Citizen Sponsorships: The Next Big Thing?

The U.S. speed skating team was in a bind. With the Vancouver Winter Olympics less than 100 days away, its team sponsor, Dutch bank DSB, exited its relationship with the team. No worries, Comedy Central talk show host Stephen Colbert comes to the rescue. He challenges his viewers, known as the Colbert Nation, to make donations online to support the team.

Is the grassroots sponsorship of the U.S. speed skating team a sign of things to come in sports sponsorship? The passion of sports fans could be tapped as a sponsorship revenue source, which would be timely given that many corporations have tightened marketing spending that is indirectly related to sales, like sponsorship often is. While Colbert's gesture scores points for patriotism, it likely does not change the game of sponsorship. Does a sports property want to attempt to get a few dollars apiece from thousands of individual donors, or would it like to strategically align with a small number of sponsors with the resources to underwrite the property?

I believe the latter still applies. Citizen sponsorship would seem to have the best chance of success for niche sports properties, those that do not require substantial sponsor dollars and are typically shunned by traditional corporate sponsors. Hopefully, the exposure the U.S. speed skating team received from Steven Colbert will open the eyes of a corporate sponsor in time to help the team's efforts in Vancouver.

Sponsorship.com - "Stephen Colbert Sponsors for America"

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