Running a high school athletics program isn’t cheap. Typical costs can range from a few thousand dollars for less popular programs up to the high five figures for more expensive sports such as football. At a powerhouse school, the cost can be significantly higher. Considering that most high schools offer multiple sports, the annual athletics budget can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Schools generally cover at least part of the athletics cost in their annual budget. When education budgets get cut, however, as they all too frequently do, administrators are faced with tough decisions about which school programs to fund and which to trim — and athletics often feel the bite. And even if the athletic budget remains intact, it may not be high enough to cover everything the athletic director and the sports’ coaches deem necessary. For these reasons and others, athletic directors often seek outside funding for their programs.
Outside funding can come from many sources, one of which is corporate sponsorship. In sponsorship programs, local or national businesses give money to your program in return for specified benefits. A good sponsorship agreement is a win-win for the athletics program and the sponsor alike, with both parties reaping solid benefits. Athletic programs often have dozens of sponsors, making this a valuable and often essential funding avenue.
Landing sponsors is often the responsibility of the athletic director or other sports administrators. The confidence and know-how to approach this task can be obtained through academic programs such as Ohio University’s master’s in athletic administration online. Featuring targeted instruction in sports administration, this program provides essential information that can prepare candidates for on-the-job success.
How to Find Sponsors
In a recent article, the website ThemeBoy suggests five avenues for athletic programs to find sponsors:
- Start with your team. Your athletes’ parents are a great place to start looking for funding. Remember, parents aren’t just parents ― they are also employees or owners of businesses that may be willing to sponsor your team. Better yet, they already care deeply about your team. They may be willing to go the extra mile to connect you with the right person in their business to discuss a sponsorship arrangement or, if they are the business owner, digging a little bit deeper into their pocket for a more substantial contribution.
- Approach your community. Your community is your next source of potential funding. Even if local businesses have no direct personal connection to your team, they still share and care about your community. They often serve the same people who are your team’s fans. They may even serve your athletes — by selling them sporting equipment, for instance, or by servicing their cars or cutting their hair. They probably already know about your team and may be willing to sponsor it, especially if the athletes themselves make a polite request.
- Go national. Small athletic programs and teams often believe they have nothing to offer national companies, but such is not necessarily the case. Large organizations that have local branches, such as car dealerships and banks, may be interested in establishing a local presence. And even organizations without local branches may have outreach programs that seek to give back to local communities, including sports teams. Don’t be afraid to reach out — you may score a big sponsorship that will make your team even more attractive to other businesses.
- Make it personal. There’s nothing wrong with having a standard sponsorship package. However, personalized packages show potential sponsors that they are more than just a dollar sign to you. Before you approach a business, think about the type of business it is and how it runs. Then consider what types of meaningful, helpful benefits you can offer the business in return for its sponsorship money. A personalized pitch shows the business that you’re willing to work out a deal where everyone gets something of value.
- Be creative. In most sponsorships, businesses pay cash in return for promotion. But the arrangement doesn’t have to work that way. Instead of cash, a sporting goods business could donate equipment or a restaurant could cater your next team event. A business could also provide goods to be used in a raffle, with the benefits going to your team. Basically, anything goes. Your job is to come up with ideas and then sell them to potential sponsors.
What Can You Offer?
In return for their sponsorship dollars, businesses generally expect something in return. This “something” varies from one agreement and program to another. According to one recent survey, however, the most common benefits break down this way:
- Stadium signage (81% of sponsors received this benefit)
- Game program recognition (66%)
- Recognition as game sponsor (64%)
- Advertising on promotional items (57%)
- Radio or webcast recognition (22%)
- Season tickets (21%)
- Website advertisement (10%)
- Facility naming rights (9%)
- Logos on uniforms (3%)
- Product sales opportunity at games (3%)
When pitching a sports sponsorship, consider whether any of these benefits might be appropriate for a potential sponsor. And remember, don’t be shy. You are not asking for a favor, you’re offering an opportunity. When a sponsorship is approached as an equal partnership, everyone wins.
About Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration Program
Ohio University’s Online MAA program is designed to teach professionals how to successfully approach sports administration jobs. The university launched the nation’s first academic program in sports administration in 1966 and continues to be a leader in sports business education.
Ohio University’s Online MAA program is housed within the university’s College of Business, underscoring its dedication to providing world-class sports business education.
The program works in collaboration with the National Intercollegiate Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) to prepare graduates for certification and is accredited by the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA). For more information, contact Ohio University’s MAA program representatives now.
Costs of high school athletics – Acalanes High School
Budget cuts to athletics – National Federation of State High School Associations
How to find sponsors – ThemeBoy
What can you offer? – ScholarWorks