By David Owen

aviva uka_22-10-12October 22 - A potentially groundbreaking new initiative for attracting sponsorship to British sport is set to be launched early in the New Year – if National Governing Bodies and other key organisations give it their blessing.

The British Sports Marketing Bureau (BSMB) would act as a consulting service for companies thinking about using British sport to help them boost their commercial performance.

The idea is that the bureau would use its expertise and contacts to stitch together deals, often across a range of sports, that would be tailor-made to match each sponsor's specific requirements.

This would help companies wanting to forge a bond with, say, sports-volunteering or sports-medicine – as opposed to simply forming partnerships with individual sports or athletes – to pinpoint and acquire the rights they are interested in without getting bogged down in talks with a large number of different parties.

"For multinational companies, the bureau would be a one-stop shop where they can find the tools enabling them to use British sport to help them attain their particular marketing goals in an effective and efficient way," according to Sir Keith Mills, the businessman who served as deputy chairman of London 2012 and whose idea the bureau is.

"Some companies will still want to 'own' particular sports or athletes, but there are also a lot of companies that are looking at sport in a broader sense."

Interviewed exclusively by insidethegames, Sir Keith made no bones that part of the rationale for launching the initiative now is to try to prevent corporate support drawn to British sport because of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games from migrating elsewhere.

"Traditionally, commercial support falls off a cliff once the Games are gone," he says.

"That is likely to happen in Britain too if nothing is done."

He emphasises that if you discount income generated by big professional sports such as football, cricket and tennis, the annual sponsorship revenue of the remaining British sports is just £24 million ($39 million/€29 million).

Compare this with the £700 million-plus ($1.1 billion/€860 million) in sponsorship income raised by London 2012 over its seven-year cycle.

"The idea of the bureau is to make the cake bigger, not chop it up into different bits," Sir Keith says.

Sir Keith_Mills_22-10-12The British Sports Marketing Bureau is the brainchild of businessman and London 2012 deputy chairman Sir Keith Mills

The situation at present is that upwards of 80 British sporting rights holders – having been briefed and, in many cases, quizzed as to their views on the initiative – have now been asked to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) endorsing the BSMB.

Sir Keith emphasises that, by doing so, governing bodies will not be handing over any rights or asked to pay any fee – however, "this won't work unless we get the majority behind it".

He expects to know by next month whether the idea has won enough support.

If it does, the bureau can be ready to go in the early months of 2013.

Sir Keith says it would be a not-for-profit business that would cover its costs by retaining a proportion – initially 15 per cent – of the money it raises for sports bodies.

If the concept takes off, he suggests, this percentage may fall.

Success in the sponsorship field might also encourage the bureau, in time, to extend the scope of its activity to cover broadcasting rights.

Sir Keith expects an initial staff of 10-12, perhaps including ex-London 2012 employees.

He envisages remaining on hand to set the bureau up, recruit the staff and help navigate any squalls in its first year or so of existence.

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