We have seen the evidence about the myriad of benefits of youth sport including physical fitness, self-esteem, socialization, life skills and friendships. Subsequently, action is being taken to make sport more accessible for all children. There are grant programs and non-profit organizations designed specifically to remove barriers and encourage youth sport engagement, from providing financial assistance to building and improving infrastructure. The Government of Canada has even created the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit to promote youth sport. Yet there continues to be financial challenges to youth sport engagement and particularly for sport events and tournaments.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a concept that has been around for a long time and most major corporations have engaged in. A key construct of CSR is the triple bottom line of economic, environmental and social measures. The social measure not only focuses on how they operate internally, but what they do for the community. This is where the opportunity to partner with sport organizations and events lies. Another aspect of CSR is brand differentiation, showing commitment to community endeavours helps to build relations with stakeholders and demonstrate what the organization values beyond its primary operation.
The beneficiaries of sponsorship are not only the sport organizations and participants. While companies can offer significant resources that have a real and measureable impact on people’s well being, there is value in this investment for them as well. These sponsors build relationships at the family level, by supporting a team or tournament, an immediate relationship is established with the families, and thus being top of mind. Beyond the obvious marketing benefits of sponsorship, it is also linked to competitiveness in the market and other investors and clients like to be aligned with companies that have a positive brand association. That value is there for big corporations as well as local businesses.
The success of corporate programs such as JumpStart by Canadian Tire and Scotiabank’s various hockey programs highlight the importance and value of sponsoring grass-roots sport. However, there is plenty of opportunity to support grass-roots sport on a smaller scale and create partnerships that are mutually beneficial. Your organization may able to sponsor a local team, or an event that comes to your community, or at the very least provide an in-kind sponsorship.
While there are many worthy causes to champion, organizations can identify a few areas to focus on and that they want to partner with, and grass-roots sport is certainly a great investment. It is truly a direct investment in the future, by providing opportunities for children to develop skills and enhance their potential. Companies that promote and invest in local development can expect a consequential return on investment.