An Examination of Sports Sponsorship from a Small Business Perspective
Zinger, J. Terence, O'Reilly, Norman J., International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship
Within a reasonably short time frame, sport has emerged as an effective vehicle for building brand awareness, reaching target audiences and burnishing the corporate image (Seguin & O'Reilly, 2008). Whereas substantial research has been directed towards the obligations of the sport organisation (as sponsee) in cultivating sponsorship partnerships, this exploratory study examines the implications of the ever-increasing growth in sponsorships for small enterprises (as sponsors) and considers what type of sponsorship activity is feasible for a given small business.
While resources are limited for many small enterprises, there may well be untapped sponsorship opportunities, as they seek cost-effective marketing and public relations vehicles, while sport properties (particularly at amateur level) search for relief from persistent funding shortages.
This research focused on six case studies from small firm sponsors. The sample was drawn from a larger study of 80 companies, where support was found for several sponsorship 'best practices', including the value that sponsors ascribe to exclusivity, as well as the importance of tangible, identifiable benefits for both sponsor and sponsee. However, the small enterprises featured in this paper showed a tendency to treat their sponsorship endeavours as a natural adjunct to their extensive charitable activities, with three of the six being highly influenced by a sense of community. While these small firms appeared to be successful in negotiating suitable packages of rights and benefits and in one case was able to secure a certain level of exclusivity, there was little effort directed towards researching and differentiating between sponsorship opportunities.
The Stages of Development theory provides a workable approach to breaking down the population of small firms into useful subgroups. To facilitate further analysis, the six cases were also classified by their perceived level of organisational complexity. For instance, employee relations was found to be an important factor in two of the higher level firms. In addition, there was evidence that even beyond the early phases of small business development, the attitudes and personal interests of the entrepreneurs seem to have an influence on sponsorship activity, at times dominating commercial considerations.
The discussion emphasises the need for the small business owner to be fully aware of the nature of the organisational commitment that may be necessary to derive the full benefit available through sponsorship arrangements. Once the business enterprise starts to envision an involvement that will extend beyond pure patronage, it must address the sundry challenges that accompany the development of an effective sponsorship programme. The need for continual measurement of the effectiveness of the sponsorship, as well as the importance of developing activation programmes, can place burdensome demands on the sponsor's organisation.
This paper's contributions include the development of a philanthropy-sponsorship continuum, some new insights into the nature of sponsorship at the small enterprise level and a proposed framework that might be helpful in relating the array of patronage and sponsorship opportunities to the different categories of small business.
The rising popularity of sport--professional, amateur, collegiate and recreational--as a vehicle for building brand awareness, reaching target audiences and burnishing the corporate image is evident (Seguin & O'Reilly, 2008). For instance, total sponsorship spending in North America (including the arts, festivals and cause-related marketing) reached $14.91 billion in 2007 and was expected to increase by 11.7% during 2008. $11.6 billion of this amount (69%) was estimated to be attributable to sport (IEG, 2008).
The growing acceptance of the commercialisation of sport (Hall, 2006) is one of the more visible societal shifts of the past 25 years. …