4 Negotiating Techniques for the Modern Sports Organisation

Negotiation should be a fact of life in the modern sporting organisation. There exists a wide range of circumstances where management should be bargaining with counterparties to get a better deal for their organisation. This could be when dealing with partner and sponsorship agreements, broadcasting rights, event hosts and even members. In fact, it is arguable that situations involving bargaining are more varied and diverse for sporting organisations than they are even for traditional businesses. If your organisation is not negotiating, then it probably should be and you are most likely missing an opportunity.

However, negotiation is not an easy process. For many managers it is not a skill that comes naturally – it has to be learned and tailored over time. A reluctance to enter into what is seen as a confrontational situation means that many managers avoid negotiation and are therefore missing out on potential gains to be made.

So what advice can a novice negotiator look to when entering into such a situation? What can help make the process easier for them, as well as the counterparty sitting across the table? Below is a selection of hints and tools that can smooth the negotiation process and help your organisation take away more from the bargaining table.


  1. Be an active listener

This may seem like an obvious one but being a good listener is extremely important during the negotiating process. A good negotiator knows not only what the other person wants from a factual point of view, but also how they feel about different elements of the potential bargain. Knowing what the other person wants and sensing where and how they may be willing to make concessions is vital in any successful bargaining process.


  1. Demonstrate empathy

Simply knowing how the other person feels about their own position is not everything. It helps if you can also show empathy with your counterparty. By demonstrating a level of understanding with the person across the table, they will become more comfortable in dealing with you. They may be more willing to make a compromise a result. Simple ways to demonstrate empathy in bargaining situations is to avoid talking about your own position, to be an active listener as outlined above and to genuinely try to put yourself in the shoes of the other individual.


  1. Highlight your concessions

Almost every negotiation will involve some element of compromise. You are likely to have to concede ground on certain conditions, otherwise it wouldn’t be a negotiation at all. You need to make it very clear when you are giving up something in pursuit of agreement. This will set a marker and will automatically appeal to the counterparty’s socially-wired tendency to reciprocate.


  1. Segregate your concessions

Your concessions will be like mini-wins for the counterparty. By you giving up something, they are gaining something. The human brain automatically responds more to a series of small wins than from one big win. As a result, it helps to divide up your concessions and spread them out over the negotiation. By segregating concessions throughout the negotiation, you will increase the chances of the counterparty reciprocating on the other areas you are looking to make inroads into.


By keeping these 4 hints and tips in mind, managers can enter into negotiation situations confident that they enjoy an automatic head start. This can make the prospect of negotiating with suppliers, partners and other parties less daunting. Remember, if you don’t feel the need for negotiation in your various dealings at your organisation, you are probably missing some wonderful opportunities!


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Dan O'Toole
7 December, 2015

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Dan O'Toole, TSE Consulting
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While these organisations often engage in a significant amount of selling leading to revenue generation, they are also frequently reliant on the sourcing of funds from other external parties. A good start is to consider what the individuals behind these effectively unilateral funds consider when parting with their money. What traits do they seek in a recipient? What decision criteria to they consider when assessing how much is appropriate?


As of January 17, 2018, all international activities of TSE Consulting have been integrated into Burson-Marsteller Sport.

This new expansion and investment in sport will provide clients with new resources and new services. As such, Burson-Marsteller Sport will include services including Campaigning & International Relations, Crisis Management & Corporate Communication. Event Strategy Development & Evaluation, Destination Marketing & Event Host Communication, Sport Strategy & Policy Development, and Training & Knowledge Transfer. Read more:

Burson-Marsteller Sport is the sport unit of Burson-Marsteller. Burson-marsteller, established in 1953, is a leading global strategic communications and public relations firm. It provides clients with strategic thinking and program execution across a full range of public relations, public affairs, reputation and crisis management, advertising and digital strategies. The firm’s seamless worldwide network consists of 77 offices and 85 affiliate offices, together operating in 110 countries across six continents. Burson-Marsteller is a part of Young & Rubicam Group, a subsidiary of WPP (NASDAQ: WPPGY), the world’s leader in communications services. For more information, please visit