Swimming – “Sponsorship”
Sponsorship is a particular form of patronage.
A patron gives financial or other material support with no expectation of any material return.
In contrast, a sponsor supplies financial or other material support to any activity which is not intrinsic to its commercial aims, but from which it reasonably expects to gain some financial benefits.
Both patrons and sponsors have been involved with swimming for a long time. Patronage has always been common. The activities of the country’s earliest swimming clubs were partly financed by Local Patrons.
In 1865, two of Bon-Accord’s patrons, John Farley Leith MP and Colonel Lumsden of Belhelvie, “contributed handsomely towards the club’s funds”.
The S.A.S.A. has also enjoyed the patronage of all kinds of people and organisations. The earliest were members of the Scottish aristocracy, who donated trophies for presentation at Championship Events. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Scottish Education Department (S.E.D.), the Scottish Sports Council (S.S.C.) and Regional and District Councils made important financial contributions to swimming. The Government, firstly through the S.E.D., then through the S.S.C. and now through sportscotland, Grant Aids the National Governing Bodies of sport “to stimulate, encourage and support” its efforts.
Over the years the conditions governing the Award and use of the Grant have been refined and helps to pay for administrative services, coaching, training and international competition. At local level the District Councils also operate Grant-Aid Schemes of one sort or another and most give money to clubs for equipment, coaching and the hire of facilities while some also give awards to gifted individuals for travel, equipment and coaching.
Sponsorship has been around for a long time too.
At first it was on a small scale but it has expanded quite dramatically since the 1960s. At the turn of the 20th century, The Boy’s Own Paper and Dundee Evening Telegraph offered the Association, Championship Trophies. These were the first modest attempts to exchange payment in kind for advertising and in more recent times the Association has received other kinds of sponsorship which have been used for a variety of purposes. Sponsorship has been given to the Association, or more recently, to individuals, for training purposes.
In 1964 Usher Vaux Breweries provided money for a four year Olympic training programme. Coca-Cola funded a similar training scheme leading up to the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and Esso provided sponsorship for the Scottish Youth Squad.
In 1976 the Sports Aid Foundation was established so that sponsors could contribute to a Fund from which individual athletes of British International Standard could draw money to meet the costs of legitimate out-of-pocket expenses for preparation and training. In 1980, the Scottish Sports Aid Foundation was launched with similar objectives and Scottish companies donated £70,000 during the initial launch. Fifteen swimmers, divers, etc., received awards in 1982 and in 1986 the number had doubled.
Some sponsors have donated their own products. Speedo (Europe), the swimwear manufacturer, provided the Scottish team with clothing for over 15 years and has saved the Association a considerable amount of money. Giving money for a particular event or competition is by far the most popular form of sponsorship. The B.B.C. was the first company to give the Association money for swimming events and during the fifties, the Corporation was supplying the Association with approximately a third of its annual income, in return for televising various Championship events. Over the years, a whole range of companies have donated money including: Sun Life Assurance, OCL, Lander Travel, Citrus, Berger Paints, The Royal Bank of Scotland and The Scottish Milk Marketing Board.
In the 1970s, the Association has generated approximately one fifth of its income from sponsorship and the money has helped to pay for a range of activities including Training Programmes, Award Schemes, Championship Events and International contests. However, it has not all been a success story.
Sponsorship is a rapidly changing and fluctuating business. On more than one occasion money has been withdrawn for one reason or another and continuity has been threatened because there were no successful takeovers. Yet despite these difficulties the Association has benefited considerably from being involved with sponsors. Sponsors have also benefited from the relationship.
Firstly, it has enabled them to increase their publicity. They want as many people as possible to know about their services or products.
Secondly, it has allowed some to reinforce their corporate images.
Swimming has qualities which some companies find particularly attractive. It helps them to create favourable impressions for their goods. Finally, it has provided some with a vehicle for the promotion of particular services and equipment such as swimwear, travel, etc. Unfortunately, the opportunities for more sponsorship in swimming appear to be rather limited.
The most heavily sponsored sports in Britain are motor racing, horse racing, tennis, show jumping, cricket and snooker, which all receive wide television coverage.
Swimming has never had the amount of coverage that these sports enjoy because it is thought to lack spectacle and excitement.
Water Polo and Diving lack neither, but there are also cultural forces at play, which encourage viewers to watch gymnastics and not diving and six-a-side football but not water polo.
As long as swimming, water polo, etc. are given little television time, the Association will continue to find it difficult, if not impossible, to attract the amounts of sponsorship that some other sports receive.