The sponsorship of individual athletes is one of the major channels of sports marketing available to sponsors and their brands. Sponsorship for an individual athlete provides definite benefits for both parties as well as obligations.
Both the sponsor and the athlete must be clear about what the benefits and contractual obligations for both parties are, as set out by contract agreement. The ability to get this clarified can be simplified or complicated when an athlete has an agent involved in the negotiations. Communication is the key requirement for both parties in a sponsorship agreement. Regardless of the participation of agents or not, the responsibility for proper adherence to any sponsorship agreement is the responsibility of only the sponsor and the athlete.
Athletes under a sports sponsorship are more likely to perform at their best level. This is due to the removal or lessening of financial pressure. Sponsorship helps athletes maintain performance ability through reassurance and gain confidence in their ability to perform. Especially if it comes later in an athlete’s career, the benefit is more important in the life and maintenance of athletic ability of an athlete. Once an athlete has had a reasonable amount of time under sponsorship the financial independence this can provide is important in motivating an athlete to continue conditioning in order to perform. It also is important in eliminating worry about loss of sponsorship from a financial and personal perspective.
Finding and Retaining Sponsorships
For athletes seeking sponsorship the fastest route is performance excellence. This allows the athlete more advantage in negotiations with sponsors. The ability of sponsors to assign key contact personnel allows an open relationship, within the bounds of the sponsorship agreement, that helps maintain a positive sponsor–athlete relationship for a longer period.
Agents do help some athletes considerably. Without them an issue of power versus dependency can develop. The result of this is the offer of smaller sponsorship packages and difficulty in reaching and maintaining the optimum relationship between the sponsor and athlete.
Athletes experienced with sponsorship state it is important for both parties in the sponsorship agreement to be proactive about communications. The athlete should not assume the sponsor is aware of all milestones met by the athlete. The sponsor should make sure the athlete is aware of changes in sponsorship goals the sponsor would like to discuss. Those sponsor–athlete relationships that can reach this level of cooperative participation become closer-tied, personally as well as contractually. This makes termination of contracts by either party less likely to occur.
Responsibilities and Concerns Inherent in Sponsorship Agreements
Here are some things that athletes and sponsors need to do in concert with each other in order for any sponsorship agreement to be mutually beneficial, allowing the relationship to continue longer.
• Athletes must constantly work remember the importance of their image.
• They must maintain a healthy way of life and at all times be professional.
• Athletes need to build good relationships with the media.
• Athletes should always treat sponsorship benefits as a bonus.
• Athletes can use agents to leverage for better sponsorship packages.
• Sponsors should avoid sponsoring any athlete too early in their career.
• Sponsors must communicate and update athletes on sponsorship goals.
• Sponsors should sponsor athletes of both sexes.