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
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
''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.