Paralympic sponsors have a golden opportunity to cover themselves in glory

Rio organisers are scrambling around to try and fix the Paralympics funding crisis ahead of the event next month - now is the time for brands to pitch in.

GB sprinter Richard Whitehead in action (Credit: Channel 4)
GB sprinter Richard Whitehead in action (Credit: Channel 4)

More than 4,000 para-athletes from 176 countries are due to compete in Rio from 7-18 September.

However, the glow from Rio’s Olympics may fade sooner rather than later unless Paralympic organisers succeed in plugging financial holes that could well lead to teams not appearing and cuts to services.

The Rio 2016 Organising Committee, responsible for both the Olympics and the Paralympics, has been late to pay out support grants that teams use to finance their travel to the Games, leading to angry questions about why it has been so difficult to access the necessary funds.

This has led to people looking both at the IOC, and sponsors. And you cannot help but think this is a golden opportunity for sponsors to show they are not just there for superficial branding, but because they genuinely want to help develop the Paralympics as a formidable sporting competition and acknowledge its important role in continuing to shift perceptions of disability in society. 

Anna Scott-Marshall, director of comms at the British Paralympic Association, said the Paralympics received a 43 per cent rise in funding after London 2012 and continued investment from businesses. BT Group, BP, Allianz, Visa, Toyota, Samsung and Panasonic all got involved as global partners. Unsurprisingly, the public’s immediate response is to ask why are these apparent backers of the Games not chipping in?

Hugh Robertson, the vice-chairman of the British Olympic Association, has said: "The sponsors have the capacity to help."

The opportunity is there for someone to take a stand and effectively put their money where their mouth is. It is all very well churning out campaigns and holding sponsored send-offs for athletes, or gifting them cars, but for the everyday person, the company that will stand out will be the one that actually makes a significant difference to the success of the Games.

And for those that do step in, it is a clear way of fostering positive feelings towards their brands and cultivate a caring and inclusive image; something that is becoming increasingly important for people today.

Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada said organisers had been approached by two companies interested in sponsoring the Paralympics in the past few days, but hasn't disclosed further details yet. So far, sponsors have kept shtum on their responsibility.

Let us hope there is much more talking going on behind the scenes. It is not just a savvy thing to do from a brand perspective, it is also simply the right thing to do.

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