End of era for SA rugby?

2014-11-23 16:00

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South African rugby may be in danger of losing one of its oldest and biggest sponsors.

Word in the sports marketing industry is that Absa, under pressure from British principals Barclays, have given SA Rugby notice that they may not renew their backing of the Springboks (the bank’s logo appears on the jerseys) and the Currie Cup.

Absa’s backing of the local competition is one of the longest-running sports sponsorships in the country, having started out as the Bankfin Currie Cup.

Although the value of the banking group’s sponsorship has never been openly declared, there is no doubt it is substantial and the loss would be a major blow to the SA Rugby Union (Saru).

Potential sponsors are in short supply and getting a logo on the green-and-gold jersey comes at a hefty price, while the Currie Cup, which includes a lucrative prize kitty, is also a big-ticket item.

Given the emotional connection many Absa clients have with rugby, jettisoning the sport is obviously a sensitive issue.

When contacted, Absa would neither confirm or deny that their association with local rugby may be ending.

“Absa’s sponsorship of the Springbok national team and the Absa Currie Cup tournament ends in 2015 and discussions are currently under way between ourselves and Saru in respect of the future of our sponsorship relationship,” said David Wingfield, the head of marketing at Barclays Africa Group.

“We are consistently reviewing our sponsorship portfolio in line with our ever-changing business imperatives and objectives,” he added.

Developments will also be closely monitored in soccer circles, as the bank sponsors the local Premier Soccer League.

It is claimed Absa paid well over the actual value to secure this property and a source in the sports marketing world claims Barclays have long been unhappy with their South African subsidiary’s spending on sports sponsorships.

The rugby World Cup, to be played in England in just more than a year’s time, has heightened this dissatisfaction as one of the tournament regulations is that team jerseys may not display the logos of their domestic sponsors.

Absa also sponsors the Cape Epic off-road mountain bike race.

Last year, the bank ended its relationship with the SA Football Association as one of Bafana Bafana’s sponsors.

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