A recent USA today article highlights the plight of Olympic aspirants that struggle just to make ends meet. Olympic short-track speedskating hopeful Emily Scott’s story is highlighted. She has seen her monthly direct athlete stipend cut by nearly 70%, forcing her to take on the third-shift at a surgical supply factory and apply for food stamps.
Scott’s predicament is not an isolated one, however, as many other Olympic hopefuls are forced to live paycheck to paycheck. Outside of a few skiers and snowboarders with lucrative sponsorship deals, other winter athletes endure the same kind of financial struggle as Scott. The US Olympic Committee can only do so much for its athletes, and naturally allocates funding to the athletes with the greatest chance of standing atop the podium draped in gold. Other athletes are left to fend for themselves as their direct stipends continue to decrease.
The limited funding the USOC distributes to the lower-profile winter sports provides an ideal opportunity for resourceful sponsorship. Funding sports like speedskating or bobsledding offer potential sponsors a cheaper method of becoming officially affiliated with the Winter Olympics that can do wonders for their public image.
Prior research conducted by Performance Research consistently suggests that companies who fund struggling Olympic teams hit emotional trigger points with consumers that make the venture a worthwhile one. Olympics-related sponsorship is particularly good at generating good will, and companies who fill voids such as this one are viewed as altruistic and patriotic leaders in their field.
US Speedskating currently boasts a 15-member sponsorship roster, but there remains plenty of room for any corporation looking to become an official Olympic sponsor on the cheap. The domestic speedskating governing body has seen the money it receives from the USOC for direct athlete support cut by about $15,000 from last year. This is particularly surprising because speedskating is historically USA’s most successful winter sport. Not only will forthcoming sponsors be perceived as charitable, but their brand will also be associated with athletic success of the highest order.
Before Tuesday, Emily Scott has raised $195 on her crowdfunding site, gofundme.com. Since the USA Today story broke, she has raised $35,498 and counting. This is a testament to just how impactful a new corporate sponsor can be not only to US athletes, but also to consumers across the country. If people are willing to empty their pockets for an Olympic athlete in need, imagine their perception of a company that would do the same.
It is astonishing that additional sponsorship of US Speedskating is yet to emerge. To any companies thinking about pulling the trigger on this type of deal: please fire away! Opportunities like this to generate progressive public sentiment are hard to come by. Our research suggests that you will not regret your decision.