Why Great Britain's inspirational Paralympians offer a unique and economic sponsorship proposition

Tim Hollingsworth
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2014 Paralympic Winter Games - Day 3
Kelly Gallagher (right) and her guide Charlotte Evans (left) won Britain's first ever Paralympic gold at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi (Source: Getty)

This month marks a year before the start of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang and expectations for Great Britain's performance in South Korea are high following our most successful ever summer and winter Paralympics.

In Rio last year, we won 147 medals, coming second in the medal table. In Sochi in 2014, we topped more traditional winter sport powerhouses like Sweden, Norway and Switzerland in the medal table and won our first ever winter gold.

Our Paralympic team has developed into one of the country’s great sporting properties and, while I have no doubt that it does so, the strength of that property lies beyond inspiring disabled people to take up sport.

Instead, I believe the team’s real asset is its ability to tell non-disabled people something about themselves – and about the capabilities of the 11m disabled people around them.

Power and legitimacy

The almost unique ability of our Paralympians is to emphasise that positive and heighten our sense of what is possible.

Almost every athlete out there can tell a story of overcoming hurdles to become a sporting great, but few can do it with as much power and legitimacy as a Paralympian. They are genuinely inspiring people.

Commercial partners investing in our team harness that power.

Sainsbury’s, to give just one example, has found that its relationship with us has offered it a credible platform for engaging staff and shoppers alike, as well as driving brand awareness.

It can now talk persuasively about its support for the communities in which its staff and customers live and about the fact that – as well as supporting athletes – they have created a genuinely innovative programme of disability inclusion training for PE teachers.

Value for money

Our partners also recognise that investing in Paralympic athletes represents fantastic value for money in the crowded sports market.

In addition to aligning with national pride and sporting success, investment by a British brand in the Paralympics can therefore make a substantial impact on society and benefit from that association with a higher social purpose.

In a world as competitive as sport sponsorship, that is a very compelling reason to look to parasport.

It will be a while perhaps before our Paralympians are competing with Manchester United in the sponsorship market.

But they do offer something genuinely unique, that can not only excite us, but tell us something about ourselves and our attitudes to others.

As we look forward to watching our visually impaired skiers hurtling down the slopes in Korea next March, that is something to be excited and proud about.

Tim Hollingsworth is a judge for the BT Sport Industry Awards at Battersea Evolution on 27 April. Find out more at www.sportindustry.biz/awards

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