Money makes the world go round, right?
Even more so when it comes to sport. It’s big business all over the world. Why do you think some tournaments are given arbitrary names? The – insert car manufacturer name – in association with the – insert reputable banking or sportswear brand – whatever Cup or Trophy or Series.
While the sportsmen and women on the field will tell you that they play for the badge on the front and not the name on their backs the suits will tell you that it’s all about results. No, not those on the field, they don’t matter as much, I’m talking about quarterly results.
It was summed up best by the Liverpool trio of former players John Barnes, Phil Thompson and current CEO Ian Ayre when they were in the country for the Discovery Vitality Summit a little over a week ago.
Their discussion revolved around creating opportunities to generate income off the field with regards to branding and while winning the league no doubt adds to the cause, it’s not the be all and end all.
Instead it is about doing well enough that you can still entice enough loyal supporters to pass through the gates, buy an extra couple of items at the stadium and then still be prepared to part with a chunk of change to buy next season’s new jersey after their club switches apparel sponsors.
Take a look at how sport has evolved. The price of television rights has grown exponentially over the years – case in point being the multi-billion dollar broadcasting agreement that the NBA has signed.
The cost of signing new players has skyrocketed – to an almost ridiculous level – and it’s getting to a stage when it’s just too much. I use the £49-million, it’s a telephone number when converting to Rands, that Manchester City have paid for Raheem Sterling as an example. Not bad for a 21-year-old.
Look at how sports are trying to break into new markets. The NFL has already ventured into the United Kingdom, the NBA with their recent sojourn to Johannesburg for their first game in Africa and of course look at how well certain Premier League clubs are received during their pre-season tours to the Far East.
It’s all about the brand.
Look at the Dolphins and their relaunch in the last few days. They’ve lost the friendly dolphin in their logo and instead the Durban cricket franchise has opted for a more streamlined, Americanised, look.
Then there are sports who have not yet had the savvy to capitalise. Look at how many of the Cinderella sports in South Africa survive on handouts.
But it’s a vicious circle for them though because you need television coverage to encourage sponsors but because there’s no TV airtime you can’t sell yourself to sponsors.
After all, in the high-stakes world of sport it’s all about the money.