Shire chairman Tony Ford accepts it is hard going trying to raise the kind of revenue that will make a difference to their on-the-field fortunes next season but he says there are hopeful signs.
“We accept that football sponsorship income generally will be hit by the economic downturn being experienced across all sectors,” he said. “But, that aside, it is still great to see there are firms out there who are prepared to get involved.
“The Shire have managed to attract some great corporate sponsors, some of whom, like AiiB Consulting, are new to it and others who have been with us for years.
“We are sure they have all got something out of it and we would say to anyone who is interested to come and talk to us and we will show you how helping the club can assist your business,” he said.
Earlier in the year the club’s main sponsor, Foxlane Garden Centre, came back on board for a fourth year and Tony says it is that kind of loyalty that, in an age where commercial income is so important, that helps keep the Shire afloat.
“Of course it helps that Foxlane owner Gordon Henderson has been Shire-daft since he was a youngster,” said the chairman. “But we must also be careful that we give value for money back to those companies who support the Shire so generously.
“We value our sponsors and it is important that we treat their investment with respect. It is not the same as giving money to someone for a sponsored marathon; people want some kind of commercial benefit in return and even though we are a small club we can offer the benefits of being a nationwide brand.”
Ford and his fellow directors have gone to some lengths in the close season to growing its commercial sponsorship base, producing a full-colour brochure full of ways to attract more businesses into partnership, but selling it has relied on more traditional methods.
“Our operation has been pretty low-tech,” he admitted. “We have gone back down the old-fashioned route of tramping the streets, knocking on doors and talking to local business.
“And we are certainly more than willing to talk to anyone who is interested in sponsoring the Shire.”
His desire to grow the club’s relationship with business is, Ford says, an everyday necessity now for football clubs. The Shire chairman would still like to see more fans come through the turnstiles but accepts that the kind of funds needed to keep the club afloat are not going to come from gate receipts.
“We have had an encouraging response to our season ticket offer and the club has already sold more adult season tickets than it did in the whole of last season,” he said.
“It is great that our fans are showing confidence in the club despite what we went through last season and we want as many as possible to come to our games.
“However, we have to be realistic and we know there is a finite audience out there, which is the same for every club.
“We are doing our best to grow crowds by keeping prices as low as possible and are trying to reach out to new audiences all the time, but the reality is that corporate sponsorship is becoming increasingly important in running the business,” said Ford.
Anyone who wants to talk sponsorship with the Shire can contact chairman Tony Ford on 07933 956966 or Commercial Director Trudy Wilson on 07870 507801.