In the first of a series of interviews with leading sponsors we talk to the man behind the Pinsent Masons sponsorship of British Handball, looking at how and why they got involved, what they did to make it work and what emerged within the business as a result of their involvement in sport.  Welcome to Making Sport work for Business.
In April 2011, Trevor Watkins attended a soccer conference to maintain his strong relationship with brands in the sport from Wembley Stadium to Manchester United.  A chance conversation though set in motion a partnership deal between his new law firm and a sport where you concede a foul if the ball touches your foot.  Such is the spark that can light up a sport looking to raise its profile.
The conversation grew into a partnership between Pinsent Masons, one of Britain’s largest and most successful law firms and the British Handball Association, responsible for what became the breakthrough sport at the London 2012 Olympics.
“We wanted to find a way we could help a sport towards the Olympics and beyond while building a sense of involvement around the Games among our employees and clients,” said Watkins, speaking to Sport for Business.
“Sport is a major part of our practice and is a unifying thread that links together staff across our different specialities.”
“Being involved with Team GB in both the men’s and women’s teams allowed us to build a real platform ahead of the games; getting involved with elite sport in an exciting and dynamic way without spending vast amounts of money but being able to see our investment of time, experience and financial support making a real difference.”
“We see ourselves as being innovative and look to stand out from the crowd.  This relationship was a perfect fit.”
“Expansion in Europe exposed us to the massive appeal of Handball on the continent in France, Germany and elsewhere.  We quickly struck up a real partnership with the people building the sport in Britain and we are now committed to working beyond the Games to really establishing what the Olympics started.”
“We initially supported the Pinsent Masons London Cup, bringing the sport to a wider local audience than had been the case.  Many of our own staff attended and have now become involved at local level around the country in helping to establish clubs and attract players.”
“This was never just about writing a cheque and hoping for the best.  We promoted the sport though our own networks, bringing along other clients and letting them see what was happening in Handball.”
“There was a ‘feel good factor’ about the Olympic participation and we invited BBC commentators John Inverdale and Clare Balding to events in order to create a sense that when we saw them on screen this summer we felt as though we were part of it all.”
“When we made the announcement of our relationship, alongside our friends at Collins Stewart Wealth Management, one of our staff members had an opportunity to play a match alongside the Team GB women’s national side.”
“That is the kind of experience that lives with you forever and that makes a partnership work at a very strong emotional level.”
“The next phase of our involvement will be important now that the sport is moving from the excitement and the bright lights of the Copper Box to the reality of building revenues and ensuring the right structures and processes are in place to put the sport on a solid footing.”
“This was our first involvement at national level within a sport and it has worked well for us.  The important things were to know what we wanted on the way in, to be able to involve all our staff and clients in the journey.”
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