‘Sport has transformed society’s attitudes towards women’ | Pete Giorgio, Deloitte

SportBusiness Sponsorship speaks to Pete Giorgio, global and US sports practice leader, Deloitte, to understand the firm’s growing sponsorship presence and its deal with the WNBA in particular

What’s important: Opportunities for mutual value creation and for sports organisations to become clients

Decision-making: Deloitte Global for global deals and US brand team for US sponsorships

Target sports: Olympic and Paralympic sport, football, tennis, basketball, golf, women’s sports

Target markets: Deloitte and its sports practice are global businesses

Over the last decade, Big Four professional services firm Deloitte has almost doubled its revenue, from $31.3bn (€28.7bn) in the 2012 fiscal year to $59.3bn in 2022. The company’s growth trajectory has coincided with much higher levels of sponsorship activity.

In April 2022, the Deloitte Global brand struck a decade-long, five-Games Worldwide partner (TOP) agreement with the IOC through to 2032, and the US member firm’s brand team has also agreed to multiple national sponsorship investments in the US. The US team manages sponsorship deals overall with right-holders like the Women’s Basketball Association (WNBA), including brand storytelling, hospitality and overall asset implementation.

As leader of the company’s global and US sports practices, Pete Giorgio is responsible for deploying the company’s services to support teams and leagues, working with right-holders to address risk, maintain compliance, and take innovative decisions to sustain growth.

Giorgio has grown the practice significantly since he took over in 2015, making use of Deloitte’s expanding sports sponsorship platform to showcase the division’s expertise.

He has led Deloitte’s business relationship with the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Los Angeles – under a seven-year deal, signed in 2021, which made Deloitte the ‘Official Professional Services Provider’ of the LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In 2017, he helped forge the firm’s ongoing association with the United States Tennis Association (USTA), including sponsorship of the US Open and presenting sponsorship of the US Open Wheelchair Championships.

On top of these blue-chip properties, Deloitte has placed specific emphasis on supporting women’s sports, whether it be through Deloitte’s various sponsorships or through client work, spanning areas including customer strategy, analytics, fan engagement/experience, growth strategy, innovation and technology.

While the resolution of complex problems goes with the territory, Deloitte’s rationale for sponsoring is relatively simple. Giorgio told SportBusiness Sponsorship: “Our national sponsorship investments are intended to help build our brand, drive business through the creation of meaningful connections, and inspire our professionals. As a business-to-business professional services organisation, it’s important that the organisations we sponsor are often also our clients.”

Giorgio adds a further layer of criteria in the firm’s property identification process: “When assessing any new sponsorship opportunity, we focus largely on three questions. Does it support our overall sponsorship criteria? Is there alignment with our broader business objectives? And does it provide a point of impact beyond our existing portfolio? Looking at potential sponsorships through these lenses helps us understand where opportunities might exist for mutual value creation and determine whether the relationship would be a fit.”

(Photo by Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images).

Investment strategy

The firm’s focus on advancing women’s sport includes investments in football with the US Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and in golf with the US Women’s Open.

It has arguably been most effective, however, in its work with the WNBA, where the close relationship is emphasised by the fact former Deloitte chief executive Cathy Engelbert became commissioner in 2019. Deloitte was subsequently named as the WNBA’s official professional services provider in the league’s new ‘Changemaker’ top-tier sponsorship category.

Giorgio spearheaded and leads Deloitte’s professional services relationship with the WNBA, supporting the league’s efforts across everything from growth strategy to digital transformation. This includes leading research to diagnose and reverse the trend whereby young girls cease participating in organised sports, especially at the high school level. Within Deloitte, he has also led efforts to better engage female athletes who happen to work for the firm and launched a programme to create Deloitte internships for professional female athletes.

WNBA Changemaker

The company is also interested in sport’s ability to effect social change, one of the reasons why women’s sports are so valued. “Sports are more than just a game. They transcend cultural, social and economic differences and are a telling reflection of a society’s values, especially in the US. Over the last several years, women’s sports have not only grown their audiences and proven their value, but also helped transform society’s view on women and gender equity,” Giorgio said.

“The WNBA, arguably the most visible women’s professional basketball league in the world, has proven that supporting its players and encouraging them to authentically advocate for themselves (as well as the broader issues of race, gender, and LGBTQIA+ inequality and injustice), is a recipe for success. As a sponsor, we are helping elevate the voices of some of the WNBA’s players as they look to impact change in the game, their communities, and inspire the next generation of fans and players.”

For Deloitte, there were clear benefits of being part of the Changemaker programme, as opposed to a standard WNBA sponsor.

“One of the benefits of being a WNBA Changemaker is the collaboration we have with the WNBA and the collective of businesses that are part of the programme [Nike, US Bank, AT&T and Google]. Collectively, these organisations are focused on investing in the WNBA, growing the league, and telling the stories of multidimensional athletes on the court. While each Changemaker organisation provides its own perspective and approach, the collective is able to come together in support of those focus areas throughout the year to amplify efforts.

“As a Changemaker, we are [also] able to work more closely with the WNBA to guide their business transformation and really showcase the impact Deloitte is making. Within our organisation, we’ve been able to embody changemakers as a theme in our marketing and communications activations, a key role we highlight to our clients, professionals and the broader marketplace…We’re proud to be a WNBA Changemaker and work with Cathy and her team to unlock possibilities and guide business transformation, from short-term operational planning to long-term business strategy.”

Sponsorship assets

In terms of sponsorship assets, Deloitte’s requirements extend far beyond branding IP. “One of the most valuable things Deloitte finds in our sponsorships is the ability to support organisations like the WNBA with our innovation and tech-focused services, and showcase that work to business decision makers. Sports act as an enabler of sorts, allowing us the ability to highlight the breadth and depth of our capabilities in a unique way with a coveted buying audience.

“Beyond the ability to showcase impactful case studies, we look to engage Deloitte professionals, potential recruits, and WNBA fans, to drive an understanding of our services and highlight our purpose and values, via our marketing, advertising, and overall sponsorship programming. Moreover, collaborating with the WNBA to promote our custom business and brand storytelling creative on their social media has brought increased scale to our overall sponsorship activation.”

As Deloitte enter its fourth year as a WNBA Changemaker and ‘trusted advisor’ to the WNBA, Deloitte has been able to support the league across many projects from both a short-term operational perspective to long-term vision planning. “Beyond what fans see in the stands or on a broadcast, the WNBA’s business is a complex operation across finance, ticketing, marketing, operations, and more. At Deloitte, we’re excited to take our experience across industries, and with other sports organisations, to further help elevate the league beyond the court.

“We’ve seen the power of using business intelligence – understanding fan preferences, needs, and wants – to set the foundation for key priorities. One key project that Deloitte has supported the league with is their digital transformation to optimise the user experience and drive fan avidity for the WNBA, its teams, and players.”

Giorgio suggested that the WNBA sponsorship need not act in isolation from its other deals. “While we focus on ensuring we activate each of our sponsorships, we also look to find areas of compliment where multiples of our sponsorships can come together.”

SportBusiness has compiled an in-depth analysis of the commercial landscape in women’s sport, with a detailed breakdown of sponsorship valuations across the major properties, including the WNBA. To find out more about the report, click here.