Volleyball - 27 May 2013 - By Callum Murray in St Petersburg
The FIVB, volleyball’s world governing body, has signed its first-ever main title sponsorship deal with Honda, the Japanese car giant, while using specialist consultants to improve the sport’s television appeal, Ary Graça, the recently-elected president of the FIVB, announced today.
Making the announcement on the sidelines of the SportAccord convention in St Petersburg, Graça said: “We have signed a huge partnership with Honda. For the first time, the FIVB will have a title or main sponsor.”
Graça said that the deal was brokered on the FIVB’s behalf by Dentsu, the Japanese advertising company. He said: “Our contact was with Dentsu, one of the biggest marketing companies in the world. It’s not only the money, the most important thing is what they’re [Honda] going to do using our name, together with the car. They will make publicity for cars all over Europe, but they’re also going to talk about volleyball.”
Honda, as official partner of the FIVB, will sponsor events including the Women’s Volleyball World Championship in Italy in 2014, the World League, the World Grand Prix, the Club World Championships and the Beach Volleyball World Championships, which will take place in Poland on July 1 to 7.
In a statement, Graça said: “For the first time ever, the FIVB has signed a partnership with an international brand across both disciplines [indoor and beach volleyball]. This step represents a major milestone for the FIVB and it is part of the new era for the federation following the success of our sport at London 2012. Honda will help us to accomplish our mission to ensure excellence in all aspects of the sport. The FIVB is committed to constantly innovating our sport to make it more spectacular, entertaining and engaging for fans, whichever way they consume the sport. Our aim is to provide sports entertainment for live audiences through all forms of traditional and new media platforms.”
Meanwhile, Graça said that the FIVB has engaged experts and consultants to study possible changes to the rules of the sport to increase its appeal to television. The FIVB intends to test possible rule changes at events this summer, with a view to their introduction in time for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Having already introduced ‘entertainment’ elements to the sport via beach volleyball, which were much acclaimed at last year’s London Olympics, the federation is keen to extend some of these to indoor volleyball, while also finding ways of ensuring that matches do not extend beyond two hours in duration.
Graça said: “We have to change our mentality, to modernise using our experience in beach volleyball, where we introduced the idea of entertainment, a show.”
The FIVB anticipates that beach volleyball, taking place at its spiritual home of Copacabana beach, will be one of the defining images of the 2016 Rio games, and is keen that indoor volleyball should not trail behind in its shadow.
Michael Payne, the IOC’s former marketing director, and now a sports industry consultant, recently signed up as an adviser to the FIVB.
He said: “The FIVB pioneered entertainment in beach volleyball, less so in indoor volleyball. Beach volleyball will be the poster child for the Rio games, on Copacabana beach. It’s at the forefront of the entertainment agenda. But there are already internal think-tanks about changes to the [indoor] sport.” These, Payne said, would include “more certainty for broadcasters.”
Fernando Lima, the former sports director at Brazil’s TV Globo, and now a broadcasting consultant to the FIVB, added: “We’re discussing how the sport should be formatted for the future. There are lots of airtime opportunities but it must become a more time-controlled sport. Out of 96 matches [recently studied], more than 30 per cent extended far beyond two hours, and this becomes a big problem for TV to programme.
“The sport must become more predictable. We’re going to test new rules this year to become more time-controlled. For example, the interval – the time between a point being scored and the next serve – has become very long, increasing from an average of 10 to 25 seconds. We believe that volleyball is so spectacular that we will help spectators if we can deliver a more accelerated game.”
Other possible changes, Lima said, include shortening sets from the present duration of first to 25 points and speeding up substitutions of players during games.
Lima told Sportcal: “Right now beach volleyball is much more entertaining off the court [than indoor volleyball]. Music, dancing and rhythm have generated a new kind of sports show. In indoor volleyball, the entertainment aspect was, not left behind, but it was more important for indoor volleyball to follow tradition, and there is a lot of protocol. What the FIVB is doing now is discussing that protocol, and trying to find solutions for an entertainment concept: more music, when appropriate, and attractions for the audience.
“But there are two big discussions: how to make it more time-controlled, taking place within two hours; and how to keep the ball flying for more time. There is excitement when there is a big save, and the rally keeps going; the more the rally extends, the better the action is. So how do you get more extended rallies? We’ve already listened to coaches, players, our own TV commission – all of the sport’s stakeholders.”
Payne added that the FIVB is also examining “the trends of urban sports. Volleyball is one of the easiest sports to take into an urban environment.” The question the federation is trying to answer, he said is: “How do you make it more accessible and take it to countries that historically would never have thought of it?”
Asked if there is a danger of indoor volleyball being marginalised by the success of beach volleyball, Graça said: "This is my concern. In the last 20 years, 90 per cent of FIVB income belongs to five countries: Japan, Brazil, Poland, Italy, and a fifth one that is always changing. We need to spread it out to other countries.”
Brazil’s Graça was elected the new president of the FIVB in the federation’s first-ever democratic presidential election in September last year.
Graça succeeded China’s Jizhong Wei, who said at the time of his election in 2008 that he would serve just one four-year term, compared with the 24 years served by his predecessor Ruben Acosta, who was unopposed in various elections.
Acosta’s tenure proved controversial, especially towards the end, as it emerged that he received between 5 and 10 per cent commission on all sponsorship contracts signed during his presidency.