March 22, 2009

Companies drop sports sponsorships

The U.S. economic downturn has hurt sports sponsorships and luxury box sales at major sporting venues, analysts say.

The (Nashville) Tennessean reported Sunday that many businesses are no longer willing to write big checks for top-notch hospitality at sporting venues. At the Nashville Superspeedway, corporate customers spend upwards of $22,000 a year on hospitality to reward their employees and woo clients.

The newspaper said with three weeks to go before the first race, the track has sold 13 of its 18 luxury suites, compared with 16 by the start of the 2008 season.

Nationwide, corporate spending on sports has risen more than 106 percent since 1999, to an estimated $11.4 billion in 2008. The figure is expected to grow just 1.8 percent this year, the slowest rate of growth in seven years, IEG Sponsorship Report, a trade magazine for the corporate sponsorship industry, reported.

The University of Tennessee athletics department too is experiencing a dip in sponsorship revenue.

Businesses are cutting back where they can, said Chris Fuller, UT assistant athletic director for marketing. Sponsorship advertising and marketing dollars is a place where some cut back. Even in the case where companies have the money to spend, they are very cautious about the perception of where they spend it.