Sport sponsorship in SVG – some home truths

Usain-Bolt-Puma-Pardaphash-95744St Vincent and the Grenadines is a country of just over 104,000 people.
While sport has been practised since the days of colonialism there is no culture of physical activity and sport.
Vincentians love sport but physical literacy, the foundation upon which a culture of physical activity and sport must be constructed is not yet in vogue in the nation’s lexicon.
Despite the global reality of physical activity and sport emerging as a major economic enterprise, the situation in St Vincent and the Grenadines has not changed much. This is particularly evident in the all-important area of sponsorship of sport, the focus of this week’s Column.
St Vincent and the Grenadines has a relatively small private sector. The Chamber of Commerce has not really been able, despite several changes in leadership, to establish itself as a cohesive agency working in the collective best interests of its membership. As a result, therefore, the Chamber has never forged a cohesive policy in respect of the place of sponsorship of sporting events in the overall strategic development of its members.
There has never been a forum that brought the Chamber of Commerce and national sporting organisations together to forge some strategy that is mutually beneficial.
Every enterprise literally does its own thing in respect of how it treats requests from sporting organisations for sponsorship.
There have been some very good sponsors in St Vincent and the Grenadines and it is to their credit that they have consistently aided the national sport development process. But often, these are the exception rather than the norm.
On the other hand, the SVGOC has attempted getting sporting organisations together to discuss the thorny issue of sport sponsorship in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The most recent initiative was when the SVGOC partnered with Commonwealth Games Canada (CGC) under the latter’s Sport Leaders Abroad Programme (SLAP) which saw Peter Metuzals, a sports marketing expert, spend 10 days in the country meeting with national sports associations on the subject.
The findings were precisely what the SVGOC had earlier articulated. The critical weaknesses were the absence of a culture of sport, the small size of the economy, the relatively large number of sporting organisations, the multiplicity of transient teams instead of sustainable clubs, the relatively small private sector and the lack of unity amongst sports associations.
Today, we can readily add the divisive nature of national politics.
What then is the Vincentian reality today in respect of sport sponsorship?
The National Lotteries Authority (NLA)
The National Lotteries Authority is the designated financial arm of the government regarding support for sport and culture.
Over the many years of its existence the NLA has never been required to make public its financial commitments to sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines. This therefore means that we are unable to attest to the organisation’s fulfilment of its designated mandate.
But there ought to be different aspects to the NLA’s mandate in respect of sport.
On the one hand the National Sports Council (NSC) is supposed to make recommendations on annual financial allocations to national sports associations following the latter’s submissions to the NSC. Where one would have thought that the NSC’s recommendations to the NLA would receive automatic approval, it is often the case that this does not happen.
In some cases the national sports association hears nothing after receipt of the NSC’s submission to the NLA. There is no explanation offered for the rejection of the NSC’s submission to either the NSC or the national association.
Whatever about the foregoing there is another side that is available to the NLA. The body has the authority to sponsor sporting events in much the same way that it often sponsors cultural events.
Evidence suggests that the NLA often agrees to sponsor sports events in St Vincent and the Grenadines. What remains unclear is the criteria used to determine which events it chooses to sponsor as opposed to those it rejects.
Is it that the NLA engages in discriminatory practices relative to sponsorship of sporting events based on politics? We would hope that this is never the case and that all applications for sponsorship are objectively evaluated before a decision is made.
The critical issue is really the lack of effective communication from the NLA in respect of sponsorship applications that do not find favour with the organisation. This leaves the requesting organisation none the wiser as to where the application fell short of the requirements of the NLA.
The private sector
The Vincentian private sector is inundated with requests for sponsorship of all sorts and from numerous organisations. The decline in the Vincentian economy since 2001 has rendered the situation much worse.
Teams, clubs, schools, churches and community organisations all submit requests to the private sector for sponsorship of their respective sporting activities. Decisions as to who gets what is a matter of several factors not all of which are made known to the applicants.
Partial sponsorship
Then there is the matter of the perception of sponsorship from the private sector.
It is often the case that enterprises that are approached for sponsorship do not engage in due diligence relative to the establishment of meaningful partnerships. Instead there appears to be an almost benevolent approach to addressing the requests.
In many cases it would be useful for the enterprise to inform the sport organisation that its request does not meet its own long, medium or short term objectives. This would allow the sport organisation to readily move on. Instead it is often the case that the sport organisation is given the impression that the proposal is being considered and several weeks, if not months later, the decision is conveyed as though it has just been made.
It is also the case that there are some enterprises where those responsible for marketing seek to befuddle those submitting sponsorship requests. They seek to get more out of what little they give than is acceptable.
It is difficult, for example, that an event costing $25,000 to host would get a ‘sponsorship’ valued at $3000 but where the enterprise insists on ‘title sponsorship’. Such a case at best should be relegated to partial sponsorship and most certainly does not merit title sponsorship. Unfortunately, in many cases, the sport organisation is so happy that it has in fact received support that it readily surrenders to the enterprise, accepting the licking of the spoon instead of insisting on the spoonful.
Who you know?
The experience of several Vincentian sporting organisations is that in today’s circumstance the old adage of ‘who you know and who knows you’ remain very relevant and applicable.
Well-placed personnel in business enterprises appear to be partial to addressing and supporting sponsorship requests from organisations led by people they know very well, with whom they socialise and also with those they shared schooling. Is it possible that the foregoing factors are given priority over the merit of the applications submitted?
Are there some applications for sponsorship that are outstanding but given the limited capacity of the private enterprises to sponsor events they choose to favour those led by people with whom they are more familiar?
One hand does not clap
There are those in the sponsorship and marketing business that adopt the principle of ‘one hand can’t clap’. This approach suggests that the enterprise approached for sponsorship recognises that it has certain needs which can be met by supporting the applicant. This then translates into a ‘what’s in it for me’ syndrome.
While sponsorship generally involves the requesting organisation approaching an organisation with which it perceives a fit between their respective mandates and strategic objectives, this is not always a shared perspective.
In some cases the one in possession of the financial resources seeks to achieve an imbalance in its own favour, usually at the expense of the agency requesting assistance.
It may also be important to ask whether social class plays a role in sponsorship in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
A number of questions emerge from this initial challenge.
Are there sponsors that are predisposed to steering clear of those sports practised here that are dominated by children of the lower class?
Are there some sports practised in St Vincent and the Grenadines that are more likely to receive financial sponsorship and even Value in Kind (VIK) support because of who leads and who plays the activity?
Are some sponsors prejudiced in their own perception of the class of the leaders and participants of certain sports practised in this country?
We do not like these questions but we must nonetheless confront them if we are to overcome the seeming disparity in sponsorship evident in St Vincent and the Grenadines today.
There are many that would suggest that this Column should not have been written for the very reason that we must be careful not to offend by addressing the truth.
Social class distinctions are very real despite the challenges they pose to the harmony of any given society.
We must face our shadows, remove our blinkers and determine what needs to be changed for the broader national benefit.
to has contributed significantly to part sponsorship of sport rather than full sponsorship being fully aware of the state of nature of the Vincentian economy.
The NOC has, since inception, been cognizant of the fact that the national economic pie is small and that it would be perceived as competing with its affiliates should it deploy a sponsorship strategy. This may well explain the absence of any strategy at all within the organisation.
The recent global economic crisis has cut into the Vincentian economy to such an extent that it is now extremely difficult to access support. This is not to say that the NOC has done enough to be able to approach the local community for support by way of a deliberate marketing strategy.
Our application for the SLAP Programme that focuses on Marketing and Sponsorship specific to the local economic scenario is because of our recognition that we are falling short as a national organisation engaged in sport development at the broadest possible level.
The SLAP is intended to facilitate a change in the way the NOC goes about Marketing.
1.An historical perspective on marketing within the NOC and the different affiliates.
The NOC has never really developed a marketing strategy since receiving IOC recognition in 1987.
In 1988, at the time of our first participation in the Olympic Games the government provided the NOC with a grant. The same occurred four years later in respect of attendance at the Barcelona Olympics.
In 1996, some effort was made to attract sponsors of the team to the Atlanta Olympics. Boatphone, a local company, provided some measure of support but minimally so. Cable and Wireless made a small contribution through a special edition of phone cards.
For the Sydney Olympics of 2000 Cable and Wireless provided the Vincentian team with telephones for use during the period of the Games.
Sponsorship and marketing are not specifically addressed in the Constitution of the NOC and this needs to be changed. Fundraising falls under the portfolio of the Treasurer but this falls well short of what is required.
There is urgent need for a Marketing Commission that speaks to but not exclusive: brand development; brand awareness; brand marketing; sponsorship.

  1. A list of what we consider our marketable assets
  • The NOC has a brand. Unfortunately it is not well developed and perhaps should be reviewed.
  • We have a Grassroots Talent Identification Programme (GTIP) that has extensive reach but which is now in need of revitalization
  • Sport for All and Physical Activity Programme – now really getting off the ground
  • Sport and the Environment Programme
  • Women and Sport Programme

Unfortunately we do not yet have a strong elite athlete core that would be an easy sell to the commercial sector.

  1. A list of companies, potential partners and key people in them who have an interest in associating their organisations with the NOC or its different affiliates
  • The National Lotteries Authority – has a mandate to support sport
  • Corea’s & Hazell’s Inc – the leading wholesale/Retail organization in the nation
  • The St Vincent Brewery
  • Commercial Banks
  • Mustique Company
  • Telecommunications Companies – LIME & DIGICEL
  • LOG Enterprises Limited
  • KFC
  • Media houses – Value In Kind (VIK)

Expected Outcomes

  1. A robust strategic plan in respect of marketing, sponsorship and fundraising
  2. A collective marketing, sponsorship and fundraising strategy given the limitations of our size and the impact of the global economic circumstance on our country.

We are focusing on Health and Wellness through Sport on the one hand and Elite sports on the other, for the next four years and therefore the approach has to take these into consideration.