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Sports sponsorship in a changing world

Tony Featherstone a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald wrote a very interesting piece headed “Sport sponsorship goalposts moving”. Featherstone opined in his piece that “if sports marketing risks for high-profile events are rising, surely the opportunity for corporates is to invest in grassroots sports, women’s sports and kids sports.” This is a phenomena that we are already seeing.

The message of the article is whether, because of the likes of Steve Smith, Dave Warner, Israel Folau and the alleged involvement of Qantas, the bad behaviour of crowds, gambling and the looming issues around concussion, sport is not the safe vehicle for sponsors that it once was.

As Australians, I think we all know that our sport starts at grassroots levels and whilst sponsorship at this level is appreciated and valuable, it is questionable as to whether it has the same value as sponsoring the AFL final series, the Australian Open tennis, the Ashes series or the Melbourne Cup.

They used to say that all publicity is good publicity, but that has certainly been questioned as to whether being a sponsor of a sport or a team that is going through some upheaval, scandal or controversy is good for that brand.

It is a very interesting question, but who even remembers who was the sponsor of the Australian Cricket team or Australian Cricket when Sandpapergate occurred? If indigenous players refuse to sing the national anthem at State of Origin does that impact upon the sponsor? If Qantas is dragged into the Folau affair, does that really impact upon who you fly with? It seems to me that sponsorship is far less direct effect on consumers and if a corporate has sponsored a sport for many years, for a whole range of reasons including philanthropic motives, does one scandal change the view of the consumer or is the consumer experienced and knowledgeable enough to know they can hardly blame a sponsor for the bad behaviour of individuals.

In my opinion, the issue of gambling sponsorship of sport will be under increased scrutiny. It is hard to believe that cigarette companies, who were such major sponsors of sport in Australia in the 1980’s, were banned as sponsors. No one could conceive a situation where such sponsorship would be banned, but now it is hard to conceive a situation where tobacco sponsorship could have been allowed. It will be interesting to see what happens with gambling sponsorship.

Featherstone’s article is very interesting and thought provoking. How we consume information in a digital world is changing at a rapid pace. How we watch sport and consume sport is changing, so it is only natural that the sponsorship of this will also change. In a country like Australia where sport plays such an integral part, sponsorship of major competitions and events, the high profile teams and the star players, I think, will continue long into the future.

"The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication."