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“This deal for us is phenomenal – if you put it in the context of men’s sport it is probably not but we are on a different journey than men’s sport has been on”
Last Updated: 23/10/18 7:05pm
England Netball have announced a new three-year tie-up with Vitality and chief executive Joanna Adams says women’s sport has to be celebrated.
Whether it’s sporting success or sponsorship deals, women’s sport continues to grow but as many have argued there is always more that can be done – as Tamsin Greenway told us last month.
So England Netball’s confirmation of its existing title partnership, thought to be one of the largest deals in women’s sport in the UK, is another landmark moment particularly as the England national team will be known as the ‘Vitality Roses’.
It mirrors what many see as the benchmark in women’s sport, Australian netball, where the team are known as the ‘Samsung Diamonds’ while the domestic competition benefits from lucrative sponsorship deals for the league and teams.
Netball has never had a better opportunity to grow in this country, the Roses success in beating Australia to Commonwealth gold earlier this year came at the start of a 12 months that will reach a thrilling conclusion with the World Cup in Liverpool next July.
“It is a real worry when you think if you don’t get this investment what happens to our business,” Adams told Sportswomen.
“Sometimes we can’t sit here and go ‘woe is me’ in women’s sport. We have got to really celebrate the fact when people do embrace our sport and that is what brands are doing now, broadcasters are doing – Sky have been an incredible supporter of ours for 12/13 years.
“We have been on a journey but now we are at a point where we can really exploit everything we have done, that is really exciting but we also have to be realistic about what that looks like.
“As women’s sport we can embrace where we are but we have to be realistic as to where we are too. This deal for us is phenomenal – if you put it in the context of men’s sport it is probably not but we are on a different journey than men’s sport has been on.”
And therein lies the rub, women’s sport still faces a battle just for the back-page headlines, let alone the hundreds and millions of pounds swilling around as in men’s sport, and its stars battle for the lucrative endorsement deals and sponsorship.
“There has to be money, and real money too. In terms of a salary cap the difference between Australia is huge,” England international Serena Guthrie told Sky Sports in August.
“As much as we don’t like to make it about money, that is what will help the sport to grow. It will bring in better players, which will bring in better commercial deals. It all goes hand in hand.”
England Netball are to be applauded for how they have gone about growing the Superleague, and promoting the national team but it should represent a star and, a first step on the journey.
The reality is that the ten Superleague teams face an incredible battle just to put a squad in place on salary caps that are dwarfed by their Australian counterparts and the hope must be that the headline sponsorship can filter down to the franchises as they seek the support to lure the best players in the sport to the UK.
“Latterly we have seen more brands coming to us, which has been absolutely fantastic,” says Adams.
“That has absolutely helped us a lot but it is the same as any other sales process – you probably do your cold calling, get people who are interested, put a presentation forward and hopefully it goes from there.
“You honestly start the process as soon as you signed it three years previously, you are already starting to think where is the next [investment] coming from. Especially in women’s sport and this moment in time. But we actually started the process of renegotiation in January 2018 and we actually concluded it just before the Commonwealth Games.”
Just over six months ago, England wrote their names into the history books with the victory over Australia on the Gold Coast to claim an historic netball gold – the result has been an outpouring of netball fever.
A recent survey from YouGov showed that more than 130,000 adult women have started playing netball, or playing more netball, the Roses players are seen as an inspiration and TV viewing of the sport is on the up.
The opportunity is there with the on-court success, participation and audience, it now falls to others to support the sport in the way its success merits.
On Tuesday’s Sportswomen show the panel of Kelly Sotherton, Fiona McIntyre and Lisa Parfitt discussed the growing opportunities for sponsorship in women’s sport.
The Vitality Superleague returns in January with a bumper start to the season on January 5 – all ten teams are in action and all five games will be shown live on Sky Sports.
Stick with us through the off-season as we reflect on the campaign, track the England internationals and the latest player movements ahead of a huge 2019 which will feature another thrilling Superleague season and the Netball World Cup.
You can now receive all the latest Vitality Superleague news and more on your personal devices. The Sky Sports mobile app will keep you up to date with the latest news from your favourite sports, including netball – here’s how to receive the alerts you want.