Bad sports: Corporate Australia snubs our Paralympians 

BIG business continues to shunAustralia’s Paralympians, donating just a fraction of what they giveable-bodied athletes.

The nation’s Paralympicmovement has attracted just $6 million in sponsorship over the past four years,forcing athletes to train and compete on a shoestring budget. Some have evenhad requests for a free pair of running shoes rejected.

In contrast, corporateAustralia backed the Olympic campaign to the tune of $36 million and showered dozensof prominent Olympians with lucrative endorsement deals.

In a frank concession, AustralianParalympic Committee (APC) commercial general manager Ian Laing said the organisationshared some blame because it had traditionally been too slow chasing thecorporate dollar.

“Australia is a tough market…it’s a sports-mad country, which is fantastic, but the downside is there is aninsane amount of competition for sponsorship and it’s up to us to really findour place in that landscape,” said Mr Laing, who joined the APC late last year.

“The fact is we just didn’tstart discussions early enough and it’s clear we really need to be engagedearly. We can’t just pop up a year or two before the next Games and say ‘Hi, rememberus? Please jump on board’.

“Our message to the corporateworld of Australia is ‘we can work with you’ but we’ve historically not beengreat at approaching them and that’s something we’re working really hard to do.”

Of the 41 companies thatdonated money or products to the 2012 Australian Olympic Committee, just fourhave gone on to support the Paralympic team.

Those that did not includegiants of Australia’s corporate sector such as McDonalds, Coca Cola, Coles andthe Commonwealth Bank.

The 161 members of thenation’s Paralympic team will compete in London with the formal backing of just14 companies.

The disparity has so riledthree members of the Australian Paralympic running team – Evan O’Hanlon, ScottReardon and Brad Scott – that they have pledged to cover up the logos ofnon-supportive sporting apparel firms on their running gear.

Mr Laing would not say whetherthe APC supported the protest.

“But having tried to help someof the athletes even get a free pair of running shoes, I do find itdisappointing that defending champions couldn’t get some support from majorbrands,” he said.

Professor Pascale Quester, amarketing and sponsorship expert at the University of Adelaide, said businessdid not appreciate the commercial benefits that flow from an association withParalympians.

“It is a very good opportunityfor these multinational companies to demonstrate they care, they are not bigbastard corporates and that they are there to help the more disadvantaged,” shesaid.

“Paralympians have struggled;their sense of victory is greater than Olympians and there is a real poignancyto that that could be leveraged beautifully by sponsors.”

Mr Laing said the APC wouldcontinue discussions with potential partners once the London Games we complete,with the intention of signing them up for the next four years.

To complicate matters, the APCis prohibited from signing sponsorship agreements with competitors of exclusiveInternational Olympic Committee (IOC) partners.

Officials estimate the London ParalympicGames will reach a global audience of about 3.8 billion people and be broadcastlive in 80 countries.

Commercialsponsors and suppliers of the Australian Paralympic Committee:

Telstra, Toyota,Qantas, Media Monitors, Calyton Utz, 2XU, Swisse, Allianz, Ernst and Young,Solitaire, Speedo, R.M. Williams, Scody, Goodman.

Commercialsponsors and suppliers of the Australian Olympic Committee:

Coca Cola, Acer,Atos, Dow, GE, McDonalds, Omega, Panasonic, P&G, Samsung, Visa, Adidas,AMP, Australia Post, Cadbury, Coles, Commonwealth Bank, CoSport, Fitness First,Kraft Foods, Mitsubishi Motors, Qantas, Rio Tinto, Speedo ,Swisse, Telstra,Accor, Adecco Group, ANL, Athlegen, Beiersdorf, Getty Images, HamiltonLaboratories, Karbon Sports, Media Monitors, RogenSi, Shop Supplies,Sportscraft, Valley, Westfield, XTM.

Slow off the mark: Corporate Australia offers little financial support to our Paralympians