75th Anniversary Issue: Disciplines - Sponsorship - from Patronage to Leveraged

Article excerpt

Sponsorship has existed since ancient times, but only recently have brands moved in on the scene.

Sponsorship was born out of philanthropy and patronage. In ancient Greece, Athenians paid to sit close to the Chorus; in Renaissance Italy, great art was funded as a show of status by wealthy families such as the Medicis. In Victorian England, rich businessmen such as sugar magnate Henry Tate endowed the arts, leading to the creation of the gallery bearing his name.

By the early 20th century, far-sighted marketers were beginning to appreciate the commercial possibilities of sponsorship. New York Herald publisher Gordon Bennett created motor and balloon races in the early 1900s as a means of promoting his newspapers, as well as indulging his playboy lifestyle.

Player sponsorship and endorsement came to the UK in the 40s, when the incomparable Denis Compton, who played football for Arsenal and cricket for England, appeared as the 'Brylcreem boy' in ads for the hair-grooming brand.

In 1963, Gillette helped create the one-day cricket competition that subsequently became the NatWest and C&G trophy, while in 1968 Imperial Tobacco's Gold Leaf brand was the first to appear on the livery of a Formula One car.

Among those who really shaped the sponsorship scene, says Tim Crow, director of consultancy at Karen Earl Sponsorship, was super-agent Mark McCormack, founder of IMG, 'who was the first to understand you could commercialise and sell sports people'.

Equally important, believes Crow, were Patrick Nally and Horst Dassler, who together created the multi-sponsor model for major events so prevalent today through their work on the 1978 and 1982 FIFA World Cups. These provided a platform for heavyweight global brands such as Adidas and Coca-Cola.

More recently, the growing reach and sports programming of Sky has created new sponsorship opportunities. And during the 80s and 90s a range of properties were created with great appeal for brands, including the Rugby World Cup, FA Premier League, UEFA Champions League and Heineken Cup.

'I think one of the most iconic examples of sponsorship was the creation of Lucozade Sport, because here you have an FMCG brand that was launched through sponsorship,' says Fast Track chairman and former Olympic medallist Alan Pascoe.

Arts sponsorship has snowballed from a business worth pounds 600,000 a year in 1976 to pounds 250m a year today. 'The days when a company chairman would write the cheque to sponsor something that was a personal passion are over,' says Arts & Business chief executive Colin Tweedy. …