Otago University backs Highlanders

Highlanders player and University of Otago graduate Craig Millar (left) and co-captain and student Ben Smith with vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne at the launch of a sponsorship deal yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Highlanders player and University of Otago graduate Craig Millar (left) and co-captain and student Ben Smith with vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne at the launch of a sponsorship deal yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The University of Otago has announced a two-year sponsorship of the Highlanders, becoming New Zealand's first university to back a Super Rugby franchise.

The agreement, aimed at increasing the university's global exposure, means its name will be printed on the back of Highlanders' jerseys, on medics' bibs, and its logo painted on the Forsyth Barr Stadium field and put on digital signage during home games.

University television advertisements will also play at the stadium during intervals, and players will be involved in university events and academic initiatives.

The arrangement has come under attack from the Tertiary Education Union (TEU), which said the university should be spending taxpayer money on students and not advertising.

Vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne, speaking at an event at the stadium attended by Highlanders players and team and university management yesterday, would not specify how much the agreement was worth, saying it was ''commercially sensitive''.

However, she was enthusiastic about the contract, saying it represented good value for money.

''During home games at the stadium, the international television broadcasting of the matches will be powerful brand exposure for traditional signage and our crest, which will soon be painted on the grass,'' Prof Hayne said.

''During games at other stadiums in New Zealand and other parts of the world, the university's name on the Highlanders' jersey will be visible to more than a quarter of a million viewers per game.''

The sponsorship was also about supporting the stadium, which she called a ''world-class facility''.

''The university has a commitment to the stadium, which we use for university events, including student Orientation, and it's a safe ... short walk from flats and colleges.''

The Highlanders' on-field performance would not form part of a decision whether to renew the sponsorship after two years.

Prof Hayne and Highlanders general manager Roger Clark highlighted the links between the two organisations.

''On the face of it, some might think that we represent very different organisations, but the university and the Highlanders have a number of very important values in common,'' Prof Hayne said.

Some of the ''country's best'' rugby players in recent times, including Anton Oliver, Adam Thomson and James Ryan, had studied at the university, and co-captain Ben Smith was studying towards a physical education degree.

Mr Clark said the Highlanders took advantage of university expertise, including in the areas of marketing, medicine and strength and conditioning, to help the team ''compete against some of the best teams in the world''.

TEU deputy secretary Nanette Cormack was critical of the deal, saying it ''better not come at the expense of public education and research''.

''We do not know how much the university will spend promoting itself to rugby fans, but we do believe that money the public gives to public education institutions should be spent on public education and research, not on advertising,'' she said.

''It should be investing in keeping student fees down, lowering class sizes or bringing high-quality research and teaching to the people of Otago.''

Victoria University management studies Prof John Davies said tertiary institutions sponsoring sports teams was uncommon, but not unique, with the Brumbies rugby franchise in Australia sponsored by the University of Canberra.

Sponsoring a sports team could be ''very effective'' as Southern Institute of Technology had found with its sponsorship of the Southland rugby team, Prof Davies said.



In my previous post I should have stated "DCHL and therefore the DCC"

Fantastic fit

Great news! The university and rugby have always held a special place in the social fabric of Dunedin, so this takes the relationship to a logical and undoubtedly mutually productive level. Great thinking too with the explosion of interest and participation in rugby in the significant student target markets of Asia. Rugby boof-heads such as Laidlaw, Kirk, Oliver et al would no doubt approve, as would the likes of Elvidge and de Cabot who will still be enjoying the "game they play in heaven".

And as for the ARB rolling out the old "supporting rugby at the expense of education" chestnut, give us all a break. It's impossible to go anywhere in this country without being bombarded with billboards, sides of buses, TV adverts promoting all manner of prestigious tertiary institutions. These outfits all have huge marketing budgets.  

Go Lily213

Even though I have been an "anti-stadium" poster this deal is great. Who is hurt if the Uni wants to sponsor the Highlanders?

The University of Otago has a 50 year plan that basically is about expansion and seperating the campus as much as possible from the city. Take a read, it is enlightening. A retail centre, performing arts centre, increased accomodation provision ... the list goes on so eventually buying the stadium (my presumption) at a knock-down price is a no-brainer.

The uni pays very little in rates (water and sewerage mainly), has been buying up rateable land for quite some time and knows that the DCC and the Chamber of Commerce is desperate to maintain (the appearance of) some economic and social vibrancy when the biggest contributer to Dunedin's economy is aged care.

If you are a business that is able to seperate yourself from Dunedin's economic malaise, why wouldn't you?
The University of Otago is a business, will continue to operate as a business and marketing opportunities such as this are a given.

However Lily213 is incorrect regarding DVML and therefore DCC involvement in the Highlanders. 

Amusing comments

It seems everyone on here has lost their minds. And lost track of what they are objecting too. What has the university throwing a few bucks at the Highlanders in exchange for some branding got to do with a former Council, nearly all of whom have been voted out, approving the stadium funding? Or to do with "assimilation" at the university? Although off on a tangent myself, what's the point in moaning about the stadium now? The money is already spent and the only way forward is to support it as best we can. Denigrating the stadium won't get the millions back. I almost can't be bothered pointing it out AGAIN, but the Highlanders have nothing to do with the ORFU, the stadium, the council etc. They are a professional rugby franchise, representing at present, Otago, Southland and Waitaki.

Too simple for my liking

Who makes up the bulk of the students now. shouldn't you be targeting your biggest markets. Also are you suggesting that because the university deals in large numbers it justifies spending it on professional sportspeople instead of the students attending the University.

A new justification is that they do sponsorship deals like this over in the USA. USA tertairy education costs were 51% of median income back in 2010 NZ was 16%. I'm not against rugby I enjoyed playing in my younger days and still support the local club but I don't think taxpayer money and student fees should be used to support professional sports teams. The advertising arguement is a weak link. Season tickets or a corporate box for mgmt might be a bigger deciding factor.

Corporate sponsorship

Remember when the Rugby World Cup was being held and a local car dealer was prevented from displaying a 'Go All Blacks' sign on their premises because they were inside an advertising zone established around the stadium by the organisers. Do we really want this sort of restriction imposed on an educational instiution to satisfy a corporate client? Please consider the small details of this deal and how it will impact on students and staff. Maybe one day they will all have to drink Budwieser instead of Speights at the stadium because it will be the 'official' beer because the Highlanders signed up for the best price on offer.

Reputations at stake

These aren't exactly the most wholesome organisations that the University seems so eager to jump into bed with. In the USA, from where the VC heralds, the relationship of universities with big sports programmes has brought in money, but also corruption, scandal, and tarnished reputations.
The Highlanders is not an entity that the University can control. How will it look when players or others associated with the organisation suffer the inevitable "brain fade" and misbehave in compromising ways? What I also think we're seeing here is the disconnection of the University from the broader city, and its reconsolidation under a safety bubble at the north end of town. Soon I imagine the days of graduation ceremonies downtown and parades down George St. will be a thing of the past. Everything will be re-oriented around the campus and the stadium, which as I've suggested before, will likely be owned by University before too long for pennies on the ratepayers' dollar.
How keen do you think any council will be to punt on that one, and not have to answer for the debacle again and again every election year?

Starting a trend

What a great initiative!

I now look forward to University of Berkeley sponsoring the Oakland Raiders, or even SUNY sponsoring the New York Jets.  The possibilities are endless - Oxford University would probably get a cheap deal sponsoring Oxford City FC in Conference North though. 

Good stuff

Nowhere is it written that the University of Otago will always be popular. Folk who think the role or calibre of applicants wouldn't drop if there wasn't a marketing campaign are living in a dream world. It's common knowledge that if the Uni ever started sneezing Dunedin would catch a cold it may never recover from. If a few kids or parents started choosing Canterbury or Auckland over Otago and the roll dropped by say ten percent the ripple effect on the Otago economy could be terminal. Good on the University for a cleaver marketing campaign.

Those darn naysayers

The naysayers complain about the stadium costing an ongoing $20 miilion a year, the spin and lies about cost overruns, profitability, and the stadium's ability to attract events. Carisbrook costing rate payers  $3.1 million, bailing out the ORFC, the failure of DVML and the loss over over another million. What is wrong with these people? They should just keep quiet and be grateful the situation isn't even worse. How dare they be disgusted by the millions of ratepayer dollars being tipped down the drain. Some people just have to whinge about everything.

So Lily has no idea?

Post Darwin, Theology had to be wrong, and Zoology right. Same with Economics/Business/Commerce vs Physics, nowadays.

Although I can isolate it to one dividing-wall, in one Department. On one side, an entirely intelligent fellow who openly touts 'economic growth', while well aware he's living on a finite planet. Next door, is someone who knows somewhat better.

The Uni have no mechanism for weighing comparative merit of different arguments - and I suggest that Hayne is a classic example of the problem.

I suggest - politely but firmly - that she hasn't a clue that energy underwrites wealth, or at what EROEI a growth-requiring fiscal system fails.

The head of a tertiary institution with a properly-functioning assimilation system, would be more informed.


Simple answer - yes

"Are Super 15 fans in NZ, Australia and South Africa really a good target market for the University?"

Yes. Southern hemisphere English-speaking countries seem like a relevant target to me (Why not? - Maybe because rugby fans are the uneducated masses?) 

"I would like to see the letter of recommendation from their own Marketing Department in the Commerce Faculty endorsing this sponsorship deal."

I'm sure the Marketing and Communications department, the non-academic one, that handles all marketing approved this, and not sure why they are considered less competent than the academic department. I find people usually fail to appreicate just how little things cost in the grand scheme of institutional budgets. Most "big numbers" (which haven't even been revealed) are a drop in the ocean in reality.


After reading a brief article in the newspaper on the University of Otago sponsoring the Highlanders Super Rugby franchise, without having the full facts my initial reaction is why. An institution funded by tax payer dollars and young people in some cases borrowing money to attend the University, why would the university be paying money to a business organisation rather than spending it on the University and the education being provided or cutting fees (if they have money to burn).

One reason given was marketing and raising the University profile. Highlanders are a Dunedin based team. I am going out on a limb and suggesting most people in Dunedin (The entire Otago district for that matter) will be aware of the University of Otago. Are super 15 fans in NZ, Australia and South Africa really a good target market for the University? What are the projected numbers they hope to gain from this advertising?

I would like to see the letter of recommendation from their own Marketing Department in the Commerce Faculty endorsing this sponsorship deal.

The other reason was to support the world class stadium. That's a job for the Dunedin ratepayers their council got them into it and I don't think student fees should be paying for it. The students are at University to get an education. The University support the stadium when they hire it for orientation or other events and the students support it when they choose to go to events there.

I would suggest to future students to look at where your University is spending its money and question if that is what you want to raise a student loan for.


I'm not the hugest rugby fan but....

A few things here:

1) Who says its 'taxpayer's' or 'public' money? It could have come from anywhere within their finances, it is a for profit business you realise? The University doesn't solely rely on taxpayer funding. But keep assuming the worst - it is Rugby after all!

2) Otago Polytechnic was widely applauded for sponsoring Otago Cricket beginning last year - what's the difference?

3) Is this just a beat up from the same old section of the population that hate rugby with a passion and anything to do with it or the stadium? - sure looks like it to me!

Let's have some balance please.


Genuflection - bending at least one knee to the ground -  a gesture of deep respect for a superior.

So "interdisciplinary genuflection" is about bowing down to other disciplines? No idea.

I imagine Harlene didn't answer you not because she wasn't able but rather, as you suggest, that she merely didn't want to talk to you. 

sponsorship---go away nay-sayers

Once again the nay-sayers are out in force. This fits so well strategically with the university, their use of the stadium and sports science. The University of Otago rugby club has the highest number of All Blacks from any NZ club as well. This is innovation and if they have a budget for marketing and advertsing and this fits into it--good on them.

I suggest all of those who are against progress and innovation concentrate their efforts in the meantime on working out how to solve Dunedin's North-Easterly problem. Beacuse that does bother me.

'interdisciplinary genuflection'?

Do the people against this sponsorship believe marketing has a place in advancing learning institutions or do they just disagree with the medium?

Do the numbers of marketing-susceptible future undergraduates have any bearing on the resources, teaching positions and funding available for research into the phenomenons mentioned below such as 'parallel specialisation' and 'interdisciplinary genuflection'?

They might do but I have absolutely no idea what those 2 things mean.

Do none of you people get it?

The university is a business not just just a teritary insitute, it's all about exposure of its name. Otago Universitys name being dislayed in a competition played in 3 countries is clearly going to expose that name!

What are you all so upset about it's not your money, it's not affecting you it's not coming out of your pocket! 

Great move otago get your name out there! 

Controversy where there is none

Get over it! as the university advertising used to say.

All tertiary institutions advertise in one way or another - if this attracts more fee paying students, then it is a good use of money. I wonder how this compares to the cost of television advertising. I imagine there is a lot more bang for buck. I also imagine this has been thoroughly researched by looking at other institutions that have gone this route. A creative marketing ploy immediately jumped on as inappropriate because critics don't personally enjoy rugby.

Dumbing down of Uni nearly complete

We are well on the way to having New Zealand's first "mac" University, where degrees are churned out regardless of the quality. This alignment with professional rugby is symptomatic of the commercialisation of Otago University and its "bums on seats" policy and rings the death knell for any attempt at providing a superior education.

My grandfather was a Professor at the University, my father, husband and two uncles studied there. My first cousin was the first woman to gain a doctorate there.  Sadly, I am now resigned to doing my utmost to ensure my three children go to University elsewhere.


This is unacceptable. A tertiary learning outfit is just that. A learning outfit.

This outfit - like most - is already flawed. When I challenged Hayne about that, she was incapable of answering - or was unwilling to. When you get parallel specialisation, you need an assimilation process. They don't have that, they have 'interdisciplinary genuflection'. It's a fatal flaw.

But this move is equally flawed, in that it takes learning funds, and throws it down the old-boy-network black hole. Maybe that's the price she pays for getting into those circles, but it shouldn't be paid by those who merely wish to learn.

If I was still a student

If I was still a student I would be unhappy to see part of my fees spent on University sponsorship of a rugby team. Did OUSA get any say in this? If so, what was their view?

Strange priorities

It does seem strange when the University is currently going through a period of substantial budget cuts to departments and has advised staff to belt tighten as much as possible, that it's now using taxpayers' money to sponsor a poorly performing professional rugby team. I'm pleased the TEU have criticised this move and I wait with baited breath for the Minister of Education to cast their eye over this very dubious 'advertising' strategy.

the green strip man?

Wasn't it Roger Clark, as chair of the Highlanders, who felt the new green strip for the Highlanders was the way to go in rebranding the Highlanders? Remember the furore, from the fans, over this.

Now another tack is being taken but this time it is the University of Otago which is taking the fall by branding itself with two failed enterprises- the Highlanders and the stadium. Duh.

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