Professional sailing and yacht racing has relied heavily on support from banks and financial institutions in recent times. It makes sense. If you have enough money to buy or finance a big boat, then the banks would love to have your business. Even if you don’t own a boat but would prefer to follow sailing than 2nd division football, then you are probably a bank’s target market.
So how do consumers feel about banks and other financial institutions sponsorship of sport, now that the money is coming from the taxpayers’ pockets? Do consumers understand the reasons behind sponsorship, or do they see it as a ‘hand out’?
While consumers generally appear to expect the same or higher level of corporate sponsorship from stable or profitable companies, a study by sports marketing research firm Performance Research of American consumers revealed that one-third (32%) reported they are paying “Less attention” to corporate sponsorships than they were a year ago. Moreover, the majority would like to see less spending on sports sponsorships for companies experiencing any difficulties (62%), and particularly by those accepting federal assistance (68%).
Consumers are recognizing that they need to live within their means – and they expect corporate America to do the same. This is not the time for stable companies to drop sponsorships, but to provide more value to consumers with their programs’
Not surprisingly, two-thirds (69%) reported that they have a “Lower approval” of American companies than they did one year ago. But would increasing or decreasing sponsorship spending change this opinion? Within the sports environment, just 13% reported that sponsorship of their favorite event should increase to raise their opinion of corporate America, while twice that (26%) reported it should decrease- with the remainder (61%) indicating it would make no difference.
The study shows that corporate humility and fiscal conservatism are clearly now appealing qualities; a majority of respondents agreed they are thinking more about wasteful corporate spending now than ever before (74%), that there should be restrictions on sponsorship spending for companies receiving federal assistance (69%), that it is more important than ever for companies to appear “Humble” (64%), and that they are impressed when hearing of a company cutting back on corporate hospitality (64%).
So where is the good news for corporate sponsorship? For corporations that are stable and profitable, over three fourths of consumers studied (77%) would like to see them spend the same or more on their favorite sports.
The hospitality figures could be alarming for sailing. Events like the iShares Cup and Cowes Week rely on corporate hospitality as one of their main selling points. Sailing needs to start selling some of it’s other strong points and make a case for sponsorship based on its positive return on investment.