Sponsorship loss puts athletics in perilous position


Athletics Australia is on a desperate hunt for a sponsor after Qantas decided not to renew its naming rights deal for the Australian Athletics Tour.

The national carrier had sponsored the struggling three-meet series and national championships for the past two seasons, which is understood to have contributed the majority of Athletics Australia's $580K sponsorship revenue.

The news was disclosed by Athletics Australia in an expression of interest document on its website seeking a sponsorship consultant.

"Athletics Australia is seeking a company with significant experience and a proven track record in the area of sponsorship acquisition to assist in finding and matching corporate partners with its diverse range of sponsorship properties," the document states, highlighting the Australian Athletics Tour, national championships, national teams and iRun program as available properties.

"It is a time of unique opportunity for potential corporate partners of the sport, with the naming rights category for 2014 and beyond now available following the expiry of our recent successful partnership with Qantas," the document goes on to say.

The sponsorship hole could further exacerbate the unprecedented decline in media coverage for the sport, highlighted by the scant coverage of the recent world championships. With the cost of engaging Eddie McGuire's JamTV to produce the television coverage of the 2012 domestic season being $441K, savings will need to be made from other areas of AA's $10M budget to continue coverage should a sponsor not be found. And if cuts can not be made, there's the risk that the sport will disappear from domestic television.

The loss of its major sponsorship also comes at a critical time for Athletics Australia, with its merger discussions with Little Athletics due to come to a close at the end of the month. The Australian Sports Commission has held a sword of Damocles over the national body's head that it faces a loss of 20% of its government funding should the sport's governance fail to improve; the increased disparity between the commercial viability of the senior end of the sport and the successful grassroots Little Athletics movement will do little to aid Athletics Australia around the negotiating table.


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