As we approach the end of the football and rugby seasons, it’s time for teams to make a final push for promotion, a frenzied rally against relegation or a rather aimless meander towards mid-table consolidation, a state known in punditry cicrles as being ‘there or thereabouts’.
We’re also taking stock of our involvement with three local sports teams; to be clear, ‘involvement’ in our case does not entail dashing on to the pitch with a bucket of cold water and a magic sponge or joining all the competitive dads and soccer moms in offering well-tempered instructions from the touchlines.
(Robyn has, however, been heard to admire the prowess of the odd prop forward as well as voice her enthusiasm for a well-rehearsed line out … or, as she calls it, ‘the jumpy, lifty bit’.)
As you probably know, this year, we dipped our toes for the first time into the heady world of sports sponsorship which, even at an amateur level, can still be a complicated process,
At Newark RUFC, we’re silver sponsors which entitles us to a lovely pitchside advertising board – where we line up alongside hoardings promoting local farmers, accountants and Stan the Chimney Sweep – as well as some equally lovely lunches and networking opportunities.
Our full-page advert in each matchday programme for home fixtures in the Midlands 2 East (North) division has also been much admired.
We are also sponsoring the shirts of two local junior football teams, AFC Chellaston Grasshoppers/Chellaston Hurricanes in Derby and West Bridgford Braves.
Why did we decide to take this route? We felt very strongly that we wanted to help local organisations that not only relied on the support of their local communities but which also had a strong social purpose, particularly where young people are concerned.
This year, the sponsorship arrangements have been fairly useful to us, too; our business profile has been raised by our involvement and we have agreed to carry on supporting all three teams for a further year.
If you’re an SME thinking of taking a similar route, here are a few dos and don’ts which we have learned that you might find useful.
Always remember that amateur clubs often have very few – if any – full-time staff to look after fundraising and sponsorship. While they may be grateful for your support, they might not have the capacity to schmooze you in the way you might expect. Manage your own expectations of what you want to achieve and don’t feel shy about suggesting your own plans of action.
Make sure you have a very clear understanding of the messages you want to get over via adverts, hoardings and team playing kit and adjust it according to the context.
Your logo is obviously a must but which contact details? Is it necessary to fill up space with irrelevant taglines – we saw a beauty the other day, a bus company that talked about their services running, and I quote, ‘seven day’s a week, Monday to Saturday’.
Obviously this is easy if your company name says what you do. Stan the Sweep has a huge advantage here but we had to amend our wording slightly.
By the way, keep your kit sponsorship pure and simple. These days, there’s hardly an inch of gear that’s not adorned by a plug for something. If you’re a plumber, restaurant or – indeed – a chimney sweep, it’s best not to go for a banner ad across the backside of the shorts. Sends out the wrong message.
Safeguarding is a very sensitive and serious issue if you’re dealing with children’s sports teams. Taking pictures of young players wearing shirts sporting your logo may sound like a great idea but you must check that the club has parental permissions in place. If you plan to put the images on your Facebook page, double-check that the club is OK with you doing so.
And avoid naming individual children in the team on your social media accounts.
Make sure that you follow the relevant team accounts on social media and individuals connected to the teams on LinkedIn and interact with them by liking or sharing posts.
Single contact point
Keep in contact with the team, ideally through a single point of contact who you can speak with regularly and who might be able to make profitable introductions at matches. In the absence of any systematic approach to communications on their part, you’ll get to hear about events they have coming up that might provide an opportunity to meet other businesses who are sponsors or to chat to parents and others involved with the club.
Sponsoring amateur teams is a different experience from other forms of advertising and promotion where the expected outcomes are more clear-cut. But we’ve enjoyed it this year; we feel it’s worthwhile for a local business like us to be putting something back and is in line with our values as a company.
It’s also given Robyn the chance to dress up her French bulldog, Hugo, in a mini-football strip. He was thrilled, as you can imagine. She’s still on antibiotics.