23 Apr 2012
James Monteith is a director of sponsorship research and evaluation consultancy BMI Sport Info.
We’ve all heard the adage that controversy sells. Over the past couple of months, one could scarcely open a newspaper, listen to the radio on your way into work or turn on the TV news in the evening, without being constantly reminded that cricket in South Africa is in a shambles!
Fortunately the results on the pitch certainly tell a different story and long may that continue, as ultimately this is the yardstick that fans use to determine the health of a sport. We as South Africans are passionate about our sport which in turn makes us passionate supporters, and it’s for this reason that so many brands associate themselves with sport in the country.
Recently, a number of media reports have suggested that that the reason behind Cricket SA failing to secure title sponsorships for some of its properties has been all the negative publicity that the sport has been receiving. This is probably quite accurate, but one area where the media seem to have totally overstated the crisis is with respect to the impact on fans and consumers of the sport.
Sponsors and other interested parties recently engaged BMI to conduct a top-line survey as part of our on-going field research, to ascertain the extent to which consumers are impacted by the current administrative challenges the sport is facing. Most importantly we wanted to test to what extent consumers are even aware the media hype, and does it impact negatively on the sponsors of the sport? While the research was specific to cricket this time around, it certainly helps create a basis to gauge the potential risks for other codes and their sponsors as well.
Only 10% stated that these issues make them definitely feel negative towards the sponsors of the sport. In contrast 55% do not at all feel any such negativity, while a middle group of 35% feels somewhat negative.
Interesting is that the definite negativity was higher amongst females at 13% versus 7% for males.
While there are of course clear lessons to be learnt on corporate governance for all of our sports administrators, perhaps the most important lesson here is to not lose sight of what really matters. What is important for the game, the athletes and especially to the true supporters? What do the passionate fans care about? Performance on the field! Also, while the negativity towards sponsors may seem small, it is certainly big enough to be of some concern and sports codes should take heed of that.
The federations and sponsors who get this right will be the ultimate winners at the end of play.