SPORTSMATCH is an investment scheme to boost sport sponsorship directed at
grass roots sports in Scotland by matching, pound for pound, a sponsor's investment
in a sports club or project.

sportscotland, the national agency for sport in Scotland, runs the scheme
and this financial year, will invest £250,000 into sports clubs and projects
to match their sponsors monies.

Impressive as this figure is, with 13,000 sports clubs in Scotland, not all
can receive support for their sponsors and clubs. So, we’re carrying
out research with both sponsors and clubs to establish the best way forward.

Some of the initial findings make interesting reading.

Summary of Research findings so far

The first finding probes the motivation behind a sponsor’s decision
to become involved in a grass roots sport project. Just under 15% related sponsorship
of a club with their business objectives, not a high percentage given
the high
pressure on every pound spent in a commercial environment. The majority
of sponsors quoted a mixture of community related reasons e.g. I am a supporter,
a committee member, my family are associated with the club, I am an active
member, former player, supplier, friend of friends etc.

Perhaps it is stating the obvious a little, and perhaps it is something
that many involved in clubs in some way shape or form already know, but
it appears
that at club level, there is a reliance on players and supporters not
only to help run the club but also to attract and supply sponsorship.

At a time when keeping membership levels and, correspondingly, income
high is an ever increasing task, this extra income is precious, and it
appears
to be coming into clubs by the good grace of members and their families
and their
family connections.

It all rings true. Volunteers run clubs, and it is unrealistic to expect
a professionally run targeted drive to local businesses to increase sponsorship
income. Similarly the (predominantly) small businesses who provide the
sponsorship tend not to entertain highly sophisticated marketing plans
with sponsorship
integrated into their marketing mix.

This is supported by 73% of sponsors quoting ‘none’ or ‘poor’ commercial
gain from the sponsorship and phrases such as ‘supporting a worthy cause’, ’a
philanthropic donation’ were used to characterise the motivation
behind the deal.

So club officials currently thinking about gaining sponsorship for a
local project may breathe a sigh of relief that, at the moment in the
majority
of cases, they are not being taxed with the delivery of extra market
share or
increased margin.

However, that triggers more questions. Exactly what is it that these
local sponsors are looking for if they already have the interests of
the club
at heart and the investment is more charitable than a tool to help leverage
business? Businesses who are persuaded to sponsor still want something
back,
and the
clubs need to deliver it.

Comments from sponsors who took part in the survey point to simple desires.
Receiving recognition in the community for their sponsorship, being communicated
with, and being thanked. A very modest ask compared to the sponsorships
being managed at Formula 1, the Football Premier League and US Golf Tour
et al.

Worryingly though, only 27% of sponsors quoted excellent or good perceived
community gains, with 35% quoting ‘poor’ or ‘no value’ under
the heading of perceived community gains.

A club or community group should be able to deliver these relatively
easily. Regular reports in the local paper including the sponsor's name;
team photographs
with the sponsor's name on the shirts published; perimeter banners or
boards at events; recognition inside and outside the club building, photo
calls
with the cheque being handed over, invitations to match days, credit
in match programmes,
ensuring all members are aware of the commitment from their sponsors
etc. are all very deliverable.

However given the figures above, if sponsors are looking for positive
local public relations, it appears sports clubs have a way to go. It
is however
entirely possible that many clubs are not aware of what is expected by
the sponsor as
communication was raised as an issue by the sponsors.

There was one particular very positive finding in clubs who did obtain
a SPORTSMATCH award to match their sponsors’ involvement. In general,
clubs that received a SPORTSMATCH award had increased their membership
numbers, active players
and qualified coaches affiliated to the club. This is obviously not down
solely to SPORTSMATCH, but perhaps a sign that sponsorship can play a
significant
role in helping a club develop and increase participation in sport.

Recommendations for clubs in keeping a sponsor happy.

  • Clarify with the sponsor what it is that they would like in return for their
    sponsorship. If the club does not have the expertise try to work together with
    the sponsors personnel to help make it happen.
  • Speak to them regularly to see how the sponsor is viewing the success of the
    sponsorship.
  • Thank them

Recommendations for the sponsor

  • Make clear to the club what you want out of the sponsorship - if it is
    local profile, you may have to work with the club to ensure that happens.

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