Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Baca's Mailbag: Sponsorship, Fat Cash & the Pro Game

From the Great White North come a series of related questions that begin with: What is sponsorship?  Compare levels of sponsorship in the 10 man days, early xball days and [present day] PSP.  The importance of sponsorship and the relationship between it and podium finishes. One last thing, the difference in the top tier of pros and their financing programs and the bottom tier.

Very broadly sponsorship is support offered (and/or negotiated) between the sponsoring entity (typically a paintball company or business) and a team (or player) for a period of time that allows the sponsor to directly associate itself and its products with the team (or player.) Such "support" ranges from straight cash to free product to discounted product. Straight cash in the current environment is mostly agreements to pay entry fees or defray certain travel expenses, etc. as opposed to, well, lump sum straight cash. Free product is either specific numbers (10 guns a year) or a draw against an annual team fund that usually values the sponsor's product at retail value. Although there is a marginal category of free free stuff like sponsor T-shirts because they want the team to actively promote the sponsor. Discounted product with no strings attached qualifies too (anything that legitimately reduces operating costs) as opposed to the "discount" packages that only offer the discounts if you purchase the package.

In the last fifteen years pro paintball has seen sponsorship values grow, peak and decline irrespective of formats--with the influx of money and excitement around early Xball coinciding with industry peaks in the early middle portion of the last decade. By 2007 the Golden Age of Sponsorship was over. There is also a certain irony in that many of the teams receiving the high end sponsorships had an excess of resources relative to their strict paintball requirements which helped foster the image (and reality) of  the "pro" lifestyle--fostered and funded by the industry--and then, just as xball was beginning to predominate and a higher degree of professionalism was required of the teams and players the industry derived sponsorships began to shrink.

While sponsorship does impact results in some obvious ways we need to broaden the category from team sponsorship to team resources--and even then there are a host of important variables to be accounted for.
If you look at results over the last fifteen years success leans toward the teams with the most resources although I think it's impossible to say whether or not the gap between the haves and the have nots has widened over that period. Take for example a team like Lockout with very little sponsorship during much of its existence they still reached the pro ranks and competed for pro titles. But even then they were something of an exception. The majority of the best teams had the resources to compete whether it was sponsorship, factory backing, monied ownership or some combination of all three. That said I think it's harder now to compete in the PSP if a team is at a significant resource disadvantage than it used to be.

More money means you can afford to make more mistakes. Top tier pro teams can "buy" players. Top tier programs have the resources to put in place all the necessary pieces more easily. And of course the means to be on the practice field longer and more frequently. It is a significant advantage but money can't buy team chemistry, heart, desire or commitment or wise decision-making. There are enough money independent elements to making a winning team that the underdogs do win sometimes and can be competitive even though the struggle is greater and the demands more demanding..


Anonymous said...

Don't forget many of the 'sponsorship' packages offered to lower-tier teams. You and your friends could start playing paintball next week, form a team, and as long as you do a group buy of soft goods, you can get them at a discount price as a 'sponsored' team. That is what some companies (cough, cough Valken) are offering as sponsorship.

Anonymous said...

That's not sponsorship. That's direct-to-consumer sales.

DanC. said...

And every company does it.

Reiner Schafer said...

And it's one of the biggest and most common complaints I hear from real paintball retailers.

Missy Q said...

The retailers aren't even given the ability to do it, and often actually pay more for the product than the teams. Whi9le it's true that everyone/mostly everyone does it, it's typically the 3rd tier manufacturer/distributor that's the guiltiest party as they are not getting sufficient market share through retail channels - hence why Valken are the larger current culprits.

Anonymous said...

Not every company does it - some push the team sponsorships through retailers.

Paintball Leeds said...

Well mostly do, why would they push the team sponsorships through retailers?

Reiner Schafer said...

Some manufacturers have come to the realization that cutting out their main customers (retailers) is harming the industry. Retailers are the front line for marketing paintball. The less there are of them, the less local marketing takes place. Giving any "team" that asks for it, special pricing so they can then go and sell their wares to their local market hurts those retailers. It goes so far as "teams" selling paintball gear and even paint out of their trunk at their local field. Manufacturers/wholesalers that support that (and even push it) are indirectly hurting their main customers and thereby the industry as a whole.

Paintball Leeds, your business model is probably not affected by this very much, but much of the industry's businesses are.

J.Stein said...

I wasn't going to bother posting, but it seems everyone is interested in the direct-to-consumer business model side of this post and not what I find more interesting - the correlation between money and performance / chance of winning.

To that end, when was the last time a non-monied team won a meaningful national event (by which I mean Pacific Paintball/Pure Promotions NPPL or PSP)? When was the last time a non-monied team competed for a national title?

And what are the table steaks now? Looking specifically at X-Factor - they fly in at least two players and a coach. Not exorbitant, but not nothing, either. Are they a big money team or are those now the minimum requirements? I know of a few pro teams that fall well below that 'minimum'.

Money certainly doesn't guarantee success, but what single factor is more important?

NewPro said...

great post and thx coach for taking the question.