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What is to sponsor? Definition and meaning

To sponsor means to support something, an event, activity or person, usually with money. The person, organization or entity that provides the funding is called ‘the sponsor’. The entity may also help fund the activities and purchases of an athlete, musician, dancer, theater company, or even a boxer.

The term may also refer to the advertiser that pays either in part or in full for the cost of broadcasting a TV or radio program by running adverts just before and during its broadcast. For example, during the introduction of each episode of a TV soap opera, a fictitious company may make the following announcement: “This series is sponsored by John Doe shampoo.”

Important events usually have a couple of partners and several sponsors. For example, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament in Brazil, the official partners were VISA, Hyundai-Kia, Sony, Emirates, Coca-Cola and Adidas, while the official sponsors were Johnson and Johnson, Marfrig, Yingli Solar, Castrol, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Continental, and some others. They contributed money towards the creation and running of the event, and in return had billions of people across the world see their logos.

Wimbledon Tennis sponsorThe Wimbledon Tennis Championships are greatly sought after by companies because of the global audience, estimated at over one billion people. Add to that the nearly half-a-million attendees throughout the tournament and online conversations, and you have a marketeer’s dream environment. (Image: adapted from

Since 2014, Nissan, Japan’s second-largest car-maker, has been an official sponsor of the Champions League, Europe’s most important club football (soccer) tournament.

Charity: if you plan to raise money for charity by running a marathon, you will talk to your friends, family, work colleagues and neighbors inviting them to contribute money for every mile you run. These people are your sponsors.

Legislation: a lawmaker who initiates a bill in the hope that it will eventually become an Act is the leading sponsor of that bill.

According to the Financial Times Lexicon, sponsor is:

(Verb) To give money to pay for a television program, a sports or arts event, training etc, in exchange for advertising or to get public attention. To officially support a proposal or suggestion.”

(Noun) A person or company that pays for a television program, a sports or arts event, training etc, in exchange for advertising or to get public attention. Someone who officially introduces or supports a proposal or suggestion.”

FIFA World Cup sponsorAccording to Football Marketing Magazine: “FIFA’s sponsorship structure guarantees to each sponsor exclusivity within its product category (only one soft drink producer, only one car manufacturer, only one airline, etc.). This allows the sponsors to distinguish themselves from competitors in their industries.”

Sponsorships are usually dealt with by a company’s marketing department.

Sponsor vs. philanthropist

When you sponsor something you fund it but expect a commercial return – this is not the case with philanthropy. A philanthropist donates money and expects nothing in return.

When a company sponsors a sporting event, it expects to have access to the exploitable commercial potential associated with that tournament, contest, race, etc.

Even though sponsorship may deliver awareness, brand building and even encourage consumers to purchase, it is not the same as advertising. With sponsorship, specific product attributes are not mentioned, unlike advertising. Sponsorship cannot stand alone – it requires support elements.

Sponsor types

Title Sponsor: this is the top status of sponsorship. In most cases, the company’s name or logo is placed next to the name of the competition, and possibly on the competitors’ kit.

General Sponsors: they usually contribute at least 50% of the sponsorship funds if there is no Title Sponsor.

Sponsors of the Rio Olympic Torch RelayCoca-Cola, Nissan and Bradesco were the presenting partners for the Rio Olympic Torch Relay – a 12,000 kilometer journey that started in May 2016. (Image: adapted and translated from

Official Sponsors: these organizations contribute between 20% and 25% each of all funds. Sometimes they are named partners if they are the only ones from that sector, as in ‘official automotive partner’ or ‘official banking partner’.

Technical Sponsors: they partially or fully pay for goods and services, such as transportation, lodgings, fitness, medical equipment, etc.

Participating Sponsors: contribute up to 10% each of all the sponsorship money.

Informal Sponsors: these organizations provide information support by conduction PR-actions, media coverage, and other supporting activities.

Gordon Getty sponsor quoteGordon Getty, an American entrepreneur, investor, classical music composer and philanthropist, the 4th child of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, once said: “If you have more money than you need, you have to give it away. It’s a duty. I get to choose whom to sponsor, and I like to give to the areas that I know something about.” (Image:

Sponsor for foreigners

In some countries, foreigners are not allowed to work or even visit without a local sponsor. In Saudi Arabia, for example, all foreigners must have a local sponsor in order to live or work there. Even if you want to go on vacation as a tourist to Saudi Arabia, you will still need a sponsor.

In the Middle East, a sponsor acts as a type of guardian as well as guarantor and must undertake all the paperwork on behalf of the foreigner, including applying for visas, opening bank accounts, signing a rental contract, etc.

In Saudi Arabia, a sponsor may be an individual, an institution or a company. If you want to do business there, you should research the local business environment and find a reputable individual or company to act as your sponsor – they will expect to be paid for their services.

According to

“The sponsorship system is an effective form of immigration control. As your sponsor is responsible for you and ‘takes the rap’ if you misbehave or contravene any regulations (which will also involve him in loss of ‘face’ in the community), he automatically checks that you’re reliable and trustworthy, as well as ensuring that you don’t inadvertently step out of line.”

“For this reason, your sponsor is an important source of help and advice and a valuable ‘ally’. Note that there is talk of the sponsorship requirement being waived in some states, particularly for foreigners wanting to set up businesses in the free trade zones, but this hadn’t happened at the time of publication.”

The term emerged in the English language in Britain during the 1650s. It came from Late Latin Sponsor ‘sponsor in baptism’, and the same word in Latin meaning ‘a surety, bondsman, guarantee.’

‘Sponsor’ in other languages: patrocinador (Spanish, Portuguese), sponsor (Italian, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Indonesian), Commanditaire (French), спонсор (Russian), スポンサー (Japanese), 赞助 (Chinese), كفيل (Arabi), प्रायोजक (Hindi), and mdhamini (Swahili).

Video – What is a sponsor?

In this video, a lawyer talks about sponsors in research and development of medications. The person who discovered or created a new active ingredient that has the potential to cure disease is its sponsor. He or she undertakes the compound’s development all the way to presenting it to the regulatory authorities, which in the USA is the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).