London 2012 athletes funding plan comes under fire

LONDON - The sponsorship industry has lambasted the government for placing a £100m bill at brand owners' doors as part of its plans for funding elite Olympic athletes ahead of the 2012 Games.

The chancellor, Gordon Brown, announced in last week's Budget that £600m would be handed out to ensure Britain made a strong showing at the 2012 Games. Of this funding, £300m will come from the Lottery -- money that is being made available as part of an existing programme; £200m is newly allocated money; and £100m will be raised from investors and sponsors.

The latter sum has caused industry consternation, with the European Sponsorship Association claiming that it showed a "complete lack of understanding of the market".

"It's a huge ask to bring in £100m in additional sponsorship revenue," said Nigel Currie, chairman of the ESA. "And that's before you consider that outside of the top five or six Olympic sports, there is not a lot to work with in terms of properties to hang sponsorship packages on. The government has badly misjudged how deep sponsors' pockets are."

The proposals also highlight a lack of clarity as to who will be responsible for approaching sponsors. A number of government-funded bodies can claim to represent elite sport -- a situation that has left brands confused as to which body to align with and what exactly is on offer.

The London 2012 organising committee is also seeking sponsors, leading many observers to believe that the confusion could significantly harm the committee's ability to hit its own substantial sponsorship target of almost £600m.

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