By Matthew Hindmarsh
My name is Matthew Hindmarsh and I am a second year PhD student at Liverpool John Moores University. After confirmation of a successful defence of my MPhil to PhD transfer, I felt now was perhaps the most appropriate time to introduce myself and my area of research.
When somebody posits the question most PhD students loath, ‘can you explain your research?’, rather than detail the nature of my study like the masses, I tend to introduce my research in a different manner; with another question.
When you think about sponsorship, what football teams do you associate to such programmes?
Now whilst to the majority this may come across somewhat unorthodox, there is an actual method behind the madness. Many, in turn, cry out with the heavyweights of English football; Manchester United and their agreement with Chevrolet (worth £53 million a season), Liverpool and their deal with Charter Standard (valued at £25 million per season), the list goes on. Such answers are not uncommon nor unsurprising given how much local and national media coverage is positioned against the backdrop of elite football as clubs come under ever-increasing scrutiny. Notwithstanding this point, but of more relevance to this research is the sheer financial value of these associations that make it difficult for one to overlook or even consider alternative settings wherein sponsorship takes place. Indeed, merely focusing on the Premier League alone shows the importance of sponsorship for both English clubs and their sponsors with investment reaching unprecedented levels on a seasonal basis (figure 1).
Note: Refer to Sportingintelligence for a breakdown of individual premier league team shirt sponsorship deals since 2009/2010 season.
Here, however, is where the method to that madness kicks in. People are so often pre-occupied and infixed with the professional game due to, amongst others, the factors mentioned above that they often forget that at the base of the football pyramid, the grassroots game equally, if not more, relies on sponsorship (an issue not included in this introduction, but one for future discussion). It is from this monomania, which is also mirrored in academia, that has created a lacuna for research pertaining to the sponsorship of grassroots football and has acted as one of the many justifications towards my PhD research.
In one sentence, my research therefore intends to understand the nature and characteristics of football sponsorship at the grassroots level within the North-West of England. The study aims to integrate both practitioner insight and academic literature to examine issues which relate to why grassroots football sponsorship occurs (i.e. the motives and determinants), its benefits, the key success factors necessary to ensure a fruitful partnership, and the relationships that such agreements conceive. It intends to do this by capturing the experiences and perspectives from the two most influential stakeholders within such a setting; the community football club (sponsee) and the small-medium sized enterprise (sponsor), through (repeat) interviews and online questionnaires. Drawn from these insights and understanding, the study will conclude with the development of a sponsorship framework that is anticipated to support facilitate an effective sponsorship between community football clubs and small-medium sized enterprises, while encourage both parties to draw the most out of their associations. It is my hope that such research will serve as a starting and entry point for future work pertaining to the sponsorship of grassroots football; an area with little or no research apparent to date.
I look forward to hopefully contributing to the ever-diversifying nature of football research that is being written within The Collective and beyond.