BROADCAST: Prime time sports events offer the sort of TV coverage
that’s worth mega bucks to sponsors
ENVIRONMENT: Rank Xerox throws its weight behind a campaign to support
eco-systems threatened by tourism
COMMUNITY CONCERN: Corporate giants are using local sports to show a
more caring face to the community
Companies are seizing on sponsorship as an effective way of raising
profiles and projecting core values. But success lies as much in
targeting as deal-making. Jeremy Slater reports
It is a desperate maul this newish game called TV sponsorship. One
player goes down and has, by the rules, to release the ball, while
others go over the top to get their hands on the prize. Having won it,
the team charges forward towards the goal line of greater public
awareness and higher sales.
The game is likely to get more frenetic with sports coverage
increasingly moving from the public BBC to the privately-owned BSkyB.
With each new event added to Sky’s roster the revenues from broadcast
sponsorship grow - empowering Rupert Murdoch, 40 per cent shareholder in
BSkyB, to consider more audacious take-over plots.
Within the past few weeks discussions with European Rugby Unions over
the future of the Five Nations tournament have taken place. It is
unlikely the BBC could match Sky’s pounds 200 million offer, despite its
long-term hold on the tournament. The only sticking point now seems to
be the level of control to be levied by Sky. While in recent weeks
BSkyB, which already shows the biennial golfing competition the Ryder
Cup, has been offered the British Open for pounds 25 million over the
next five years. The BBC at the moment is reported to pay an apparent
peppercorn of pounds 1 million a year.
Those who defend such deals say Murdoch has changed sport for the
better and given the British public more of what it always wanted. He
has also been instrumental in creating a television sponsorship market
worth, at Mintel’s estimate, over pounds 100 million. Since 1988, the
availability of satellite and cable services has incrfeased the amount
of sport shown on TV from 3,000 hours per year to 12,000 and it is
estimated that the rights to a major sporting event cost at least pounds
‘The future of sponsorship is broadcast-led and the market is in its
very infancy,’ says Mark Wood, head of sponsorship at BSkyB. ‘When Sky
takes on a sport we bring much more to it than any other broadcaster. We
give the sport more analysis, more flexibility and more coverage than
However, there is growing cross-party concern in Parliament about
Murdoch’s burgeoning sports empire. The 1990 Broadcasting Act is under
review. The ‘listed’ events, which cannot be shown on pay-per-view
channels currently include the Olympic Games, Test cricket in England,
Wimbledon Finals Weekend, the Grand National, the Derby, the English and
Scottish FA Cup Finals and the FIFA World Cup Finals.
Recent amendments to the Broadcasting Bill now seek to extend this
protection to prohibit further major sports events being bought up by
subscription channels such as Sky Sports. These amendments are due to be
discussed by the Lords in a committee of the whole House this week.
Significantly, Murdoch’s bid for European coverage of the Olympic Games
in 2004 and 2008 has failed. Despite being offered dollars 2 billion,
the International Olympic Committee has plumped for the European
Broadcasting Union’s bid of dollars 1.2 billion.
In terms of total growth, the overall market for broadcast sponsorship
has increased by 20 per cent a year, according to David Prosser, head of
sponsorship at Carlton UK. ‘ITV takes 50 per cent of the market and we
expect sport to help grow that.’
The only brake on growth for the market as a whole is likely to be a
shortage of truly top class events. Both golf and athletics have been
accused of organising events which seem to have little competitive
meaning and therefore little impact with the public.
‘The number of top sports events available to sponsors is coming down,’
says Jim O’Toole, director of Scope: Sponsorship. ‘Most of the big deals
have been done and are tied up for a few years. The big properties are
just not there anymore. If a client came to me and said they wanted to
spend pounds 2 million, it would be difficult to find them a suitable
event.’ O’Toole also claims that sponsorship agencies missed the
sporting gravy train in the early 1990s, losing out to media buyers.
However, Teresa Cash, director at Michael Humphreys and Partners,
believes sponsorship companies are more sophisticated than their media
rivals. ‘People are taking on sponsorship, because they don’t want mass
coverage or broad brush approach. As sponsorship consultants we
understand that,’ she says.
Cash agrees that the top end of the market is tightening and that growth
is going to be slow. She also believes the massive amounts that have
been spent on blue chip events have had an effect on less popular
sports. ‘Lower down the scale it is getting tougher. There is a constant
striving to create new things and invent new events, because these
sports need the money,’ says Cash. ‘Sport is crowding its own market.’
There are some successes in the sports little league. Basketball, which
has claimed breakthroughs in popularity before, says that it is now a
well-supported indoor sport. Attendance has been as high as 12,500 at
the Nynex Stadium in Manchester and the 13 teams feature regularly on
Sky Sports. The league and the programme are both backed by Budweiser -
the TV deal is thought to be worth a six-figure sum.
But it isn’t just cost that dampens the appeal of television in terms of
sponsorship, but also targeting. Carlsberg, a former sponsor of Channel
4’s Italian football coverage, pulled out of the deal two years ago.
‘Football Italia was a valuable thing to do, but our strategy behind
Carlsberg Export changed and we decided not to renew our contract,’
explains John Slade, marketing controller of Carlsberg.
The company has no current plans for TV deals but will continue its link
with football through Euro 96, where Carlsberg is the official beer, and
through its Pub Cup competition (see panel).
Media sponsorship is expected to grow substantially by the year 2000
with the rise of advertising-funded programmes and the backing of
business and community slots. Sports’ share of this market is likely to
depend on the success of BSkyB and other commercial channels in securing
enough products to offer.
Case Study: Rank Xerox commits itself to the environment
Rank Xerox, one of the global sponsors of the Atlanta Olympics later
this year, has recently announced its support for environmental charity
Centre for Environmentally Responsible Tourism (CERT). The reason for
this departure from its more usual sport commitments is a desire for the
company to underline its ‘green’ credentials.
Until recently the manufacture of photocopiers created recycling
problems. This was particularly the case with the central copying
cylinder. Such difficulties have now apparently been overcome and to
emphasise Xerox’s concern with the environment it has donated around
pounds 10,000 to CERT which is run by Will Travers, whose father Bill
Travers was made famous by the 1960s wildlife film Born Free. The
charity was set up to make tour operators aware of the damage done to
the environment by holiday making and encourage a more caring approach.
CERT particularly targets holiday firms with ties to areas which have
delicate eco-systems - on which unlimited numbers of tourists could have
a catastrophic effect, especially areas of Africa and South America.
Xerox’s involvement with Travers helped with the production of campaign
material and the search for other sponsors.
‘What Xerox has done is talk to a number of tour operators about the
scheme and put money into the project,’ says Jim O’Toole, director at
‘The company made a corporate citizen decision to be involved in the
environment,’ he added.
Rank Xerox also continues its links with sport. Recently it has given
pounds 5,000 to young triple jumper Tosi Fasinro to help in his bid for
a place in the British Olympic team.
‘Helping young athletes fits in with Xerox’s mission statement about
commitment, excellence, preparation and setting goals,’ says O’Toole.
Case study: Carlsberg scores well with pub football
Carlsberg is pretty big in football. Not only will it be backing Euro 96
this summer in addition to its Total Football package, and sponsoring
Liverpool FC to the tune of pounds 1.5 million but it is also starting
to run a pub football competition.
The Carlsberg Pub Cup focuses on men who like to sweat off the effects
of a Saturday night with a Sunday morning football game. A Cup
competition run by Carlsberg and fully endorsed by the Football
Association, gives them the chance to play the Pub Cup final at Wembley
Stadium. The deal is thought to be worth well into six figures.
The 400 or so competing teams have played local knock-out games
organised in conjunction with the FA’s County Associations and then
moved on to regional finals - the semi-finals will be played at
Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium in April.
An incentive for making it through to the regional finals is that teams
can call on the coaching skills of Mark Lawrenson, a member of Liverpool
League champion of the 1980s.
‘The Carlsberg Pub Cup allows us to put something back into the game and
involves us in football at international, Premiership and amateur
levels,’ says John Slade, marketing controller of Carlsberg.
The Pub Cup is part of Carlsberg’s marketing strategy to back events,
rather than to just be associated with the broadcaster or programme
‘Carlsberg is putting money into the events themselves. We are not
looking actively over the next six months to sponsor any broadcast, but
obviously we do know the strengths and weakness of TV,’ says Slade.
The Pub Cup final will be played at Wembley on 12 May and will proceed
to the semi-professional FA Vase Final, which is also sponsored by
Plans are also afoot to expand the competition into Scotland and Wales,
while on the continent Denmark already has its own version of the Cup
and Spain and Italy may also follow suit.
Community: Corporate bodies reveal caring faces
According to Mintel, the total spend on sponsorship for 1994 in the UK
amounted to pounds 415 million. Broken down into percentages, sport
received 64 per cent, broadcast 17 per cent, arts 12 per cent and
community ventures 6 per cent. Unfortunately an exact figure for
charities isn’t available, but it can be assumed that charities take
their share from the figures for sport, the arts and the community.
There is no doubt that charities have become more professional in their
approach to fund raising in the past few years and have increased
support from the corporate sector. However, some companies see
charitable giving as a means of creating a role for the company in the
One such company is the TSB, which uses its backing of athletics in the
UK as an umbrella to ensure the bank’s involvement not just with senior
athletes, but right down to the school level. As well as sponsoring
athletics with a pounds 10 million deal over five years the bank also
gives pounds 500,000 to education and pounds 350,000 to general
sponsorships in the local community.
‘One end is involved in the senior side of the sport and at the other we
support fun runs and school activities,’ says Richard Ellis, head of
The TSB Foundations give one per cent of pre-tax profits to local
charities and good causes. As part of its educational commitment, the
bank’s school liaison officers help senior pupils with CVs, presentation
and interview skills and money management.
‘The TSB sees its athletics connection as a platform for a dialogue
with young people. Senior athletes give us street cred when we’re
working at a local level,’ says Ellis.
Branch managers are given a local budget for involvement in their
communities. One TSB bank donated a trophy to the Kelso Flower Show
while others have backed local rugby teams or carnivals.
‘The intention of this is to show that we at the TSB are good corporate
citizens,’ says Ellis.
Another company seeking this title is the power company the National
Grid. It gives pounds 150,000 to what it calls ‘groundwork initiatives
to support the environment’ and a further pounds 150,000 to the wildlife
charity the Royal Society for Nature Conservation, whose president is
‘The National Grid has considerable amounts of land around its sub-
stations for which it is responsible. With the RSNC we look after the
habitat and wildlife,’ says Jim Leach, group executive publicity at the
National Grid. One charity which has a heavy link with sport is St John
Ambulance. In October it started its second ‘Breath of Life’ campaign,
which teaches life-saving skills to the public. For the project it
secured a sizeable piece of industrial conglomerate Hanson’s annual
pounds 1.5 million charitable donation.
‘Although much of Hanson’s donations are aimed at young people who are
our future, the Breath of Life campaign supported our desires for a
better life as well as a better future,’ says Aviva Gershuny-Roth, head
of industrial public relations at Hanson.