This summer promises more big sporting events backed by more sponsors
than ever. But some believe there is a danger of saturation with smaller
players unable to get a look in
While Gazza, Damon Hill, Mike Atherton and Sally Gunnell limber up for
what has been dubbed ‘the summer of sport’ the race for the best TV
slots and column inches is already well underway for UK sponsorship and
Wimbledon, the FA Cup Final, Rugby Super League, the Grand Prix, Atlanta
Olympics, the cricket season and European football championships Euro
’96 have provided a record-breaking number of sponsorship deals.
The latter alone has signed up a whopping 25 companies and 20 firms are
associated with the Atlanta Olympics.
The sheer numbers of sponsors involved in these events is, however,
causing concern among some in the PR industry. They warn of sponsorship
‘saturation’ whereby consumers are unable to recall one brand among
‘The market is completely saturated,’ says Chris Meredith, marketing and
events director at sports sponsorship and PR agency The First Artist
‘It stems from greed to have as many commercial parties as possible.
Events should have a maximum of four or five sponsors with exclusive
rights to the logo,’ advises Meredith.
John Collard, MD of sports PR company Collard & Company disagrees that
event managers have too many backers but admits that if you are not one
of the chosen sponsors things can be tough.
‘It is an issue to the extent which major sporting events dominate the
calendar, making it hard to get a look in,’ says Collard. Like others
responsible for big brands Collard & Co is now starting work on next
year’s sponsorships. The agency is hoping to get Olympic coverage for
its client Adidas with a series of programmes produced 18 months ago.
The series looks at between eight and ten Adidas branded Olympians and
their preparations for the big contest, like 400m sprinter Du’aine
But despite the long-term planning Collard insists ‘There is always room
for a spectacular story.’
Selling that story, however, promises to be twice as hard over the next
four months when journalists are inundated with releases and phone
calls. Predictions of how sports journalists will cover the next few
months’ conflicting sporting events are outlined in a report compiled by
Lynne Franks entitled: ‘The Summer of Sport’.
Its author, consultant Gaby Jesson collected 10,000 press cuttings on
past sporting events looking for clues to the coverage of this year’s
‘Most PR programmes have been put to bed,’ says Jesson but adds there is
always space for ‘last minute reactive opportunities,’
Some surprising results were revealed by the report. Sunday Telegraph
sports writer Paul Newman said the paper will only focus on the
Olympics, stating ‘People are talking about Euro ’96, but just because
it’s in England doesn’t make it that special.’
The Daily Express sports editor David Emery said it would be a ‘toss up’
between the Olympics and Euro ’96 while the Mail on Sunday and Evening
Standard features editors predicted that Wimbledon would spill over into
GQ staff writer Tom Barber promised coverage on Euro ’96 ‘because it’s
bloke-oriented and football’s fashionable right now’.
For this reason women’s magazines should not be overlooked in the
stampede for national newspaper coverage.
‘We may cover something on Wimbledon. It’s based over here and it’s a
bit sexy,’ said Company’s editorial assistant Vanessa Thompson.
TV is another mixed bag. The report found that news programmes are
generally reactive but GMTV and ITV intend to cover all events including
Ascot and polo. Good bets are discussion programmes and competition
offers for kids’ TV although slots are filling fast.
Sponsorship opportunities still exist on radio if you can find the right
one. Fifteen years ago only the BBC covered sport. Now, aside from its
38 local stations, five national stations and five networks there are
160-plus independent radio stations, many with dedicated sports
‘Competitions are generally the way in,’ says Peter Stevens from GLR’s
sports desk. ‘There are still three more programmes of regular football
season play-offs before Euro ’96. There is plenty of time.’
But Steve McKenlay, associate sports editor of the Sun which is planning
pull-outs on Euro ’96, warns PR agencies should listen to a few tips
before mailing the releases.
‘We get inundated with stuff, 90 per cent of which is hopeless,’ says
McKenlay. ‘The mistake they make is to do ring rounds and send everyone
a press release with a football player saying ‘Euro ’96 will be great’.
We know that. We want to be given something we couldn’t otherwise get,’
‘You have to give them something they are struggling to discover,’
The First Artist Corporation, which also manages players such as Chelsea
FC’s Ruud Gullit, is able to feed reporters the odd juicy story and so
build a give-and-take relationship.
But, says Meredith, this takes time. ‘Its about continual
familiarisation. Use all the angles you have. If the sport you are
promoting is a minority one like ice hockey find the journalist with a
specialist interest in American sports and talk to him about the game.
‘Know your market,’ advises Meredith. ‘So when you want a favour you
pull more weight than any other Tom, Dick or Harry.’