Judo is one of the world's largest growing sports regarding popularity and participation. More and more people around the world are being exposed to Judo. More high profile Judokas are sprouting, and the investment in Judo seems to be growing every year. But are these investments directly impacting players? The gaps of individual Judo athletes that have sponsorship compared to those who don't seem to be only getting bigger.
Figure 1: Teddy Riner is a two-time Olympic champion. He is the French and European champion as well and has reached Superstar level in Judo and around the world.
It is important to note that Sponsorship is tied to commercialization. Big company sponsors want to ensure that their brand names will be seen by the largest audience possible. A fortune 500 company would be more inclined to sponsor a football team rather than a Judoka because of the amount of coverage football gets as compared to Judo. Therefore more people will see the company's name on a football jersey that on a judoka Gi.
Figure 2: Yokohama Tyres has sponsored Chelsea Football Clubs shirt and with more football viewers and channels than Judo a lot more people will see the brands name.
Figure 3: ThermoSoft Corporation has sponsored the American Judo team but with fewer views and fewer channels than football. More people have seen Yokohama Tyres as compared to ThermoSoft.
Some traditionalist Judo fans believe that sponsorship and commercialization ruin the integrity of the sport, and will increase deviance in Judo. Those against commercialization believe athletes will be more tempted to take performance enhancing drugs to have a competitive edge. Furthermore, they believe that the Governing national bodies in Judo are doing enough the International Judo Federation and the National governing bodies are covering the vacuum that major sponsorship deal would fill. On the other hand, some would argue that performance enhancing drugs are already in use. In addition, lack of support is taking its toll on professionals, who now have to work side jobs simultaneously. The truth is the majority of Judo stars are struggling to pay the bills. A lack of complete focus in a sport like Judo can be detrimental, without sponsorships the game may not attract the upcoming generations of athletes, and this would put Judo in decline. Sponsorship money would also be beneficial to governing bodies as well, with more money more awareness of the sport can be created especially in developing countries as the competition would become more attractive to future athletes.
The lack of sponsorship is telling. Athletes are now beginning to create websites and marketing their credentials as they desperately search for support. This is not an ideal situation for athletes. The need for sponsorship is not fuelled by greed either; sponsorship money is beneficial for expensive equipment and transport cost to the major events around the world and up-keep during the stay as well. Nowadays, the modern athlete is inspired by the passion and the glory but most importantly money has become a huge part of an athlete's decision and Judo may need to pay closer attention to this.