The race is on for sponsorship

Cameron Day’s letter (MW July 8) on Carlsberg’s switching support from football to the arts raises some interesting issues as to how companies should direct their sponsorship budget.

As he rightly says, any investment needs to be relevant and integrated within a broader programme, if it is to make the right connections with customers.

Sports with global appeal, such as motor racing, football and rugby, have become prohibitively expensive options for all but the largest corporates, and often fail to generate real return. For many companies looking for a cost-effective alternative, however, international sport continues to excite the public like no other activity. The trick is, therefore, to identify a sport that will help to raise awareness across a number of markets and whose participants can directly reflect its brand values.

This is why sailing is the fastest-growing area of international sports sponsorship. Kingfisher, for instance, continues to derive a tremendous return from its original £2m sponsorship of Ellen McArthur. Alex Thomson too, who holds the world speed sailing record, has a strong appeal for companies with an entrepreneurial spirit and whose brands challenge the status quo.

He is looking for a title sponsor for his entry in the Vendee Globe round the world solo yacht race in November – at £1.4m this represents a very different scale of financial commitment from the eight-figure sums demanded for name sponsorship of a leading Formula One racing team or the Premiership, for instance.

Personalities are of course key to this, but modern technology also allows huge numbers to follow international races on the internet, keeping the associated brands constantly in public view.

Proponents of other major sports can no doubt make strong claims for their chosen activity.  The bottom line in corporate sponsorship, as elsewhere in life, is as one door closes another opens – just make sure you know what you are looking for.

Keith Mills

Co-founder

AT Racing

Gosport, Hampshire

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