How France’s innovative sponsorship models can help relieve grass-roots sports

Fri, 18 Sep, 2020

Weakened by the Covid-19 crisis, many companies are likely to reduce their investments in sponsorship this year. The backlash for the sporting world will be tangible, adding up to the loss of revenue due to decimation of the sports calendar.

While this global crisis will affect the whole industry, a major cause for concern is the future of amateur clubs, which are far more numerous and much more fragile than professional clubs.

These sports associations have lost a significant part of their regular income: loss of membership and licensing fees due to non-renewal, cut in public subsidies, withdrawal of local sponsors.

Most amateur clubs depend on these “small” sponsors: local retailers, the neighbourhood restaurant or bar - the very businesses that were at the frontline of the Covid-19 crisis and were forced to close for many months. For these small businesses, sponsorship deals are obviously one of the first budget items to be sacrificed to weather the storm.

According to a recent impact assessment from the French think tank Sport & Citoyenneté, the average loss per amateur club due to the pandemic is €10,210. Being non-profit by nature, these clubs have very limited reserves and often rely solely on the support of passionate volunteers. This economic crisis will result in the bankruptcy of many sports associations, in turn damaging the very fabric of sports in Europe.

Not all doom and gloom

But the current crisis doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, and today’s context can be an opportunity to rethink the financing model of sports, make it more sustainable, and consider new ways to stimulate both public and private sector investments.

We believe that the sports betting industry in particular can play a significant part in supporting the sports industry during this time of hardship.

Through their tax contribution first.

In France, both lottery games and sports betting revenues directly contribute to the budget of the National Sports Agency (ANS), which in turn subsidises sports clubs at local levels.

Some members of the French Parliament have recently suggested increasing the share of these “Sports taxes” that actually funds the Sports agency: only 15% of the Sports tax on betting today, while the rest actually goes to the State budget.

As an industry, sports betting relies on the development of a healthy and performant sports ecosystem. Promoting a virtuous tax system that supports grassroots sports is certainly worth exploring, as it can help add more value to the whole ecosystem of sports.

But gambling operators alongside other private investors can also make a difference through the sponsorship of amateur clubs.

While it’s easy for big, national sponsors to sign with big, national sports teams, Kindred has been experimenting since 2019 with an innovative sponsorship model to support grassroots sports in France.


 #AuCoeurDuFootball (#AtTheHeartOfFootball) is a large-scale sponsoring operation that enabled Unibet to equip 235 local French clubs and 11 200 players in football kits over the last 2 years.

More than just a financial relief, this initiative shined a national spotlight on the selected teams, proudly displaying their professional kits on social media. The clubs are highlighted on Unibet's channels with campaigns such as the "best celebration" challenge, allowing the selected team to be awarded a special feature produced by a professional filming crew.

With partner La Centrale du Sport, the success of the operation continues to be overwhelming: for “Season 2”, 6 000 clubs applied on the Unibet platform, demonstrating the huge potential of national sponsors supporting local teams.

The motto for Unibet is “By Players, For Players” – with our support to the local football clubs we really show the community that we stand by those words.


  • Adrien Julian
    Public Affairs Manager France