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What's behind the logos? Sponsorship's hidden agenda

To consider the reasons that lie behind the sponsorship of sporting events.

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the reasons that lie behind the sponsorship of sporting events.


  1. Last Sunday saw the first major football final of the current season, the Carling Cup final. (Give the result of the game, commenting as appropriate.) The winners are not only awarded a handsome trophy; they also qualify for next season’s UEFA Cup draw. They are the first British team guaranteed a place in Europe. Through the Carling Cup final.


    A sporting event sponsored by Carling.


    What does Carling produce? (Elicit the response from the students – beer.)

    In fact they’re not the only alcohol producers involved in sports sponsorship: we have the Guinness premiership and Heineken Cup in rugby, the Stella Artois tennis tournament, the Johnny Walker golf classic, and you can probably think of other examples. The question is: why do these companies spend such a large amount of money in sponsoring these events?
  2. First, they want to get their brand name into the headlines. There are limits placed on alcohol advertising in the UK, particularly on TV, so renaming the sports event to contain the brand name is a way to get their name on sports and news channels. The Carling Cup must be called the Carling Cup.

    Second, there is the linked aim of getting their logo seen. If the sporting venue is crowded with placards and posters then the logo will be constantly flashed across TV screens in live coverage and on the highlights.

    Third, there is the intention to link the product with an activity that promotes health and fitness, and to be encouraged.
  3. It doesn’t take us too long to realize that while taking part in sport can be extremely beneficial, sitting as a spectator with a glass or two or three of beer in actual fact has a totally different effect. Is this the kind of sponsorship we should be happy about? Many would suggest not.
  4. Most of you in this assembly are not the target of this sponsorship by alcohol producers. It’s aimed at those slightly older. Yet you are targeted through sports events nevertheless. What about these for starters? The championship, the soccer division below the premiership, is sponsored by Coca-Cola. McDonalds have for many years sponsored track and field athletics for young people. They also sponsor the FA community and coaching schemes and aim to be a major sponsor for the 2012 London Olympics. Pizza Hut sponsors men’s and women’s hockey and we all know that Walker’s crisps are behind Leicester City FC.

    The products of every one of these companies come equipped with a healthy eating warning. They’re unlikely to be part of the dietary regime for the majority of top sporting competitors. Overindulgence can have harmful effects, just as can happen with alcohol.
  5. So how do we deal with the issue of sponsorship? We have first to recognize what’s going on. Sponsorship takes place in order to persuade ordinary people like you and me to purchase a product. Our response to this might be a chorus of: ‘Who do you think you’re kidding?’ Then I suggest that we detach the sponsor from the sport. We could refuse to use the sponsor’s name when referring to the event. We could certainly refuse to buy merchandise that bears the sponsor’s logo. We should enjoy the sport itself for its own sake, especially if we are participants. And occasionally, just very occasionally, we might decide to indulge in a Big Mac, a bag of crisps, even a pint if we’re old enough, because we fancy one, not because we have fallen for the sponsors’ clever advertising.

Time for reflection

Spend a moment considering the following thoughts. You may wish to turn them into a prayer:

Be thankful for the enjoyment of a good sporting event.

Be sorry for the times when overindulgence has made you less than fully healthy.

Make a plan to take some action that arises out of today’s assembly. It might be to become more of a participant than a spectator.


‘We Are The Champions’ by Queen

Publication date: March 2009   (Vol.11 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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