Sponsorship in a Social Context

Cover the brand risk in sports sponsorship
Sponsorship in a Social Context
Publ. date 27 Jan 2012
Sports sponsorship is an accelerating market. The European Sponsorship Agency (ESA) estimated the total cash flow in the European sponsor industry at €23,33 billion. Sustainability within sponsorship has become an increasingly important topic. According to EventBranche Magazine (EBM, 2010), 63% of the current Dutch event managers indicate sustainability as the most important theme in the industry.

In the global golf industry, there are numerous large events embracing sustainability because their main sponsors want to cover their brand risk. Waste Management Phoenix Open (WMPO), KLM Open, Senior Open de Portugal and the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open (DBLSO) are all good examples of events that take sustainability further than the golf course.

Increasing transparency: higher reputational risks

Over the past years, there are several examples of sponsors that stepped out of their sponsorship deals to avoid reputational risk. Although the official reason is often that the sponsor achieved its targets, many times the underlying reason is that the reputation of the sponsor is at risk. Especially sports that are related to doping, gambling or high carbon emission such as Formula 1 or cycling are incorporating a brand risk for a company that itself is very active on sustainability.

After the ‘Crashgate’ scandal with F1 Renault driver Piquet who was told to crash on purpose so that his teammate Alonso could win the race, main sponsor ING reacted immediately and terminated the sponsor contract. Also the doping confessions of Erik Zabel and Rolf Aldag and the suspected Jan Ullrich had a major impact on head sponsor T-Mobile. And the ongoing political power discussions between Johan Cruijff and Louis van Gaal at Dutch football club Ajax also has a negative impact on main sponsor Aegon.

Sports and society: a logical combination

Nowadays, transparency is a common good. Consumers are continuously looking for more possibilities to contribute (co-creation and crowdsourcing). They want to know how products are made and how companies invest their money. Transparency and the communication of so-called proof points of sustainability are more and more important to involve stakeholders and create brand value. Sponsorship is the old new marketing tool to communicate sustainability and achieve stakeholder engagement. Peverelli and De Feniks of VODW Marketing describe it as follows: ‘Sports offers companies an effective and efficient platform to engage in a society where both business and CSR objectives can be combined.

Finch & Beak is helping sponsors analyze their sponsor portfolios and provides recommendations how to include CSR in sponsoring and communicate proof points of sustainability. For more information on sponsorship activation or sustainability in sports, please contact Jan van der Kaaij at jan@finchandbeak.com or +31 6 28 02 18 80.

About Jan van der Kaaij

Sustainability expert in strategy development, DJSI and sustainable innovation, with a hands-on approach and always committed to go for the max. | jan@finchandbeak.com 

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