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Title Sponsors for National Teams?

4 months ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: John Pearson Media

Back in early June, Motorcycling Australia (MA) announced that RecoveR8 – an Australian-made sports supplement – would be the naming-rights sponsor of Australia’s International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) team later this year in Portugal. And to be honest, it’s grated on me ever since.

Not that I have anything against RecoveR8 – by all reports, the stuff performs miracles – or MA or Australia’s ISDE team. What doesn’t sit comfortably with me is the idea that a commercial brand can literally stand in front of the word Australia when it comes to one of our national sporting teams. And that feeling reminded me of an article I wrote a decade ago about exactly the same subject, only with different players. Check that article out below and let us know what you think of the issue.

NATIONAL TEAMS … UP FOR SALE?!

Should companies be offered naming-rights sponsorship of national sporting teams?

National sporting teams certainly cost a lot of money to transport around the world to fly the flag for Australia, so sponsors’ support to assist our representatives perform on the world stage is a fantastic thing. But I reckon the time has come to draw a line in the sand when it comes to what those sponsors are offered in return for their investment. Here’s my line: naming-rights sponsorship for sporting teams is open slather, so long as it’s not a national sporting team.

Before the lot of you call me naive and remote from the fact that we’re all in the grip of a worldwide economic crisis, and that any support for any sporting team is more than welcome, be aware I’m all for sponsors tipping coin and/or product into sporting teams – especially if there’s a nice ‘fit’ with their brand values. But when it comes to a national sporting team, of any sort, naming rights simply should not be an option on the table.

Rugby fans cringed for years as commentators dutifully referred to the Wallabies as the “Vodafone Wallabies”, and now they have to stomach the fact they’re called the “Qantas Wallabies”. The confusion between kangaroos and wallabies aside, it sounds pathetic and it demeans the team. Honestly, could you imagine the Kiwis calling their beloved All Blacks the “Adidas All Blacks”?! Of course not! They’re way too proud for that. They also understand implicitly that a national sporting team represents a country, not a corporation.

“A national sporting team represents a country, not a corporation!”

The reason this issue comes to mind is a recent press release that informed me that Motorcycling Australia (MA) awarded Wellard – a Perth-based rural and resources company – naming-rights sponsorship to the 2009 Australian International Six-Days Enduro (ISDE) Team that heads to Portugal in mid October. I don’t know anyone from Wellard, but I do know that mid-way through last season, they came on board as a major sponsor of the Ballard’s Wellard Yamaha team and are passionate supporters of off-road racing. That’s great news for enduro vet, Geoff Ballard, and his packed-to-the-rafters team of title-winning off-road chargers, and it’s terrific to see outside-industry sponsorship coming into the sport. But should MA, the sport’s administrative body, have handed over naming rights to the Aussie ISDE team in return for Wellard’s financial, logistical and technical support? Is there something better, and more appropriate, MA could have offered Wellard?

I’m not suggesting Wellard’s support for the Aussie team is not welcome or needed; I think it’s a great thing for everyone concerned. What I am saying is that we need to consider whether they ought to be offered other benefits in return for that support; benefits other than naming rights. You never know; there may be a way of offering Wellard something that’s a whole lot more value.

What’s your take on the issue?


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