Interview: Andrés Botero
How much sponsorship money is being put into sport, and what is the return on investment?
ANDRÉS BOTERO: Although it is not yet a big market, sponsorship contracts have grown exponentially since the successful performance of Colombia’s national football team in Brazil’s FIFA World Cup 2014 and constitute a market of about $700m. After years of holding back, the private sector has reconsidered the importance of associating its brands with a sport or athlete. As for return on investment, it is estimated that sponsorships have the capacity to nearly double the investment in brand visibility. For example, the companies that sponsored the national football team have more than tripled their expected returns and continue to receive sponsorship offers for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Cycling is also riding high, attracting more than COP3bn ($1.1m) a year. The government is not only sponsoring top athletes, but also sports on a social level. The Plan Supérate, implemented in over 1100 municipalities to encourage youth participation (ages 7-14) in seven different sports, has already invested $35m. The successful implementation of this plan has led to a second phase, the Plan Supérate Intercolegiados, with the participation of 7000 schools and 2.2m children in the three years since it was launched. Such plans are also extremely useful for detecting national talent, and we expect to turn at least 20-30 participants into top athletes.
What is the state of the merchandising market?
BOTERO: The merchandising trade is substantial and has increased almost five-fold thanks to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. However, this market still lacks a structured backbone and only the Colombian Football Federation can be considered a real player, with more than 1m t-shirts sold for some COP330bn ($121.4m) in 2013. Additionally, 12 licensees have launched over 100 consumer products on the market. Despite estimates that the Colombian population dedicates 2% of spending to sportswear, most sports federations have been unable to merchandise their products or associated items. For example, at a major European cycling competition, Colombian supporters were dressed in the national football team shirt. Cycling is the second most important sport in the country and its merchandise definitely needs professionalisation.
How can Colombia improve the quality of its training staff for less high-profile sports?
BOTERO: Despite high standards at an international level for sports likes football or cycling, our training staff still lacks technical skills. We need to step away from empirical trainers and start focusing on technical applicants that have been fully educated. We need to reach a higher level, and to achieve this goal we have launched several preparation initiatives to train our coaches, managers and instructors. We are also closely collaborating with several embassies and international trainers to help us raise our standards, especially in sports like boxing, kayaking or rowing.
What is the next step in developing sports arenas?
BOTERO: Without venues there can be no sports. In Colombia there are many abandoned sport facilities, and regions that lack facilities all together. Over the past four years, more than 400 sports facilities have been built or renovated, at a cost of close to $400m. Most communities now have small sports venues. Urban centres like Bogotá, Medellín or Barranquilla require less investment, as the current infrastructure is already in good shape. Efforts are currently focused on the city of Santa Marta, which will be the venue for the next Bolivarian Games in 2017. We are also upgrading our facilities to be eligible to host other international events like the World Games of 2013 in the city of Cali, where COP70bn ($25.8m) was invested, or the 2014 UCI Track Cycling World Championship, which saw the renovation of Cali’s velodrome.
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