As social distancing guidelines ease, many sports fans have focused their attention on professional sport, like the return of the AFL this past week. But for the average Australian, their focus is on something else: the return of community sport.
The reality of the situation is that local sports clubs were in danger of closing, even before Covid-19 swept across the globe. The past decade has seen the closing of grassroots clubs like the Canberra City Bowling Club, the RSL Club in Coonamble, and the Dookie Cricket Club.
The biggest contributor to closings is a loss in revenue, according to Patrick Walker, CEO of the Australian Sports Foundation. Of the clubs, he says that “they’re facing no membership revenues at the moment and the traditional sources of funding for community clubs are pretty much disappearing.”
These traditional sources of funding come in the form of sponsors. But despite the lack of funding, global spending on sports sponsorships by advertisers is predicted to total $48.4 billion this year, up five per cent, according to a new report from marketing intelligence firm WARC. Such growth would be the strongest rise in a decade.
The funding exists, but clubs across the nation are going out of business because they can’t attract the attention of sponsors. It makes sense once you consider what securing a deal is like.
Sponsorship is a laborious and often outdated process that leaks money out of both clubs and sponsors – it involves prospecting, phone calls, one-on-one meetings, negotiation – and if the deal doesn’t close, weeks of effort go to waste.
Sponsorship tech startups like SportsCube are aiming to be the digital solution for this, where rights holders can simply list, sell and manage their assets, while sponsors can prospect, customise and purchase.
By streamlining the sponsorship process for both parties, SportsCube saves the valuable time and money that would usually be put into initial prospecting, negotiation and sponsorship management activities.
“The feedback we’ve got from corporate users is the desperate need to help reduce the hours spent doing market research and scoping out opportunities that make sense for their brand,” says CEO and co-founder of SportsCube, Jackson Dickfos.
“On the rights holder side, clubs are most excited by the ability to track their inventory of assets and sponsorship opportunities, and to have a profile acting as a digital proposal that never goes out of date.”
SportsCube’s solution is simple: a two-sided digital marketplace where sponsors can browse through a selection of clubs – like Airbnb, but tailored for sponsorship with features like an in-app messaging service lets rights holders and brands negotiate contracts in real-time.
“Negotiating and tailoring sponsorship offers is one of the most time-consuming and resource heavy activities for sporting organisations and sponsors,” Dickfos says. “SportsCube’s messaging software enables sponsorship teams to collaborate and customise sponsorship proposals in real time and on one channel. This can potentially save weeks of emails, calls, and several meetings.”
Innovation opportunities such as this are going to be really beneficial to the sporting industry at this time after seeing a detrimental effect since the pandemic started earlier this year.
Sports clubs have seen numerous additional costs in the battle to mitigate the risk of a sponsor exit. They have had to nominate and hire Covid Safety Coordinators and develop “sponsorship servicing strategies” just to name a few.
In a Guardian article, Patrick Walker commented: “We want to build a case to raise funds and inject funds into community sport because without those clubs, social cohesion, inclusion, physical and mental health will decline, a major issue for Australia.”
Grassroots clubs around the nation need assistance, and they need it fast.
SportsCube’s free platform launched earlier this week and has enormous potential for clubs and sponsors alike.
“We are trying to help everyone we can,” Dickfos says. “Our focus for the next 6 months is to get these sporting organisations back on their feet. If you need help finding new sponsors, or if you are a sponsor looking for new opportunities now is the time to get in touch!”
According to Dickfos, the future of club sponsorship looks organised, automated and a lot less time-consuming. Sponsorship software is not a new concept, but it is recently being more refined and sought after from markets such as community sport.
“We see SportsCube replacing many traditional sponsorship processes as well as being an additional service to which many stakeholders of the sporting ecosystem will be able to benefit from.”