Path to Olympics needs disruptive sports sponsorship management


The men’s marathon final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

In the world of sports, the Olympic Games stands as the pinnacle of human athletic achievement, a celebration of unity, diversity, and excellence. However, the path to the Olympics is starting to show cracks.

It's time to re-evaluate the traditional ways of Olympic sponsorship management and embrace disruptive strategies to propel the games into a sustainable and prosperous future.

The Olympic movement needs a seismic shift in its approach to sponsorships to ensure not just survival but a thriving future.

The Olympic Games represents a rare opportunity for companies with recognised world-class brands to improve their reputation among consumers not only in the countries that host these events, but also in their home markets and globally.

These companies tend to allocate significant advertising, marketing, and corporate communications budgets for Olympic sponsorship, hoping to positively influence consumer opinions in a way that directly affects purchasing behaviour.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), Olympic Organising Committees (OCOGs), national Olympic Committees (NOCs), and in general the Olympic movement have become increasingly dependent upon the significant financial support provided by corporate sponsors.

The increased dependency of the Olympic Movement on corporate sponsorship is seen in the fact that 30 percent of the IOC's budget and 40 percent of the United States Olympic Committee's (USOC) funds are derived from sponsorship and licensing income.

However, we need to rethink the role of sponsorship in the Olympic ecosystem. Rather than viewing it solely as a revenue stream, we should harness sponsorship as a tool for social impact and community development.

Imagine sponsorship deals that prioritise sustainability, diversity, and grassroots participation, aligning with the values that underpin the Olympic movement.

By forging partnerships with purpose-driven brands and organisations, we can amplify the positive impact of the Games and inspire meaningful change beyond the arena.

The 2024 Paris Olympics serves as an opportunity to redefine this relationship, fostering a model where sponsorship complements rather than overshadows the essence of the games.

Effective management is key to achieving this. We must employ strategies that maximise the benefits of sponsorship while safeguarding the integrity of the Olympics. This entails transparent processes for selecting sponsors aligned with Paris Olympic values and initiatives to ensure that sponsorships contribute positively to the wider community.

The current model, with its focus on mega-corporations and static, logo-centric partnerships, is failing to resonate with a generation increasingly concerned with authenticity, social impact, and athlete empowerment. We need sponsorships that are dynamic, purpose-driven, and athlete-centric. This can be achieved through various initiatives such as;

Multi-stakeholder partnerships: Bringing together NGOs, athletes, and brands to tackle social issues relevant to the Games, like gender equality or climate change. Micro-sponsorships: Empowering local businesses and communities to contribute, fostering a sense of shared ownership and cultural exchange.

Picture a Kenyan coffee cooperative sponsoring their local athlete, showcasing their story to the world. Performance-based partnerships: Moving beyond static logos, sponsors could reward athletes for achieving specific goals, like breaking records or promoting sportsmanship. Imagine a tech company sponsoring an athlete for their innovative training methods.

Data-driven sponsorships: Leveraging athlete data and fan insights to create targeted, personalized experiences that resonate with viewers. Imagine sponsors offering exclusive content or training opportunities based on fan preferences.

By embracing disruptive sponsorship management, the path to the Olympics can become a journey of shared purpose, innovation, and athlete empowerment, ensuring the games remain a beacon of hope and inspiration for generations to come.

Eva Muraya is the Founder and CEO of BSD Group.

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