Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Who Should Foot the Bill?

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Who Should Foot the Bill?

Article excerpt

WHEN a major sporting event is due to take place, especially if it is to be televised, businesses scramble for every possible inch of space on which to inscribe their company logo--the surrounds of the arena itself, the bodywork of cars, the players' shirts and even the flooring of indoor sports halls. Only the Olympic Games are free from this kind of advertising, but even there the official sponsors are authorized to use the Olympic emblem (the five rings representing five continents), an authorization which costs them dear.

What is true for the Olympic Games holds good for all sports. In order to cope with ever-increasing outlays (salaries, administrative costs), the clubs and organizers of competitions are obliged to seek out sponsors or patrons. Many companies respond eagerly to this invitation. Thus sponsorship of professional football in France, which represented less than 1 per cent of receipts in 1970, brought in nearly a quarter of them in 1991.

By identifying itself with the image that a sport creates and with the emotion, enthusiasm, passion even, that it generates, a company consolidates its position and role in society, motivates its personnel, improves its reputation and reinforces or modifies its image in the public eye. Semiological studies in this field tell us that every sport has a specific image with which the sponsor becomes associated. Sailing, for example, symbolized space, the lure of the open sea and controlled skills; fencing evokes nobility, tradition, precision; while motor-racing symbolizes virility, dynamism, authenticity and pushing oneself beyond the limit.

In Europe, the money expended on sports sponsorship amounts to more than 20 billion francs. In the United States it is over $2.5 billion. However, this source of financing is not stable. It is not the primary function of businesses to promote the development of sports, except for those that exploit the market directly, such as the makers of sports goods or equipment and the sporting press. Most companies are prepared to invest in sponsorship only insofar as it helps them to get their message across. Here sport finds itself in competition with other interests such as cultural activities, conservation of the environment, the great humanitarian causes and scientific research. Furthermore, a company's expenditure on this form of communication will vary with changing circumstances. It would be hazardous to base a sports policy on such uncertain resources.

The money for sport does not derive solely from the private sector--from players, spectators, the media and sponsors. …

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