Is sponsorship worth the cash?

Ten of the 11 sponsors of the Euro 96 football tournament wasted their money. An exclusive survey conducted by RSL Research Services shows that only one, the ubiquitous Coca-Cola, made enough of an impact to get into the UK top ten of broadcast and sports sponsorships.

Even then, it only squeezed in at number ten in the survey based on public awareness.

Other sponsors, each paying 3.5m, including McDonald’s, Canon, Snickers and Fujifilm do not even rate a mention among the 19,000 people polled. While the sponsorship may have generated some internal PR – and awareness is not the only criterion with which to measure a deal – nobody noticed their combined 35m investment in the largest sporting event in the UK for 30 years.

In the other big sporting event of 1996, the Olympic Games, it was again only Coca-Cola which registered in the consciousness of the UK public, and the RSL survey. Sponsors were so aggrieved they demanded more for their money from the International Olympic Committee.

At the same time, we are seeing the price of domestic sponsorship rocket. Scottish Courage is ending its ten-year relationship with rugby union. Its decision is not based on awareness levels. Ironically, it is because the game is becoming more high profile and Scottish Courage is being asked to pay for that raised profile.

It has recoiled from paying the 50 per cent price hike, to 7.5m, which has been demanded by the Rugby Football Union for the three-year deal. Especially in light of the fact that the extent of the sponsorship has contracted. Having sponsored both the league and cup for ten years, the brewer is feeling a little betrayed at the prospect of paying more money for less exposure.

In recent weeks, Scottish Courage has also ended a football sponsorship deal, again partly because a hike in price was not reflected in extra opportunities to exploit the sponsorship.

Scottish Courage is not alone in believing that sporting bodies and individual clubs could be overestimating their value in a world where television bidding rights are fuelling ever-bigger deals. “A lot of sports bodies are asking too much,” says one sports sponsorship expert. “Sky TV is putting a lot of money into sports, and the sports bodies in turn are turning to their sponsors and seeking price rises,” he adds.

Ultimately, the question has to be whether or not sponsors are getting value for money. Scottish Courage obviously believes the deal on the table for English rugby union is not. The sponsors of Euro 96 must surely agree.

News, page 7, page 9

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