Don't bet every dollar on sport sponsorship

18 Aug 2010
Sponsors are no longer just supporting sporting teams likely to win a premiership, an award-winning researcher from The University of Queensland has found. While sport has traditionally been a magnet for sponsors, this is slowly changing, UQ Business School postdoctoral research fellow Dr Margaret Johnston says. Dr Johnston's thesis, entitled What Sponsors Really Want, says sponsors are turning towards more "socially-acceptable" causes such as charity events. Her research won the Dean's Award for Outstanding Research Higher Degree Theses, which recognises outstanding quality and exceptional innovation. Dr Johnston credited the enthusiasm of sponsorship managers involved in her research and the Business School's resources with helping win the award. "Feedback from people in the sponsorship industry has been very positive, and that's really rewarding," she said. "I found sport attracted the bulk sponsorship investment, but there was a turn towards something more socially-acceptable, such as medical research. "Managers appear to want to diversify their sponsorship portfolios, which is great news for charities and not-for-profit organisations." Charitable causes could still have an element of sport that sponsors appreciated, such as a breast cancer awareness and fundraising day at the cricket, she said. Managers also preferred short sponsorship periods to give the partners "wiggle room" to see if they worked well together. "Sometimes organisations find their sponsored property becomes highly toxic, such as the scandal surrounding Tiger Woods. "Or there is a poor fit with co-sponsors, such as a car maker with an alcohol sponsor, which may clash with safe driving messages. "And a sponsorship portfolio needs to include sporting teams, events and charity organisations which complement each other. The company they keep in sponsorship reflects on them as a business." Dr Johnston's research has been published in The Journal of Sponsorship and the Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics. She is continuing her research in the field, with a focus on sponsorship risk and risk mitigation strategies. Media: Cathy Stacey (3346 8068)