Grassroots initiatives and participation in sport has grown hugely over the past two decades, yet the majority of marketers still see it as a naff “if we still have budget” thing. They think it lacks the sexiness or media value delivered by huge global events but a number of projects over the last few years have proved otherwise.
Take Barclays for instance, one of the biggest employers in the UK with over 1,600 branches in the UK. Back in 2004 they committed to investing £30million in a community initiative to create sustainable sports facilities across the UK – the single largest injection of cash into grassroots sport by a company in the UK.
Over the following decade Barclays invested many more millions in creating twenty-six flagship sites in partnership with professional football clubs alongside a number of local sites offering a range of sports including basketball, netball and tennis through to skateboard and BMX tracks. This generous investment has been a huge success and contributed to the health and well-being of individuals across all ages in the local areas where Barclays invested.
More interestingly though, is the abundance of positive press Barclays have received as they have become known over the years as the biggest corporate investor in grassroots sports. In terms of the Barclays brand and image, they are now seen as an ethical brand and part of the community in such a way that that is unachievable with regular sponsorship which is key to creating the pursued “trust and loyalty” of customers.
It may seem cynical, but this is a way to get to the hearts of people that common advertising and sponsorship does not allow so it is surprising to see the lack of brands involved in grassroots sponsorship. That said, it absolutely has to be conducted in the right manner and be a genuine investment in the community otherwise the many benefits of grassroots sponsorship risk being overlooked as an awkward branding exercise.