In some sports sponsorship deals are worth millions of pounds. Unfortunately, this is not the case in table tennis. Table tennis sponsorship, in the UK at least, is quite uncommon. Few table tennis players or clubs manage to obtain sponsorship and those that do don’t receive much for their efforts.
But this doesn’t have to be the case. In China, the top table tennis players are national celebrities and sign very lucrative sponsorship contracts with a range of brands. In Europe, many of the top clubs have advertising banners surrounding their training halls and their club shirts are covered with brand logos.
How can we capitalise on the increasing popularity of table tennis and social ‘ping pong’ in the 21st century? Are there ways we can work more closely with brands to secure sponsorship/funding for table tennis? What is the best way to approach a company when asking for sponsorship? In this post I’ll be explaining the process of gaining sponsorship and providing some top tips to help you secure future funds for yourself or your club.
What is Sports Sponsorship?
Sponsorship is the act of supporting an event, activity, person, or organisation financially or through the provision of products or services. A sponsor is the individual or group that provides the support.
In sport, sponsorship is viewed as a kind of combination of philanthropy and advertising. Unlike philanthropy, sponsorship is always made with the intention of experiencing some degree of commercial return. However, sports sponsorship, especially at a grass roots level, can often appear very similar to charitable giving.
At a more elite level, it can be hard to distinguish between sports sponsorship and advertising. The main difference is that in advertising the brand has complete control over the message it is trying to portray, whereas in sponsorship the brand is usually just associating itself with a certain person or organisation, and creating general positive images for itself.
Sponsorship from Table Tennis Brands
In table tennis, the most common type of sponsorship you will see is table tennis brands, often equipment suppliers, supporting top players and clubs. For example, Butterfly have sponsored Timo Boll for many years and he acts as a sort of ‘face’ for the brand. In return for promoting Butterfly products and increasing their brand awareness, I assume that Timo will receive a rather large financial sponsorship each year, as well as getting all his table tennis equipment for free.
These table tennis sponsorship deals occur at lower levels of performance too. Top junior players often have an equipment sponsor and you’ll see them at tournaments with their name on their back followed by the brand supporting them. In the UK players are most commonly sponsored by Butterfly, Joola, Stiga and Donic.
These less well known players are unlikely to receive any financial sponsorship from the brands but they are usually given free equipment and clothing. In some cases, the players’ sponsorship deal only entitles them to a discount rate when buying the brands products.
Other Sponsorship Deals
Unless you are an international player you are unlikely to receive any kind of financial sponsorship from table tennis brands. Therefore, if you’re in need of some funding you will probably have to look outside of table tennis and contact some other brands. A number of UK players and clubs have managed to secure external sponsorship…
- Paul Drinkhall is sponsored by Vinqui (a sports jewellery company).
- Joanna Parker is sponsored by BMW Doncaster (a car showroom/dealership).
- Kelly Sibley is sponsored by OLBG (a sports betting community).
- London Table Tennis Academy is sponsored by Integral (a computer memory and storage company).
- The Norwich and District Table Tennis League is sponsored by Grant Matthewson (an accountants firm)
- Hartlepool Table Tennis Club is sponsored by Camerons Brewery (a local family brewery).
These are just a selection of table tennis sponsorship deals I found through searching the web. I’m sure there are loads of other players, clubs and league with similar deals set up.
How to Get Sponsorship
If you’re after an equipment deal you will probably have to go through the brands local distributor. For example, in the UK, Butterfly is sold by Tees Sport, Joola is sold by Bribar, Stiga by Thornton’s, and Donic by Topspin. To obtain a Butterfly sponsorship you need to go through Tees Sport rather than trying to contact Butterfly headquarters.
Being realistic, you are unlikely to receive sponsorship from a table tennis equipment provider unless you are a top player or well known coach. However, the big brands do seem quite keen to sign up younger players, so you may have more luck if you are an under 13 or cadet. If you are one of the top ten players in your country, for your age group, you can probably expect a deal that will give you a limited amount of free kit each year and then 50% off everything else.
If you’re in your countries national team, for your age group, you should be pushing to get everything you’ll reasonably need per year for free. This is also known as a ‘full sponsorship’.
When it comes to finding sponsorship outside of table tennis circles I have two pieces of advice;
- Look close to home.
- Put yourself in your sponsor’s shoes.
When I say ‘look close to home’ I mean you are more likely to find sponsorship through your current connections than through cold calling or spam emailing hundreds of multinational companies.
You probably know someone, who knows somebody, who would be interested in sponsoring you or your club. So ask your friends or work colleagues. Look around at some local businesses that may want to support local talent or become involved with a club, such as yours, promoting sport, health and fitness in their area.
Also, don’t forget about any local grants and funding that may be available to you. A council grant might not sound as cool as corporate sponsorship but in the end they all accomplish the same end of helping your develop and improve.
Secondly, don’t forget to ‘put yourself in your sponsor’s shoes’. Sponsorship is a two-way deal and sponsors are expecting some kind of return on their generosity. You might be a fantastic table tennis player but that on its own is not a good enough reason for a company to sponsor you.
Instead, think about the value that you can provide to the company. If they are related to table tennis or sport in some way then maybe they can use your name and image to help increase sales. If they have no connection to table tennis at all perhaps you can do an exhibition at a corporate event they are organising or meet and play potential clients of theirs.
If the staff are keen on table tennis, how about a team building/table tennis coaching day where you can give them some tips. Or if you’re a club or league, a social doubles tournament where club players are matched up with company executives or clients and play a knockout tournament.
It doesn’t matter what it is but you need to think, “Why would ‘x’ want to sponsor me? What are they getting from the deal?” Once you adopt this mindset, securing sponsorship should be a much easier process.
Table tennis sponsorship in the UK is not very common but then again, I don’t often see players or clubs really going out of their way to try to connect with or impress potential sponsors.
Some table tennis players, clubs and leagues do currently have sponsorship deals in place and with the right attitude I believe it is possible for many more to successfully team up with corporate partners. You will have the most luck by asking friends, colleagues and those already in your network and making a conscious effort to come up with benefits for your potential sponsors.
If you are a top player or coach you should be able to find a decent equipment sponsorship package with one of the big table tennis brands. Remember to go through your local distributor whoever they may be.
And that’s everything I have to say about getting sponsored in table tennis. I hope you’ve enjoyed the article and found it useful.
If you’ve personally had any luck securing sponsorship for yourself or your club etc. then please let me know. I’d love to hear how you got on and learn of any tips that worked for you.
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