Shared value from responsible funding

1st September 2015




Magali Tézenas du Montcel

Déléguée Générale de SPORSORA




Sport funding is irrevocably turning more and more to the private sector in order to finance events, facilities and sport in general. Here at SPORSORA, an association of stakeholders in the sport economy, we have some ideas on the subject of sustainable funding for sport (or funding sustainable sport, because they are closely linked). This matter is being discussed in colleges and working committees by our members, whether they are advertisers, partners, rights holders, the media, agencies or other groups.

Keys to a sporting partnership which is responsible and therefore sustainable

Most private sport sponsors and partners are already committed to a responsible scheme. At SPORSORA we have written and shared a Charter for Sustainable Sport Partnerships, the proof of a healthy, responsible relationship between advertisers and rights holders in sport.

The Charter consists of ten points and we have picked out four which have a direct link with the idea of responsible funding.

  • Long-term investing: it is to the advantage of everyone, private partners and the whole sports movement, to be committed to a long-term relationship; this is one of the keys to success in visibility and brand preference, and also gives the economic model of the rights holder more security.
  • Promoting the social values of sport at sporting events and at the start of partnerships: funding sport can be a way of encouraging social cohesion and personal development, supporting ethical values, preventing and combating all forms of violence, developing projects to do with respect, the sporting mentality and solidarity, and promoting volunteering.
  • For the partners, funding sport in a responsible way is also about making sport and sporting events accessible to all: making facilities accessible, promoting sport for all, developing schemes to help persons with a disability, promoting gender equality, organising activities to promote social mixing, and giving people on the margins of society access to sport.
  • Funding sport also means developing the link between health and sport: the impact of physical activity and sport on public health and the need to promote this to at-risk groups are well established. At the start of their association, partners could make the theme of physical activity and sport as a means to good health and well-being a key point in their message, or make their partnership conditional on combating doping, or raise awareness of the importance of health and safety for everyone.

The involvement of partners in sport governance

If private partners are expected to take a responsible attitude to sport and sport funding, the reverse is also true: the sports movement must show itself to be above reproach in order to attract and keep financial partners. Partner brands need to get a good return from their investment in sport. Linking a brand with an event, an athlete, a team or facilities is an extremely effective marketing strategy. When there is (serious) misconduct, however, the consequences for the brand can be considerable. An increasing number of partners therefore wish to be involved in governing the sport so as to assist the sporting bodies in maintaining excellence, in everybody’s interest. A new model could emerge, striking a fine balance between involving private funders and avoiding undue interference, but to the advantage of the integrity and morality of sport. This is one of the key elements in responsible funding and it represents a minor revolution for sports authorities: a sharing of expertise which would not be concerned with financial considerations at first, but which would improve credibility and thus indirectly sport revenues.

Sport, part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and legacy

Sport has a universal dimension and appeals to all sorts of target groups, which should make it a major element in CSR policies. Getting the best out of investment by brands in sport, in terms of efficacy and cost, provides some response to certain important issues facing companies today, above and beyond marketing and communications. Sport needs to seize this opportunity by presenting itself as a resource tool in CSR strategies. The rights holders need to be in a position to offer their partners and funders activations which can be claimed in a CSR audit.

An example of this would be the “Supporters of employment” operation which won the SPORSORA “Coup de Coeur” trophy in 2015. In the context of the social element of the partnership between the FDJ and professional football, a national platform of professional football encouraging employment entitled “Supporters of employment” was set up by the clubs, the UCPF, the LPF and the FDJ, with the support of Pôle Emploi (national employment agency) and Adie (association for the right to the economic initiative).

In addition to this, the organisers of major sporting events can no longer make savings on the legacy plan. The post-event legacy for the people, the regions and the businesses involved is now an integral part of responsible funding. It makes it possible to enhance indicators of return on investment on tangible and also immaterial bases. Responsible funding of an event means being able to set up Fan zones, to bring together the whole of a region so the event is shared by the maximum number of people, to ensure that moments of emotion and pleasure are shared not just by the people in the stadium or watching on television, which is more and more often pay-to-view. Responsible partnerships can lead to an increase in happiness and emotion, abstract values which it is hard to value.

Funding sport in a responsible way encourages innovation in the partner companies

Sport is a hive of innovation. For example, sporting performance can be improved by ever lighter, faster, better connected equipment, and so can the experience of the fans, supporters and those taking part. Funding sport in a responsible way means putting research and development teams at the disposal of cyclists, yachtsmen, racing drivers or racquet players, to develop new products which will be for the benefit of the sportsmen and women first, and later the general public.

The emergence of social media has made certain forms of physical activity and sport attractive to people who had previously not been interested or not had access. The success of games such as Foot5 or Basketball 3X3 and races such as the Color Run or Mud Day and the crowds at the Boost Battle Runs have brought new partners into sport: brands that would not have sponsored traditional sports. It is to be hoped that new and innovative formats and media will attract new investors.

Finally, it is good to see the emergence of new types of participative funding. Crowdfunding only arrived recently in French sport, but it has been going on for a long time elsewhere in Europe and in the United States. Athletes, clubs, and all sorts of sport project can now be funded by communities and sometimes also supported by partner businesses. This is a response to a desire to share experiences, a quest for meaning which can be shared thanks to new technologies. So today, or Fosburit are key actors in sport funding, both professional and amateur.

Another interesting example of responsible funding is the 2018 Ryder Cup in France. Licence holders contribute 3€ to funding the French dossier, shared funding which shows the level of support for the event among players. The legacy, in particular the programme for building 100 small golf structures, will be important for the sustainable development of this sport.

It is clear that the examples of funding for sustainable sport are many and varied. They reveal the dynamism of this sector and the will of rights holders and partners to work together for a common aim. There are a lot of paths still to be explored, so exciting times for sport are yet to come.



From Sport and Citizenship‘s journal, Sustainable financing of sport

Sport et citoyenneté