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The challenge of attracting and retaining sponsorship in eventing

  • L Bowden (a1) and R Walsh (a1)

Abstract

Eventing is a very expensive sport to organise and run and relies heavily upon sponsorship funding to enable it to remain financially viable. This research is concerned with the challenges that events face in attracting and retaining sponsorship and what can be done to address these problems, resulting in a clearer understanding of what makes a successful sponsorship. Fourteen interviews were conducted with both event organisers and sponsoring companies, as well four people who are considered to be knowledgeable about sponsorship within the equine industry, to ensure that a balanced view of the issues was gained. The research found that the industry suffers from a culture of patronage with some companies sponsoring eventing for altruistic reasons. They see sponsorship as a way of raising public awareness and of building goodwill with their customers by being seen to put something back into a sport that their customers care about. Sponsors commented that sponsorship impresses people and gives them an idea about the values of the company and where it is positioned within the industry. They saw the sponsored event as an opportunity for them to entertain clients, customers, press and other business professionals, often in very beautiful surroundings. As eventing attracts more AB and C1 competitors and spectators than any other sport, it can offer sponsors an opportunity for highly targeted marketing to a sector of the population who are acknowledged to be difficult to reach via traditional advertising. Sponsors are interested in getting value for money from their sponsorship, and they expect to be dealt with in a professional manner. Event organisers need to demonstrate clearly how the sponsorship will benefit the company and ensure that they meet all of the sponsors’ business objectives. Sponsors expect to have name and brand awareness delivered to their target audience at the event, thus organisers must ensure that this happens by providing good branding opportunities. In order to gain the maximum benefit from the sponsorship, the sponsoring company needs to promote and publicise the sponsorship as much as possible by integrating it across their whole marketing strategy. This can be a great advantage to the event organiser as it raises the profile of the event. Events at the top end of the sport were found to have good sponsorship deals in place and the organisers said that they did not need sponsorship to make their events viable. However, the smaller events at grassroots level are only viable if sufficient sponsorship can be found. One interviewee suggested that these small events need to target smaller local companies who could benefit from raising their public profile in the local area. The event organisers interviewed feel undervalued by British Eventing, the sport’s governing body, and think that British Eventing could do more to support event organisers in attracting and retaining sponsorship. This is particularly crucial at grassroots level, because without sponsorship these events are not financially viable.

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References

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The challenge of attracting and retaining sponsorship in eventing

  • L Bowden (a1) and R Walsh (a1)

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