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Securing sponsorship and funding

Where does athlete funding come from? Hear from paralympic swimmer, Monique Murphy in this video and read about how athletes secure sponsorship.

Now that you’ve listened to Monique in the video and heard about the financial needs of an athlete / para athlete, it is easy to understand why funding is so important. Also, the athletes themselves need to earn an income. So, where does the funding come from?

Financial support

Monique was fortunate in the financial support she received from various sources which included Government funding through Swimming Australia (after performing at a certain level and achieving a certain placing to be eligible). However, while governments invest substantially in sports development and athlete preparation, this money doesn’t always fully cover the increasing costs and certainly doesn’t end up in the athlete’s pocket, so to speak.

Athlete sponsorship

This means there is an important role for the sponsorship of athletes by private enterprises in supplementing the costs and potentially providing an income for athletes. We’re all used to seeing the brand labels on elite athletes’ sports clothing such as Nike, Adidas and Puma etc. which show us which company has provided the sponsorship. This is another important financial avenue for athletes.

Attracting sponsorship

However, attracting sponsors is not a simple task, and to successfully achieve this athletes often need to have already demonstrated some kind of value to a potential sponsor. This might be through:

  • one or several successful performances
  • showing they align with a sponsor’s corporate objectives
  • appealing to the sponsor’s target market

This means that athletes who have not already made it, or are perhaps competing in a less mainstream or popular sport, will typically find it more challenging to attract and keep hold of sponsorship deals. Athletes may also have their potential sponsorship market limited as sport governing bodies often have exclusive organisational sponsorships. This means that athletes are restricted from entering sponsorship deals with competing brands. On top of this, sponsorships often require the athlete (or their manager) to have a certain level of sophistication in their negotiating skills in order to secure the deal.

Obligations of being sponsored

In addition, sponsorships are not ‘free money’, as they come with expectations that an athlete will perform successfully and provide coverage of a sponsor’s brand. A sponsor may also have expectations that the athletes will contribute to a company’s goals, for instance, by attending key events and participating in media activities, etc.

This means that in addition to training and preparing for competition, an athlete will now also have obligations to meet to fulfill their sponsorship deal. Research1 into athlete sponsorships has indicated the added pressures of having to perform can be detrimental to athletes’ well-being and lead to issues such as burn out.

Your task

Your task is do a web search for ‘athlete sponsorship’ and take a look through a few of the sites that pop up. Consider these questions:

  • What types of opportunities are on offer?
  • What information do these companies ask for and what types of commitments do they expect from the sponsored athlete?
  • How do you think these opportunities/commitments might help or hinder an athlete’s training and preparation?


  1. Creswell S. Possible early signs of athlete burnout: A prospective study. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2009;12(3):393-398.
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