For years, we have heard from many different people in our sport, that the key to chess becoming more mainstream, or accessable, or popular is sponsorship. Sponsorship for the GMs and top players so that they can support themselves. Sponsorship to lower the cost for kids to participate. Sponsorship to headline tournaments, increasing prize funds and interest in the game. It has been a buzzword and holy grail for many a chess politician.
From a chess point of view, how is it that other things that don't qualify as sports like spelling bees and poker can find financial angels, but our game can't? Well, the single biggest thing is this, we don't market well, and have no idea how to showcase our strengths or even present an attractive product.
When I have met with corporations about sponsoring kids tournaments, the first question I get asked is about the demographics of chess players or their parents. I asked USCF if any studies or surveys had been done detailing this, and the answer was unfortunately no. So how can we expect a corporation that is donating money for advertising and goodwill, to throw money at us when we can't even tell them who US is? The problem is that developing a report on this to be handed out to prospective sponsors is quite expensive, and why it has not been done yet.
USCF would be well served to make this investment, as it will likely pay off in the long run. We do have plenty to offer sponsors. Our players are bright consumers that are attractive to many industries. We do have something to offer, we just need to find the right box and bows to wrap it up in nicely.