Social enterprise sponsors Sport Relief

Now a part of the fabric of British society and one of only two annual telethons broadcast on the BBC, Sport Relief will this year be sponsored by a social enterprise – leisure group provider GLL.

Sport Relief is part of the charity Comic Relief and is a biennial event which alternates with Comic Relief’s other big fundraiser, Red Nose Day. In 2014 Sport Relief raised £70m, with the money being distributed evenly between projects in the UK and abroad. Projects are varied and encompass everything from funding mental health services to providing vaccines and supporting mental health services.

Steve Ward is associate director of marketing, sales and ecommerce at GLL; he’s also chairman of the board. He described the partnership with Sport Relief as a natural fit: “If you look at what Sport Relief are about, the audience types that they go after, what they try and raise money for and how they embed themselves in communities, it links really well with what GLL try to do.”

Ward expanded on his theme when he considers the leisure providers Sport Relief had previously partnered with: “If you look at Sport Relief and where 50% of the fundraising goes into the UK, it’s largely in areas of deprivation; they’re largely where your Fitness Firsts and your David Lloyds are not. These areas are where we have facilities, in the heart of communities with challenges such as high unemployment and low physical activity.”

One of GLL’s stated aims is ‘providing access to quality community leisure and fitness facilities… at a price everyone can afford.’ Typically a GLL leisure centre will offer a range of memberships from all-inclusive paying annually or monthly to seven day passes that enable people to try different activities. Access is also available ad hoc with requiring membership.

We want to get more people involved in buying social, that’s key for us through this

That GLL is a social enterprise certainly helped persuade Sport Relief into a partnership but not before Ward had gone to them at an early stage to conduct a social enterprise learning session to help promote understanding of what that meant. “It was an eye opener – their knowledge of social enterprise was limited. I think they now see the social enterprise field as a long-term partner for them," he said.

Ward is as passionate about banging the drum for social enterprise as he is about the partnership: “We see a long term partnership between Sport Relief and GLL, where social enterprise can really demonstrate its value to a charity.”

He said that 84% of people know what Sport Relief is in the UK and of those, “38% would prefer to buy from a partner organisation," of the charity. Ward continued, "We want people to use social enterprise, we want to attract that audience. We want to get more people involved in buying social, that’s key for us through this.”

As part of the sponsorship, GLL has committed to raise £500,000. Some of its 10,000 staff will be taking part in sponsored activities, such as marathon walks and 31 mile swims. Alongside those, customers are contributing in a multitude of ways – everything from bake sales to 'bounceathons' in the trampoline parks.

For more information about getting involved, visit the GLL or Sport Relief websites.