If stories in today’s news are to be believed, MTN are set to further swell the Lions’ already stuffed coffers. An announcement from the union next week should confirm that the cellular giant are about to come on-board as main sponsor, to the tune of R20 million a year. That, by the way, is just a fraction more money each year than the Lions have offered Beast Mtawarira.
This all sounds peachy in theory, until we remember that one of the things that Vodacom haven’t opted to drop out of their basket of sponsorships is the headline branding of the Super Rugby tournament – nor, it would seem, of the more obviously branded Vodacom Cup. Vodacom, who I’m sure you all know are something of a competitor to MTN, still prefer for everything successful in SA Rugby to carry their brand name, hence Vodacom Super Rugby, the Vodacom Bulls, the Vodacom Tri-Nations, yet no longer the Vodacom Cheetahs. One thing that they probably didn’t bargain on when stumping out all of this money for headline sponsor status, is to see a team wearing their primary competitor’s logo doing a very effective ambush marketing job in their own competition.
This is hardly a new trick, by the way. Vodacom appear to have rugby pretty much sewn up in South Africa and MTN have been somewhat loathe to enter into the fray for that very reason. They did try it back in the early 2000s when they became headline sponsor of the Valke. Those of you with long memories will recall the farce of the team being forced to play in the Vodacom Cup wearing a big yellow question mark on their jerseys, rather than their sponsor’s logo – presumably at the insistence of the people whose name was on the trophy.
I’m going to watch developments over the next few weeks very eagerly to see exactly how much leeway the Lions and MTN are to be allowed on the much bigger stage of Super Rugby.Tweet