Corporate Sponsorship and Organisational Strategy: Bridging the Gap

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

Sport sponsorship can be thought of as a strategic activity. This is because it involves decisions about resource allocation and can help align an organisation with its environment. However, despite the acknowledgment of sponsorship's strategic nature most studies have restricted their focus to a listing of the strategic objectives which companies hope to achieve from their sponsorship activities. There has been little attempt within the literature to look at the formulation and implementation of sponsorship strategies or to examine the relationship that sponsorship as a strategic initiative has to broader corporate and business level strategies. The purpose of this paper is to examine this relationship. It uses data from a series of interviews carried out with the person or persons responsible for sponsorship in 28 Canadian based corporations (or Canadian subsidiaries of multi-national corporations). The results show that companies exhibited varying degrees of synergy between their sponsorship activities and their organisational strategy. Those that perceived closer links also perceived their sponsorship to be more successful. Those that did not have strong links were, for the most part, trying to establish such links. Numerous advantages of integrating sponsorship initiatives with broader corporate strategies were found. First, sponsorship helped to integrate the marketing function across other organizational departments. Additionally, it avoided conflicting messages being conveyed to consumers, employees and shareholders about why money was being spent on sponsorship. Furthermore, it helped in evaluating the merits of sponsorship requests.

The relevance of this research for practicing managers of both sponsoring corporations and recipient sport organisations is highlighted. In particular, it is suggested that a sponsorship programme is more likely to be viewed as a 'success' if there are deliberate synergies with the sponsor wider strategic objectives. It is also argued that sport managers seeking sponsorship should target their efforts on those corporations with which there is strong potential for a strategic fit with the sport property.

* Keywords: Organisational Strategy, Sponsorship

Introduction

Despite the increasing role that sponsorship is taking in the financing of sport organisations and events in all parts of the world, very little systematic research has been undertaken to investigate the strategic nature of this type of activity. This is not to say that attempts have not been made to investigate the objectives which corporations hope to achieve from sponsorship. On the contrary, a large number of studies on the sponsorship of sport have been conducted in Europe (for example, Boulet, 1989; Meenaghan, 1991; Otker, 1988; Quinn, 1982; Simkins, 1986; Thwaites, 1993; 1994; 1995; Waite, 1979; Witcher, Craigen, Culligan, & Harvey, 1991), North America (for example, Copeland, Frisby, & McCarville, 1996; Kuzma, Shanklin, & McCally, 1993; Stotlar, 1992; Thwaites, Aguilar-Manjarrez, & Kidd, 1998; Wilber, 1988) and elsewhere (for example, Abratt, Clayton, & Pitt, 1987; Abratt & Grobler, 1989; Pope & Voges, 1994; Scott & Suchard, 1992; Shilbury & Berriman, 1996). Nevertheless, the focus of these studies ha s not been on the manner in which sponsorship objectives are formulated or their links with broader corporate strategies.

This is regrettable as, over the past 20 years or so, sponsorship practices have changed considerably. In the 1970s this type of activity was considered to be an aspect of philanthropic giving. In the early to mid 1980s, sponsorship was evaluated according to a more direct sales-oriented approach. In the late 1980s and 1990s, sponsorship is starting to be integrated with a corporation's overall strategic positioning, as marketing is becoming more integrated with other facets of corporate operations (Cornwell, 1995; Wilkinson, 1993). …