Authenticity in sports sponsorship

NZ Marketing speaks to Emma Scoringe, Xero NZ’s Head of Marketing, about the nature of their sports sponsorships.

Some sponsorship relationships are authentic, but many are not. Its ironic to see multinational fast food giants sponsoring kids sports or beer brands sponsoring rugby, when sport is about exercise and health, neither of which sit comfortably with sport or children.

It is heartening then to see a sports sponsorship totally aligned to the brand it has partnered with. This is the case with the Xero partnership with New Zealand Football, aimed at helping football clubs across New Zealand, through a club support programme, enhanced by Xero becoming a FIFA Women’s Football Partner. The multi-year agreement covers the Women’s World Cup 2023 as well as the 2024 and 2026 editions of the U-20 and U-17 Women’s World Cups.

Through its partnership, the global small business management platform will champion women’s football and women in small businesses through various initiatives. Xero will also support two FIFA women’s football development programmes: Capacity-Building for Administrators, and Coach Education Scholarships.

“What I love about the New Zealand Football partnership is that we found a sport that actually gives us a genuine, credible reason to be a partner. We’re demonstrating that by the use of the product and getting that into clubs where it’s not already being used,” Emma Scoringe, Head of Marketing at Xero NZ told NZ Marketing.

“The one way we’re leveraging our relationship with New Zealand football is around the opportunity to have a presence in the community through football clubs in a way that we haven’t before. We could just create an ad, but that’s not really doing a lot for society. New Zealand and Xero are all about championing small businesses. If you think about the challenges a community football club faces, they’re very similar to those of a small business. You’ve got to get dollars! In our experience, clubs are normally run by a bunch of passionate people who have varying degrees of financial literacy, volunteers from all walks of life. We feel there’s a real opportunity for us to help grow the financial sustainability of clubs, particularly the smaller ones.”

By introducing its technology to more football clubs, Xero will integrate its brand into communities throughout the country. Assistance with funding and sponsorships (an advisor directory helps find support in each community) also includes a 25 percent off Xero for the registered non-profit organisations.

“We know from our own product and servicing small businesses in New Zealand, more adoption of technology and digital tools allows small businesses to be more productive and have better cash flow. That leads to a healthier business and a better all round wellbeing. So, if we as Xero can help establish that within clubs, we’re growing the club and the community for the future. I’m excited about it because it’s not a traditional grant,” says Scoringe. “We’re going to get some eyeballs on our brand, but it is also  a chance to do something different within the community and the clubs.”

Partnering with FIFA for the home Women’s World Cup 2023 allows the brand to tap into key areas of impact such as the growing participation and access for women in our communities, as well as facilitating commercial success and promoting leadership alongside the development of women’s football and FIFA’s women’s development programme.

“It’s important to find the genuine reason to be there because people can see through you, says Scoringe “If you’re just doing something for awareness, then I guess you need to have a lot of dollars to throw at it because it’s not authentic. It’s really hard to build a true connection if there isn’t a genuine reason to be there or to have a partnership. Corporates have a responsibility to do good, and there are so many opportunities to do that. It’s about finding the reason, a genuine reason to be there. Xero is all about knowing your numbers – that’s really important, particularly for smaller clubs that don’t have the resources.”

The big sponsorship money has previously gone to men’s sports, so this partnership is yet another indication of an astute marketer recognising the untapped opportunities that lie in the womens’ sporting arena.

Emma Scoringe.

“There are challenges faced by women both in sport and in business,” continues Scoringe. “Some of the challenges are similar, so by us helping with the financial literacy, supporting the clubs to be more productive in their administration, spending less time on administration, by default they’ll be able to spend more time on the pathways and programs that will support children and girls into the sport. If clubs are more funded, then they can spend more money on the pathways of girls and women. The wealthier the clubs are, the better they can invest in broader programmes that serve pathways for girls in sport.”

Xero will use the FIFA partnership to champion women’s football and to further empower women working in small businesses and their communities around the world. As part of the agreement, Xero will also support two FIFA women’s football development programmes: Capacity-Building for Administrators, and Coach Education Scholarships.

“This is a partnership that will accelerate the growing momentum behind women’s football and our ambition to make the game truly global. To have a brand on board that is so passionate about empowering women – and especially one from a co-host of the next Women’s World Cup in 2023 – is wonderful to see,” Sarai Bareman, FIFA’s Chief Women’s Football Officer, was quoted as saying.

There is no doubt the financial viability of clubs at all levels in New Zealand will enable the development of local talent.

Xero has not yet considered other sports, but in a previous life, Scoringe worked closely with Surf Lifesaving New Zealand, a sporting community facing similar challenges. “They’re run by these amazing teenagers really, who are leading the charge on the beach and they’re really impressive. They have leadership qualities that are just amazing, and they’re supported by the small businesses that assist the club. They’re actually quite sophisticated in how they obtain funding and sponsorship from the community.”

Extrapolate that to many sporting franchises in New Zealand and the sponsorship opportunities become apparent. A brand like Xero that can help business administration processes to make it more streamlined and automated, so the volunteers can spend more time on the field, would be a godsend. “I think you could take that approach in other community-based sporting and charity clubs.”

There is no doubt the FIFA partnership will help the Xero brand in other international markets in which it operates. However, it is here in Aotearoa that Scoringe and Xero NZ Country Manager, Bridget Snelling, have their focus. Xero’s philosophy is to support great causes, supporting a variety of social and environmental causes that contribute to thriving communities. These include the partnership with New Zealand Football and the Xero Assistance Programme (XAP), which provides free and confidential mental health and wellbeing support. There are also projects like Fishermans Bay conservation, which purchases carbon credits.

“We supported the International Women’s Sport Conference recently, and with Bridget at the helm, we are probably focusing on neglected opportunities and representing them in a good way,” says Scoringe.  “We’re trying to level the playing field no matter what, through the use of digital tools.”

This article was originally published in the March/April 2023 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

Graham Medcalf

About Graham Medcalf

Graham Medcalf is former Editor of NZ Marketing and regular contributor.

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