Challenging sponsorship regulations
11 July, 2012
One Olympic athlete is finding new and creative ways to challenge sponsorship regulations imposed on track and field eventers.
USA 800 metre runner Nick Symmonds has become the first ever athlete to auction off advertising space on his body to the highest bidder.
Symmonds auctioned off advertising space on his left shoulder to the highest eBay bidder, Hanson Dodge Creative - an outdoor sports marketing company. They bought the sponsorship rights to Symmonds’s shoulder for more than $11,000.
Currently for athletes, sponsorship opportunities are extremely limited. Governing industry body The International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), and The USA Track and Field (USATF) only allow limited sponsorship space on an athlete’s personal body and prohibit athletes from accepting sponsorship from any potential event sponsor rivals. These sponsorship rules are more rigorous compared to sports such as F1 racing, whereby increased sponsorship is seen to help stimulate the growth of the sport.
The athletic sponsorship regulations have made it extremely difficult for some athletes to survive in the industry. Many athletes are holding between one and three additional jobs in order to finance their ability to train and compete. For many athletes, the relaxation of sponsorship regulations could mean the difference between a professional career in athletics and a dream.
The plight behind Hammond’s auctioned-off advertising space is, in essence, a quest for greater rights for athletes regarding their sponsorship choices. This message is extremely powerful, with brands like Hanson Dodge Creative benefitting greatly by association.
What brings this story to further public attention is that Symmonds has been asked to cover up the Twitter handle on his shoulder with a white plaster during IAAF and USATF events. The tape is seen to be more of a statement than the semi-permanent tattoo itself. Joe Ciccarelle, Hanson Dodge Creative’s marketing manager quoted “It wasn’t really about getting our Twitter handle on his shoulder. Wearing the tape over it I think has actually gathered more attention”.
By selling sponsorship space in this new and creative way, Hammonds has increased the publicity of his endeavour for greater athlete sponsorship rights, whilst significantly increasing his personal salary. More interestingly, the sponsorship has not only aligned Hanson Dodge Creative closely with the Olympic Games, but gained considerable brand publicity through their association with Hammonds’s newsworthy endeavour.