At some point or another, I am sure we have all fallen into the trap of seeing our sponsors purely as a ready pot of money that we can tap into. But as discussed by Pedro Avery of Havas Sport, we are overlooking all the other benefits that corporate sponsors bring.
Having previously worked in sponsorship sales, I have seen so many opportunities missed just because we are chasing the companies that are ready to put some money on the table. We have missed the companies that offer valuable networks and have a wide, strong influence over specific markets. And lots of the time, the best partners aren't the ones who springs to mind first.
For example AFEX sponsoring Saracens - there may not be an immediately obvious link, but AFEX have identified their target demographic and it happens that they watch a lot of rugby! Therefore Saracens can tap into the thousands of individuals working in foreign exchange and be front of mind, probably being the positive thought during a mundane task!
So next time you go after a new sponsor, make sure you have looked at everything they bring to the table, not just their cash. And now is also a good time to re-engage with your current sponsors and see what influence they have that you didn't previously explore.
The game’s global governing body, World Rugby, is well aware of this and under CEO Brett Gosper, a former advertising agency man, has a plan which looks very promising, aimed at driving viewership and participation in countries outside rugby’s core markets, using Sevens as the Trojan horse. Yet there is one area that rugby, and many others sports, needs to change if it is to become more relevant to the next generation of sports fans and players. It relates to how they view the corporate sector. Rugby needs sponsors, but not just for the money.