How Sponsorship Impacts Sport Participation in the UK 11th August, 2015

After the 2008 Beijing Games and the backdrop of London 2012 there was a dramatic policy change by the new Conservative government. The Department for Culture, Media & Sport changed their focus from sport as a social intervention to that of a performance and excellence goal. Entitled ‘Game Plan’, a strategy for delivering the governments sport and physical activity objectives saw a policy named ‘Playing to Win’ introduced. This created a new era in British sport and looked to redefine it. Instead of creating success through mass participation of sport in the country, ‘Playing to Win’ looked to increase participation through success for top level elite athletes. Funding was redirected from lower level and grassroots sport to fewer but higher level athletes. The next superstars of British sport. This decrease in funding saw the reduction of sports being available to the average child.

Sport in a young person’s life is vital, it can enable a healthy lifestyle and plays a vital role in gaining social skills. Sports that have had a funding cut need to find resources from elsewhere in order to continue providing opportunities for young people. Sponsorship is not only crucial, but innovatively at the forefront of enabling grassroots sport to be made possible.

The Laureus Project, a foundation that looks to use sport to engage youth is a great example. In some of central London’s most violent areas they run The Midnight Basketball League. Held from 10pm – 6am, the aim is to use sport to reduce social issues such as conflict and crime. In order for the program to continue, Laureus use large corporate sponsors to fund coaches, venue hire and equipment. Mercedes-Benz and IWC Schaffhausen are the global partners and have both provided funding in excess of €60 million since the foundation began.

Another example can be seen with Street League, a football program that uses sport to engage youth in education, training and work. Youths from 16 – 24 attend the program which requires each individual to complete two hours in the classroom and two hours on the football field. The program has several partners such as Barclays, Capital One and Hyundai, helping support the interaction with over 1,000 young people each year.

Corporate sponsorship is demonstrating the substantial value and potential to the economy this platform can deliver, over and above traditional motivational aims. Nowhere is this more prominent than with grassroots sport. Due to the government’s policy change and grassroots funding cut, sponsorship is displaying a stark example of how it is bridging the gap where the government has left. If sponsorship wasn’t providing these resources and subsequent opportunities, young people would not take part in sport.