Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sponsorship in chess

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.


Steven Craig Miller said...

IMO the real problem is that chess is not a spectator sport. We have no bleachers, and it is hard for even parents to watch their own children play chess. What is needed is DGT boards & computer projectors at every tournament, with a strong charismatic chess player giving a move by move commentary on the top boards.

Reno Provine said...

Hello, I agree that chess has done a horrible job of marketing. I only go to chess tournaments because of my daughter but I have made it a point to try and talk to some different tournament directors and see how I can help promote the game.

I purchased a DGT board and clock, and a projector for one director so that he can use them at the top board for his tournaments but I never heard back from him. I have suggested that I would purchase the Monroi tournament item as well, but didn't get feedback from that other than it was difficult to run and didn't work well. I have offered to add some additional purses, subsidize larger rooms where needed, etc.

I am really interested in helping someone in Illinois who is promoting both scholastic and potentially international (ie FIDE, etc.). The problem is I'm not a chess player but I like it enough to take my daughter everywhere:-) and starting to write a book as well.

If a tournament director out there is truly interested in starting a unique chess club that focuses on technology, wonderful environment,chess training, etc. please contact me.

You must also be interested in scholastic as the main reason I would do this is for my daughter who is 9.

Ideally this would be in the Plainfield/Joliet/Naperville area, or potentially the Darien/Lemont area (where my office building is).

There is already enough chess action up north:-)

Anyway interested parties can contact me at rprovine@ganconference.com if you are truly interested in making something happen.


glennpan said...


Especially being a Southwest suburban guy, what you say has a lot of interest to me! Please drop me a line, I would love to chat about it.