UK Athletics in hunt for a 'grass-roots' backer

UK Athletics is seeking £1.2m for the title sponsorship of

the bulk of its grass-roots athletics programmes. The decision comes as

part of an overhaul that will allow a commercial partner to tap into

government efforts to get young people involved in the sport.



The governing body is working with sports marketing consultancy Fast

Track, which handles all UK Athletics commercial rights, to bring in a

major brand as the title backer. The package will comprise curriculum

activity, national schools championships, young athletes' leagues, and

all clubs and competitive events.



There has never previously been a title sponsor for such a broad range

of grass-roots athletics events. UK Athletics had been expected to

secure different sponsors for individual properties.



Fast-food giant McDonald's, which has sponsored the young athletes'

league for seven years, has decided not to renew its involvement in

order to focus its efforts elsewhere. The National Schools Championships

were last sponsored by TSB in a deal that ended in 1997.



Fast Track head of business development Marc Hope, who joined the

consultancy from the New Millennium Experience Company last year, said

discussions were already under way with a number of firms about the

combined grass-roots package.



"We are talking to several interested parties," said Hope. "We are

looking for a brand to come on board and get involved in making

grass-roots athletics a success in the UK."



The sponsor search comes as UK Athletics steps up its commercial

activity on the back of a recent £20m deal with Norwich Union.

This deal includes a number of initiatives from elite levels through to

grass-roots (Marketing, September 20). Other partners include Reebok,

Isostar and AquaPura.



UK Athletics is also planning to launch its first affinity credit card

in partnership with MBNA, from which all proceeds will go to grass-roots

investment. Benefits to cardholders will include discounted tickets to

top-class athletics events.



Separately, Rover, already a partner of UK Athletics, has launched a

programme to discover the UK's multi-event stars of the future. The

Rover Combined Events Initiative was launched by British decathlete Dean

Macey, and Olympic gold medallist in the heptathlon, Denise Lewis.



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