More than money talks in sports sponsorship

Simone Waugh

  • Managing Director, Publicis Queensland
Simone is a leader of brand growth across a breadth of industries including tourism, sport, health, education, road safety and food service and connecting systems, community and culture to lead change. Simone led the winning Brisbane 2032 Games Bid program of communications work with the Queensland Government and has created the Publicis2032 Hub, connected into the Publicis Olympic City Network including Paris2024 and LA2028. Publicis has recently launched the new Tourism and Events Queensland brand platform globally; created the Swimming Australia rebrand and positioning and marketing major events including Duel in the Pool and FINA World Short Course Melbourne December 2022; and is currently working with Paralympics Australia to create a brand roadmap towards 2032. Additionally Publicis has been working on creating cultural legacy in Queensland with the Queensland Music Trails upcoming launch and with First Nations People to create an Australian Landmark Our Story Place in Meenjin (Brisbane).

As a nation united by sport, brands are beginning to learn money alone won’t talk without aligned values and action. If recent events with major leagues and their players have shown us anything, it’s the next generation of athletes are standing by what they believe in – and they won’t let their values be superseded by money.

Misaligned values are what saw mining and agricultural company, Hancock Prospecting, walk away from Netball Australia. Even more recently, BHP has been forced to defend accusations of ‘sportswashing’, outlining its Indigenous player pathways, and more significantly it has suspended mining operations at key Indigenous heritage sites. Further afield, the world’s highest paid football player, Kylian Mbappe, refused to take part in any fast food or gambling marketing in the lead up to the Qatar World Cup.

It is clear sport sponsorship is at a crossroads, and the crashes are happening in full view.

Big brand sponsors are the lifeblood of sports in Australia. It represents an opportunity for brands to consider how they can partner and activate their sport sponsorships in line with their values. What is currently playing out in the sporting arena could prove to be a pivotal turning point for sports sponsorships, as they become more valuable than ever – providing brands with a platform to connect with a more socially and environmentally conscious generation.

According to an Australian culture tracking study, The Lexicons of Modern Australia by The Lab Research, there are two key themes emerging in our culture. The first is a growing connection with First Nations and Country. The second is an appreciation for the diversity of people and place we have here in Australia.

With sport so deeply ingrained in the cultural thread of our nation, it’s no surprise to see this reflected in our next generation of athletes, who are showing appreciation for what nature gives us – and will do anything to protect it. It is a generation now leading by listening, understanding, reconciling and creating inclusivity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Inclusivity will be key in helping to unlock our growth as a nation. Among the various languages and dialects of Australia’s First Nations people, there is no word for ‘disability’, because their cultures recognise everyone leaves a different mark on the world. If sport can be a galvanising force in driving inclusivity, then just maybe it can lead a change for our nation as we gear up for the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics.

In his keynote speech at the International Sport Summit held recently, Brisbane 2032 Organising Committee President, Andrew Liveris, talked about how we can make Australia the most inclusive nation in the world. He said the 2032 Games are setting out to inspire a new cultural standard of inclusion in society through the paradigm of sport.

Paralympics Australia CEO, Catherine Clarke, is preparing to launch the organising body’s strategic plan to address the ‘play gap’ for people with disability – with an audacious goal to double the number of Paralympians who represent Australia in 2032. While three in four Australians want to play sport, only one in four do, because they have limited access to facilities and programs. To close the gap, it is going to take a Paralympian mindset of grit and resilience to be more inclusive with facilities, coaching and pathways.

Swimming Australia CEO, Eugenie Buckley, recently took the plunge, creating a world-first at the ‘Duel in the Pool’, where Para + Able Bodied Athletes raced in the same relay. While the event went unsponsored, this key media moment was a prime opportunity for a brand to have para-sport be recognised, deservedly funded, and supported in the sports landscape.

Changing inclusivity in sport will inspire change in society as a whole and presents a huge opportunity for brands to sponsor and lead this change. While the reality is sport needs money to continue to grow facilities, the question turns to how sports leaders can reconcile values that their sport and athletes stand by.

Smart brands will take note of this change. If we can open the lines of communication to create smart, flexible sponsorship arrangements with sports and athletes – the return on brand equity will be there.

Sponsors actively supporting inclusivity of First Nations, women and people with disability in sport will tell the Australian public a lot about their brand. The time is now to make money really talk, with values at its core.

Tags: brand strategy, events marketing, diversity and inclusion, sponsors sponsorship

Show Comments

Latest Whitepapers

More whitepapers

Latest Videos

More Videos

More Brand Posts

Blog Posts

Marketing prowess versus the enigma of the metaverse

Flash back to the classic film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Television-obsessed Mike insists on becoming the first person to be ‘sent by Wonkavision’, dematerialising on one end, pixel by pixel, and materialising in another space. His cinematic dreams are realised thanks to rash decisions as he is shrunken down to fit the digital universe, followed by a trip to the taffy puller to return to normal size.

Liz Miller

VP, Constellation Research

Why Excellent Leadership Begins with Vertical Growth

Why is it there is no shortage of leadership development materials, yet outstanding leadership is so rare? Despite having access to so many leadership principles, tools, systems and processes, why is it so hard to develop and improve as a leader?

Michael Bunting

Author, leadership expert

More than money talks in sports sponsorship

As a nation united by sport, brands are beginning to learn money alone won’t talk without aligned values and action. If recent events with major leagues and their players have shown us anything, it’s the next generation of athletes are standing by what they believe in – and they won’t let their values be superseded by money.

Simone Waugh

Managing Director, Publicis Queensland

Sign in