March 27, 2003

Good Morning Fellow Ruggers,

Money, money, money. We all want more of it, but have limited abilities to obtain enough of that precious gold. Back in my prehistoric, history teaching days, I used to preach to my conscripts about the vicious role that money has played throughout recorded time. I always repeated that well-known phrase, "Money is what makes the world go 'round."

At this point, I usually slip into a long dissertation, but I gave up my civic pulpit quite some time ago. Besides the almighty coin, rugby makes my world spin on it's axis. Before you wipe and flush or hit the delete button, think for a moment just how much money it has cost you to lace up your boots every Saturday. I have been doing battle for 17 glorious years and know better than to add up the annual hobby cost, lest my significant other find cause for filing for damages in a court of law. This week, I'm going to have to pony up my dues money for the year. I'm not very excited about having to do it. But, alas, that damn money issue continues to haunt us.

Rugby, my friends, is not cheap. With each passing season, teams are working harder to subsidize our habit. Sponsorship is probably the dirtiest word in the rugby vernacular. For a few privileged teams, sponsorship is easy to obtain and maintain. But, for those lower down the rugby hierarchy, sponsorship is such a lonely word. I have been a dues-paying member of seven rugby teams and, to the team, each has limped and crawled their way through the quagmire of corporate sponsorship.

Let's not examine the process of obtaining sponsorship, but rather, how to maintain the sponsorship once you've got it. If we went over every detail, we could be here all day. One team that I played for had Hooters as a sponsor, and they used to give us free food on game days, as long as we paid for the golden libations. In the natural course of events, one of my crazy teammates decided that the finals of an arm wrestling tournament (at our post-game drink up) should be played au naturale. We were promptly asked never to return again.

I'm quite sure that the majority of Mother Rugger Readers have similar stories of sponsorship lost. One would think that, on the surface, maintaining sponsorship would be pathetically easy. You just slap a logo on your jersey and they show you the money. In a perfect world, it would be that easy. I find that it's human nature for teams to take sponsorship for granted. Beer companies are probably the most likely to give Rugby teams money or product. Teams are more than proud to slap the beer log on their jersey, but when push comes to shove, players on a team are unwilling to repay the sponsor by using their products religiously. Besides logo placement on team-wear, why is the brewery sponsoring the team? Civic responsibility is probably the last reason that they're helping you. They want to sell more beer, period. We all know that any product, especially beer, that's placed in front of us for FREE will be consumed. But, Rugby players are still fickle consumers - especially when it's THEIR almighty dollar being spent. To tie this into Rugby supplies, I have probably been approached by 75% of this country's teams for sponsorship. However, teams generally buy their product from the cheapest supplier.

I have been in a position of having sponsored a team only to find out that they then purchased their gear from a competitor because they wanted to save $0.50 on rugby balls. For that reason alone, it is not profitable or wise (as a Rugby supplier) to sponsor teams- as much as we would love to. I have had successful sponsorships with a few, select, teams. Those relationships were successful because there was substantial give and take by both parties.

The new golden rule for maintaining sponsorship is: (using beer sponsors as an example) No matter what, every beer that you buy or drink should be that of your sponsor. This includes stocking your home refrigerator with that brand. It's not limited to when you're at the bar on Thursday night after training. Now, I will understand, in that there are going to be circumstances when you do not like the beer/product of the sponsoring company. Being the parent of two young boys, I know that you have to adapt and change your rules to fit every unique situation. So, here's a corollary to the golden rule: If you don't like that brand of beer, then buy ONE round of that beer when you go to the bar after training and also buy one six pack of that beer to keep in your fridge. You can pour it in your Father In Law's mug when he comes to visit. I would say that the second-most popular sponsorship comes from bars or restaurants. This one is even easier than the beer sponsorship. Just frequent the restaurant/bar on non-rugby nights. If it's a restaurant, bring your family and wear your team-wear so that they see that their sponsorship is paying off. If it's a bar, stop in during guy's night out, or date night with the wife. The more your team patronizes your sponsors, the more your sponsors will be willing to give your team. It's a two-way street that can be both profitable for the team and save you money at dues-paying time.

Since we're in a giving mood, let's remember to patronize the companies that your teammates work for as well. If one of your teammates is a bar tender, then go to that bar. If he's a cop, get pulled over. You get the idea.

Pat Laczkowski
Front Row Outfitters