Many staffing firms like to use a portion of their marketing spend on sports sponsorships and it’s easy to see why. Sponsoring a sports team is an effective way to get better brand recognition, provides a regular supply of tickets for client entertainment and allows business to provide a positive and healthy contribution to society. The payoff can be even greater if the sponsor is fortunate enough to associate themselves with a winning team or individual. But there’s also a risk that the sponsor could become tarnished with failure, bad behaviour (not all sports-people are perfect ambassadors and role models!) or, even worse, drugs cheats.
The range of sponsorships taken up by staffing firms is quite broad and covers many different sports. I wonder, however, how many sponsorships are done, not as a result of any forensic analysis into where marketing spend might be most effectively invested but more because it matches the personal interests and hobbies of the chief executive?
In an industry like staffing, which has a very high proportion of women working within it, and selling to a profession like HR which also a relatively high proportion of women compared to other corporate disciplines, it is surprising to see the rather masculine bias in the choice of sponsorships. Of course, it’s rather naive to suggest that only men are interested in sport but there are plenty of sports that enjoy high levels of female participation and more of a female following that don’t seem to warrant much attention from staffing sponsors such as equestrian events, netball, lacrosse, gymnastics and figure skating to name but a few.
The commercial staffing franchise, Pertemps, established the Pertemps Handicap Hurdles Series, a programme of horse races around the UK culminating in the Pertemps Hurdle Final at the popular Cheltenham Festival. Tim Watts, Chairman of Pertemps Group, said: "The Pertemps Handicap Hurdle series is a significant investment for us, but one that is great value too”. Conveniently, Tim Watts also happens to be a significant racehorse owner. How many of the secretarial and administrative staff that Pertemps provides are keen followers of the Turf is unknown.
Morson, the UK engineering staffing specialist, sponsor golfer, David Horsey, as well as featherweight boxer, Kieran Farrel, and previously sponsored the premiership rugby team, Sale Sharks. A decidedly macho combination to be sure which, to be fair, probably is appropriate given their particular client base.
Morson has also inherited another key rugby sponsorship by way of its acquisition of the Wynnwith Group in 2010. Julian Morison, Wynnwith CEO said: “The decision to sponsor such a successful and recognised brand like Harlequins RFC provided Wynnwith with an opportunity to further build its brand and be associated with an organisation with the same values and goals.” In making this statement, he’d presumably put the infamous 2009 ‘Bloodgate’ affair to the back of his mind, regarded as the biggest scandal in the sport during the profession era. In the last minutes of a tight cup match, Harlequins’ Director of Rugby encouraged a player to use fake blood capsules to feign injury and get himself removed from the pitch and replaced with a better penalty kicker.
The leading Austrian staffing company, Trenkwalder even have a soccer club named after them – FC Trenkwalder-Admira, recent winners of the Erste Liga (Federal League). Of course, both staffing company and soccer team also share a name with company founder, Richad Trenkwalder, so either an adept marketing ploy or a vanity project – or both.
Randstad has been an “official partner” of the Formula 1 AT&T Williams Team since 2006 and increased their investment for the 2011 season. The sponsorship provides them with the opportunity to promote their brand internationally as the Formula 1 motor racing circus moves from city to city. No doubt Randstad’s male management team very much enjoy the thrust of the engines, the smell of rubber on tarmac and mixing with the exclusively male racing drivers in the pit lane.
Adecco are very keen to promote their brand on the international stage through association with sport, primarily as official sponsors of the Olympics and Paralympics. They also make a significant investment in tennis including sponsorship of the Davis Cup and the Federation Cup and, in 2009, became sponsor to Belgian tennis professional Kim Clijsters (female - hooray!). Adecco have also been involved with a dazzling array of local sports sponsorships in recent years including Baseball (Australia), Soccer (Australia, Ireland and Germany), Cycling (Belgium, Norway and Switzerland), Basketball (International), Rally Driving (Argentina), Rugby (Italy), Volleyball (Italy), Windsurfing (Asia), Athletics (Canada), and Water Polo (Spain).
Addeco have rather nicely bridged the gap between sport and their core discipline, recruitment, by way of the IOC Athletes Career Programme established in 2005 which helps professional athletes make the difficult transition from elite sport to a new career.
Perhaps this extensive interest in sports sponsorship by Adecco is not so surprising given that key member of the Board of Management, Andreas Jacob (son of Adecco founder Klaus Jacob) also happens to be Chairman of the international sport marketing agency, Infront Sports & Media.
Sports sponsorships can be risky things and the desire to associate your brand with elite athletes and winning teams doesn’t always work out to plan – after all, in any competition, there’s only one winner. Despite this, staffing firms are lining up to have their corporate logo’s emblazoned across the chests of footballers, slapped onto the helmets of racing drivers and engraved on shiny trophies.
Despite being an industry where women can have a very successful career, there’s a paucity of women on the Board of major staffing companies and the scale and type of sports sponsorships we see are indicative of a masculine bias towards marketing investment. With more female chief executives at the helm of staffing firms, I wonder how much marketing money would be effectively channelled into less risky and more pertinent branding initiatives?