Corporate sponsors have played a significant role in the development of Jamaican sports, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on high school football, track and field, netball, lawn tennis, and cricket among others.
However, the same cannot really be said for some sports at the senior level. At that level football gets the bulk of the spend but no matter how you cut it gives the least return on investment as it relates to success.
Other sports such as swimming don’t get as much. Football generates sponsorship in the hundreds of millions both from the Sports Development Foundation and corporate sponsors but have failed to get to the World Cup and have fallen down the pecking order in the Caribbean.
Swimmers, on the other hand, don’t get as much. Take for example Alia Atkinson, that affable and extremely talented swimmer who made Jamaicans so proud during the last Olympic Games in London. She didn’t medal, she finished fourth fractions of a second outside a medal placing but her courage and personality endeared her to Jamaicans both at home and in the Diaspora.
It is true that swimming, inexplicably, is not a ‘big’ sport on this island and sponsors these days only spend money where they can get the most mileage, but what Atkinson did in Moscow reached more people globally than the Reggae Boyz ever could.
Yet even after she returned home she had trouble getting sponsors to climb aboard her bandwagon.
Could it be a lack of vision on the part of some sponsors who are missing out on an opportunity to get great mileage using Atkinson as the face of their company? Atkinson who recently won 11 gold medals, and 24 overall on the FINA World Cup short course series finishing second overall in the standings, is articulate, attractive, had a huge smile and as I mentioned earlier a talented swimmer who has overcome great odds to be a respected swimmer globally.
What more could they ask; an Olympic medal perhaps? Indeed, but imagine the benefits a sponsor could accrue from getting on board now. When she wins an Olympic medal their name will be up in lights right alongside hers.
Already, a year after the Olympics Alia has flirted with a couple of world records. She has one sponsor, Pure Water, on board, and she admits that not having to worry too much about money, has helped her focus on getting better. It stands to reason then that if she had more support, she could very well realize her dreams of winning that elusive Olympic medal in a little under three years from now.
It would be such a pity should sponsors sit idly by and waste what could be a golden global opportunity. Risk is required to build a business and Alia, I believe, is a good risk to take.