“Women in sport” getting a raw deal from sponsors/media?

Updated: May 29, 2012

Do “Women in Sport” get a raw deal from Sponsors and /or from the Media?

As SportsNewsIreland readers will be aware, we have long campaigned for a better deal for Irish Sports Women, both in terms of mainstream media coverage and insofar as attracting significant sponsorship is concerned.

Good to see therefore that the ‘Sport for Business’ organisation thinks on the same lines.

The issue of a lack of commercial support for Women’s sport in Ireland will be discussed at a Sport for Business Round Table event in Dublin this Thursday, May 31st.

Representatives from sports governing bodies, existing partners of women’s sport, athletes and others will look at why only one per cent of commercial investment in sport goes towards games played by Women.

“We have just enjoyed another weekend of fabulous achievement by Irish women on the world’s sporting stages,” said Sport for Business CEO Rob Hartnett, “Aileen Morrison, Sycerika McMahon and Natalya Coyle have performed wonders yet still we find it difficult to raise funding from the business world for sports that are seen as minority.”

“There have been some advances in recent times with Katie Taylor leading the way, but we want to develop a growing awareness among business leaders that women’s sport can deliver great partnerships at a much lower cost than what are seen as the premium teams and events.”

“We want to use this potential golden era for women’s sport to place it on a more secure footing when it comes to attracting investment and delivering loyalty to brands and partners.”

Among those represented at the meeting will be top flight athletes, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the International Rugby Board, The Irish Hockey Association, The Irish Sports Council and Beaut.ie.

Sport for Business is a community of business and sporting leaders looking to build bridges between the two for the benefit of both.

The issue of lack of coverage in the media is of course a separate one from the sponsorship issue though both are closely linked ; given better media coverage, individual sports stars and their associations will inevitably benefit from more sponsorship. That can only best be achieved by organisations also being more media friendly and more proactive. Some already are including Badminton, Ladies Gaelic, Handball, Camogie, Hockey. Swimming, Athletics – sadly most are not.

Others alas are far from media friendly and have not yet come to terms with the important part that social media and sporting websites are playing in ensuring that sports fans not only in Ireland but worldwide receive immediate updates on not only soccer, rugby and GAA but also almost any sport in which an Irish sports star is taking part. The world of sport does not begin and end in the hospitality suites at Croke Park or the Aviva Stadium ! Never will this be more immediately evident than when up to 20,000 Irish want to know what is happening at home, whilst they attend Euro 2012 and later this Summer, the Olympics and Paralympics.

How many mainstream Irish sports reporters have actually seen Katie Taylor in action in action (outside of Ireland) even in nearby Europe let alone when she has won a World title in China,? I certainly did not see any either in Liverpool when she won her first European Union crown or in Rotterdam when she won her fifth in a row European title last October. How much would it have cost to send a reporter to either venue for example, for semi-finals and finals?

Generally speaking, in our experience, it is not the sports stars themselves who are to blame. We have always found that the overwhelming majority have been very helpful. Most of the effort needs to come from the sporting bodies and in some cases their P.R agencies themselves. In the economic situation that we face today, no media organisation can cover all sports, male or female, everywhere so it is absolutely essential that they be provided with more information especially at weekends . Some like Athletics Ireland, Tri Ireland, Badminton Ireland, Paralympics Ireland and Swim Ireland do provide such a service – very many others do not.

One of the most successful of all team sports in Ireland in International terms is Boxing. How many sponsorships deals do the Irish Amateur Boxing Associations have? Or any of the provincial councils?

Recently the UK boxing authorities signed a significant sponsorship deal with a leading firm of bookmakers. In my view the “sponsorship” issue goes much further than “women in sport” – Irish sporting associations need to market themselves much more professionally and compete against each other if need be. Never before has there been a better time for business organisations to come forward and sponsor Irish athletes like Taylor, Coyle, McMahon, Morrison, Grainne Murphy, Derval O’Rourke, Deirdre Ryan, Fionnuala Britton and many others.

True no one is saying that in these difficult days for the Irish economy it will be easy but there certainly is sponsorship out there, not just in Ireland but from corporate sponsors too, like Sky, like Ford, like Toyota , like Digicel , like Coca Cola, like Lucozade (albeit much to the disgust of Prof. Donal O’Shea !) The sponsors though will not all rush to the nearest sporting organisation to their home base. There will be more sponsorship, more media coverage of Women in Sport, when sporting organisations get more commercially “on the ball” and then and only then will media coverage also increase for the benefit of all but especially ‘Women in Sport’. Sports bodies also need to remember the ‘old idiom’ : “If Mohammed will not go to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed” – seek and ye shall find!

You can find out more about the ‘Sport in Business’ round table event on May 31st including venue and agenda from www.sportforbusiness.com

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