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Small business supporting local sports teams: Is it a do or don’t for your business?

Yolanda Redrup /

The sun is shining, the days are getting warmer and the summer sporting season is about to kick off, bringing with it a host of opportunities for small business.

Images of kids running around ovals in jerseys adorned with a local business’s logo is a common site in Australian communities, but opinions are divided on whether or not it’s an effective way to drive sales.

Council of Small Business of Australia executive director Peter Strong told SmartCompany lots of small businesses engage in this type of community involvement, often as a way to boost awareness of their brand.

“It’s very common, particularly in country areas and smaller local communities,” he says.

“I think it does help drive sales, but only if the sports clubs themselves support it. When you go to events where they hand out end of your trophies, the best clubs always mention the sponsors and that’s what has to happen.”

Strong says in his experiences most parents of the kids involved in the club like to acknowledge the sponsorship and support the business.

“That’s one of the nice things about this type of marketing; it’s grass-roots, kind of like social media before social media turned up,” he says.

“Just think about it, if you have 18 kids running around with your logo on their backs, that’s great exposure.”

Strong says many businesses also get involved in sponsoring adult sporting leagues.

“In the main it works, I rarely hear people talking in a negative way about this kind of promotion. The person who runs the business does feel good about themselves when they see the names on the kids, and many also support older people’s leagues,” he says.

“You get to attend these events and it’s very much a community thing.”

The most recent research conducted into this topic was done by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2002.

At the time, the ABS found Australian businesses donated $480 million a year to local sporting teams through sponsorship.

Businesses in the manufacturing industry were the biggest sponsors of sports and recreation activities donating $148 million.

In terms of overall donations to local communities, small business was found to have donated $251 million.

Anytime Fitness Australia master franchisor Justin McDonell told SmartCompany he encourages the franchisees to support their local sporting teams.

“It’s a way of embedding ourselves in the local community. It’s about getting our name out there and while we don’t do it to generate sales tomorrow, we might give away free trial passes, but it’s predominantly about community involvement.”

McDonell says the franchisees will go out and talk to the local community at the events.

“It takes a bit more effort, it’s easier to put an ad in a newspaper, but you get a better idea of what the community wants and it puts a personality to the business so the local owner becomes the face of the business rather than it seeming like a big corporate,” he says.

“It brings us closer to the community and we’ll also sometimes have a noticeboard up where we can promote community events. If we’re doing fete or something we might also have free blood pressure testing to promote health and wellness and encourage people to hopefully come to our clubs.”

The director of multimedia audio-visual company Samurai AV, Sam O’Reilly, told SmartCompany it sponsors the Victorian women’s roller derby league.

“We’ve been involved for three years, it’s a pretty fun and exciting sport which still seems new and up-and-coming even though it’s been around for 60 years,” he says.

“It’s good exposure for our business with something a bit more out there than your standard football game. We’ve enjoyed the experience, but we haven’t had any direct sales from it.”

O’Reilly says it’s been more about brand exposure.

“People really know the Samurai brand. We also do sponsor a lot of charity events and we do installations in schools… but the conferences are what’s come back with direct sales,” he says.

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