Manchester United

What rings to your mind when the term sponsorships is mentioned? What of that point when it is twisted to other related terms such as partnerships? Well, sponsorship is a broad term and perhaps some of the most commonly uttered terms in the world of sports.

In brief, sports sponsorship can be termed as the mutual agreement between a service provider and a sports club, event, team or a sports organization. The main aim of the receiver in this particular case is always to entrench airtime for the sponsoring company/organization. In entrenching airtime of the sponsors, more often, you will notice names of companies appearing in different materials of a certain team. Depending on the terms of the agreement, the most commonplace that you will find logos of sponsoring companies are always in front of a team’s shirt.

By placing their logo at those respective positions, they aim to sell their brand through the visibility that comes with the location of their logo. Position of the logo on either a jersey or playing equipment thereafter leads to different sponsorship terms. The most common type of sponsorship in the sports industry is shirt sponsorship. Next to it in terms of popularity is the title sponsorship.

Broader types of sponsorships can be classified under, team, event, individual and group sponsorships. Breaking into smaller categories, sponsorships can fit into the following subsections of sponsorships, kit, event, product and athlete sponsorship.

Origin of sports sponsorships

Sports sponsorship is not a new thing neither is it a 21st-century creation. Sports sponsorships run as far as the fifth century of this world’s existence. In fact, sports sponsorship is much older than 98% of sports at the modern Olympics. Before the evolution and rise of modern forms of sponsorships, sponsorships were a common thing in the early Greek kingdoms of Athens and Sparta. At this point, it’s worth to note that sports have a strong linkage to Athens as where organized sports were organized. In those centuries, sports were largely associated with the rich in society.

The royals of Athens were, therefore, the ones who largely offered sponsorship for different competitions. Winners would get honoured through various means that showed them some glory. In many cases, unlike today, winners were awarded material gifts instead of money as it is today. Some competed just to get flowers on their heads. To some especially the prisoners, they competed so that they could get released from jails. Outstanding athletes during those days, as part of the wider scheme of sponsorship, would get their statues erected in the stadium of Olympia where the games were held after every four years.

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One of the major reasons that made the public figures in Athens to sponsor games was to help them boost their public image. By sponsoring as many athletes and competitions, showed how powerful an individual was in the eye of the public, in return, such individuals commanded a lot of respect and honour among the people of Greece.

With the collapse of the ancient Olympics, it was till later years of the 1970’s that sports sponsorship started to pick up again. In 1976, after Montreal City recorded a big loss in hosting the Olympics, the idea of sponsorship came in place.

Objectives of sports sponsorship

The main aim of partnership in sports is to offer various mutual benefits. Sponsorships have led to massive growth in the sports industry. In the 21st century, it’s literally hard for an outfit to survive in modern sports without any form of sponsorship.

The main aim therefore for corporates and governmental institutions in developing interest in sports sponsorship is because of global exposure. sports as an industry is a medium of conveying information. Some of the reasons therefore for increased sponsorship is for instance to increase awareness.

A good number of companies are using sponsorship to publicize their brands. Through this, they emerge much stronger than their competitors in a certain industry. This is because people tend to believe so much in what they see as the say goes ‘seeing is believing.’ For instance, Fly Emirates is one of the major sponsors of sports across the globe. They have sponsorship deals in almost all the leading football leagues. Through that, they easily beat other airlines as the world’s leading carrier.

Another key objective for the growth of sponsorship is the aspect of gaining financial muscle. Today, the majority of worlds leading companies are fighting to have a place in the sports industry. This is a result of the fact that sports are a multi-billion industry. With what can be referred to as cultic following, gaining confidence and visibility in the sports industry has proved to be a revenue driver. Through various sponsorship deals, fans and teams are able to either directly or indirectly gain confidence with products of certain companies. That therefore in many cases limits them to only purchase products from those companies. Though, a company sometimes is forced to increase its production rate so as to cover the demand.

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What are the types of sports sponsorships?

Sports sponsorships takes different shapes as discussed below.

Title Sponsorship

Title sponsorship is the most common form of sponsorship at league levels. It, however, applies to individuals as well. This type of sponsorship allows the sponsor to provides resources to the sponsored league/team. In return to that, the sponsor thereafter acquires the right to have their name on official products or section of the sponsored entity. For instance, they can acquire the name of a certain league or a competition. Some of the places that this has taken place is in EPL where Barclays Bank for a number of years, received the right of renaming the league to Barclays Premier League courtesy of being the official financial partners of the league.

the same case is with African continental champions league. Having signed a partnership deal with petroleum company Total as their title sponsors, the league is nowadays called CAF Total Champions League. This is with respect to the partnership that the two companies’ shares. At the local level, Kenya’s top tier league has had its name being changed from time to time as a result of sponsorship deals. The most recent one in Kenya is the BetKing FKF PL after the Nigerian bookmakers signed a sponsorship deal with the federation.

Shirt sponsorship

Shirt sponsorship is perhaps the most common type of sports sponsorships. It can sometimes be referred to as kit sponsorship. This kind of sponsorship enables the sponsored entity to get either kit or financial support. In return, the receiving entity grants the sponsoring entity rights to place its brand’s logo on the kit. The extended rights normally last for a specified period of time. In many occasions, it normally runs concurrently with the sponsorship period.

This form of sponsorship is mostly common in team sports such as football, rugby and netball. As sponsorships continue to diversify, its one type of sponsorship which continues to receive diversity. In recent years, it’s common to have more than one company on a team’s/athlete kit. Other sponsors have always opted to place their brands on the sleeves. Captains’ armbands and sometimes at the back where jersey number is located.

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Good examples of sleeve sponsorships is the deal between American manufacturing company Kohler Manchester United. Deals between Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards and Betsafe in Kenya for instance, are good examples of shirt sponsorship.

Media sponsorship

Media sponsorship serves the purpose of ensuring that airtime and advertisements are achieved. These sponsors therefore ensure that they secure airtime and advertising space in dailies and media houses for the teams they are sponsoring. They also help in the production of promotional materials for the teams.The materials produced are usually used to popularize the respective outfits.

Media sponsorship up to date, remains one of the kind of sponsorships to be exploited. The main reason behind its slow development is the fact that sports people have not yet fully u understood how it operates. Its however one of the most lucrative form of sponsorships which can easily drive millions of dollars to an entity.

Kit sponsorship

This type of sponsorship allows a company to provide playing and training equipment for the sponsored team. It’s a sponsorship that is most common between kit makers and respective teams/athletes. In return of the provision from the sponsors, a club/athlete in this kind of sponsorship dons the kits from the sponsor. This helps in promoting/endorsing kits of a certain manufacturer for a specified period of time. Kits in this category may range from jerseys, bibs, training kits, tracksuits, armbands, wristwatches, stopwatches and water bottles.

Athlete endorsement

Athlete endorsement is among the fastest-growing forms of sponsorships. It falls under the broad category of individual sponsorship. This kind of sponsorship allows an individual athlete to enter into an agreement with a particular company. The aim of the deal is usually to have the athlete him/herself with products of a particular company. The sponsor in this deal ensures that they provide the athlete with all the required resources.

One of the most recent deal of this kind is the deal between PSG star Neymar Jnr and Puma.

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