odt tabRugby: New naming sponsor for Highlanders

Steve Hepburn on Tuesday, 1 December 2015 

A new naming sponsor for the Highlanders, coupled with new ownership, does not signal a sudden loosening of the purse strings for the franchise.

The Highlanders yesterday announced a major naming sponsor for the franchise, following the news last Friday private investors had bought into the organisation.

Pulse Energy, an energy retailer providing gas and electricity, whose majority shareholder is South Island-based Buller Electricity, was yesterday named as the major sponsor of the Highlanders in a three-year deal.

The company's logo will feature on the front of the side's playing jersey.

BNZ was on the front of all five New Zealand franchises for the past five years but that deal came to an end at the finish of the 2015 season.

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said the logo space was bought by the five franchises and each had gone out and sold it to separate companies.

Clark said sponsorship was a key part of any sporting business and that was especially so in a franchise such as the Highlanders.

''With the small population we have here, then sponsorship becomes more important than in the bigger areas,'' he said.

''It is a significant deal and brings us in line with our competitors. We did not get anything from the BNZ deal so this is a significant boost for the Highlanders.''

He declined to put a value on the deal.

The University of Otago has also signed on for another three years and will have its name on the back of the jersey as it has for the past couple of years.

Another sponsor for the bottom of the back of the jersey should be announced by Christmas.

Clark said winning the title last season had helped sell sponsorship but it was more about what the franchise stood for and whether the company and franchise fitted together.

Clark said the investment of private ownership and new sponsors helped the side be competitive but the franchise had not lost sight of what it stood for.

''At the end of the day we have got to make a dollar. Build a solid base. We can't be living year to year and living hand to mouth. We've been doing that for 20 years really. Ever since the Highlanders existed they've been known for doing that.

''We want to build up a sustainable base. But in saying that we won't be going out and spending money for the sake of spending money. We've got to spend more money to remain competitive.

''But we have to realise the adversity we have faced over the years is one of our points of difference. Something that has helped us in the past, has been a strength of ours.''

Clark said the deal with Pulse Energy had come about after 18 months of negotiations and was a good fit for the franchise and the business.

New Zealand Rugby and the Highlanders announced last Friday, private investors, led by Dunedin businessman Matthew Davey, had taken a 77% stake in the Highlanders. Provincial unions would hold a 13% stake and New Zealand Rugby would hold 10%.

The original article may be viewed here.