Get it before it's hot - Buy into Jamaican sports early

By Shamille Scott Business reporter

Friday, July 20, 2012    

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Companies are being urged to bet on local athletes long before they make it big internationally.

Corporate sponsorship will not only help them at a critical development stage but could also lead to increased product sales, by Bruce James' reckoning.

But local companies often get in after athletes have made an impression on the world circuit, started earning and collected a few medals.

"Jamaicans do not believe in the value of sports but, look to the external justification (foreigners) to highlight its role," said Carole Beckford, president of The Business of Sport — a conference that focuses on areas that contribute to the development of sports.

"We have the greatest athletes in the world; we have little issue with technology and talent, but the trust factor is lacking," she said.

Puma's more than eight-year relationship with Usain Bolt exemplifies how businesses can benefit from buying in early.

After signing the 'world's fastest man' in 2004, it wasn't until the Beijing Olympics in 2008, when Bolt secured triple gold in world-record performances, that the German apparel company started to see its sales grow as a result.

It currently sees 35 per cent of its earning from sportswear, and sees Bolt as key to increasing that proportion to 40 per cent during the Summer Games.

Jamaica currently has a crop of high-performing athletes emerging at the Boys' and Girls' Championships level, many of whom may end up having a 10-year long career in track.

And even while there is a shift away from shipping off local athletes to North America to train and attend universities, by James' estimation, the country is yet to develop the support for athletes in areas such as the legal, banking and medical services.

"More physical therapists are needed to treat athletes; more bankers to provide financial advice and more nutritionists to guide the athletes are still needed," said the president of the MVP Track Club.

Importing training equipment and gear for the athletes also proves, according to Beckford. She said until there is a clearly defined tool of trade for the athletes, coaches will not obtain what is needed to develop the over 400 athletes that Jamaica has.

"If some manufacturing equipment can come into the island with ease then sports equipment should too," she said. Beckford also believes the development of some sporting facilities will unlock the economic value of Jamaican sports.

Needless to say, track and field isn't the only opportunity to benefit from sports while development it.

The Business of Sports president said that footballers and cricketers are better paid generally.





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