Betfred’s sponsorship of the World Championship has ended with the 2012 tournament, the last of their original four-year deal.
It is believed to be an amicable parting of the ways. World Snooker thinks the sponsorship is worth much more than Betfred paid due to the increase in global TV rights.
However, Betfred’s business is primarily British-based, so the worth of this additional exposure in markets in the Far East and beyond is questionable to them.
Betfred were terrifically enthusiastic sponsors for the game’s leading event. It was a good deal for them and the sport.
However, professional snooker is a business and it is down to World Snooker’s commercial team to get the best deal they can.
Barry Hearn is considering a sealed bids process for companies interested in sponsoring the World Championship.
It remains a huge sporting event. It carries 17 days live BBC television coverage in the UK, goes to 59 countries on Eurosport, is broadcast live on Chinese TV and in other territories.
I understand World Snooker is seeking a non-bookmaking sponsor for the championship. There is some concern that the game is putting its eggs in the same basket, as it largely did with tobacco sponsorship.
But sponsors are hard to come by in the current economic climate. Hearn did secure BGC, a finance firm, for last season’s Masters but there is no news on whether they have renewed.
If bookmakers want to give the sport money then they should be welcomed. Betfair’s support of the Shootout is encouraging. There are other sponsorship deals to be announced after the Olympics.
What do sponsors want?
Exposure, certainly, but also a positive association with their brand.
They also want a sprinkle of stardust and reflected glory. The harsh truth is that most CEOs would rather be teeing off in a pro-am with Tiger Woods or posing for pictures with Rafael Nadal than hanging out with snooker players.
But the World Championship is different. It is the one tournament followed by those who take little interest in snooker throughout the year.
The much vaunted 18.5m BBC2 figure for the conclusion of the 1985 final – endlessly trotted out by parochial Brits, usually as a weapon with which to attack the modern game – has long since been dwarfed by the worldwide viewing figures.
So this sponsorship is an opportunity for a global brand to associate itself with a much loved sporting event which lasts 17 days, plus all the qualifying and build-up.
They will have to pay the right price for it but it will be worth it for them and, hopefully, for the sport too.