|“Where’s there’s muck there’s money?” - Pippa Collett|
The adage goes “Where there’s muck there’s money” but in sport the reverse also seems to hold true. How is it that, when every other significant election in the world is heavily contested, the premier world sport, football, bucks the trend and, in doing so, allows the incumbent to run unopposed for a fourth term?
Don’t get me wrong, I have no specific issue with Sepp Blatter, but I do wonder why there is no challenger, be they young and ambitious or an eminence grise, coming forward to challenge his supremacy. On the one hand it was uplifting to see the FIFA family rally round, on the other is was almost frightening to see how quickly they closed ranks against the threat of external scrutiny.
The problem is that FIFA is not alone. Of the three great global sports, football, Formula One and the Olympics, only the latter seems to be operating with any level of veracity, and that was only after their own denouement with Salt Lake City. Like FIFA, Formula One is still essentially a one man band. In spite of being over 80 years old, Bernie Ecclestone still has his hand firmly on the reins of the world’s premiere open wheel series.
I am sure that many would love to capture, bottle and market whatever Ecclestone and Blatter have that builds their respective sports commercially and feeds their individual power bases - there’s a fortune to be made. The issue is that sport is progressively seen as a business and, with that moniker, comes a truckload of responsibility that some sports are slow to embrace. The challenge is that other organisations, facing the ever-increasing scrutiny of stakeholders, will find it progressively hard to invest in these sports if they fail to adopt appropriately transparent policies and processes.
I’m not saying that the bottom will drop out of soccer’s sponsorship markets overnight but that increasingly awkward questions will be asked about corporate investments in these sports. All sports rights holders will have to present robust, objectives-based budget justifications or they will find themselves facing increasingly hostile attacks from stakeholders. Their inability to demonstrate the ethical integrity of these rights-holders will only increase stakeholder resistance towards leveraging these platforms.
It may not happen overnight – indeed, Blatter has four years to call FIFA to account – but it would be extremely short-sighted not to recognise and adapt to the prevailing corporate wind in terms of transparency and sustainability.
Pippa Collett: Since gaining and MBA from Cranfield, Pippa Collett has become a leading sponsorship practitioner with an extensive client-side career at Shell, American Express and Rank Organisation. Her global sponsorship experience covers the full spectrum from Ferrari in Formula One and the Olympics to cultural projects including The Olivier Awards and The Unilever Series. She joined Sponsorship Consulting in 2006 to work with blue-chip clients such as Siemens, Standard Chartered Bank and Cisco.
As Vice-Chair of The European Sponsorship Association, Pippa has led on key aspects of the developing sponsorship agenda including authorship of ESA’s Sponsorship Assessment & Evaluation Guidelines and introducing the concept of Continuing Professional Development.