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USA Rugby Ponder Sponsorship Deals

Wednesday Aug 12, 2009 in Off the Field USA Rugby

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(Ian Muir photo.)

USA Rugby has some work to do in the coming weeks to replace or renew two major sponsors.

Rugby supplier Canterbury of New Zealand’s European division was bought by UK company JD Sports last week, and all sponsorship contracts were terminated. This included USA Rugby, as it was the (supposedly) more financially flush Canterbury Europe, not Canterbury USA, which backed the sponsorship.

Canterbury’s old deal with USA Rugby included providing kit and cash. The deal is now over, but the national teams playing in August and September (the women’s national team and USA A) will still wear Canterbury kit because that’s what the teams have available. But USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville said a new supplier will likely provide kit in November.

Melville said Canterbury has told its old partners that the company is interested in renewing their sponsorship deals, but at a reduced rate.

“They have intimated that they want to come back, but we haven’t heard much,” said Melville. “The way it happened does lead a sour taste in the mouth.”

Melville added other companies are interested in signing USA Rugby to a new kit deal.

“We want a new supplier in time for the World Cup qualifiers and the 7s,” Melville said.

Meanwhile talks are ongoing to renew the multi-million-dollar US National Guard sponsorship. The National Guard will be making a decision in October as to what its plans are regarding sponsorships and recruiting.

USA Rugby is certainly not the largest recipient of USNG largesse, but by many accounts the relationship, begun humbly through USNG Major Mark Drown in Utah as a way to help the USA U20 women’s team, has been a success. According to Tuesday’s Army Times, the National Guard has brought in over 49,000 new recruits in 2009, 106 percent of its goal through the first seven months, despite a slow July.

Melville said the National Guard’s exposure through USA Rugby on ESPN and on webcasts (but especially ESPN) has made everyone happy.

“The kit program [for colleges and U19 teams] went very well and the recruiters really enjoyed it,” Melville added.

However, budget cuts could scuttle any National Guard recruiting efforts, as this begins the first budget cycle under the new presidential administration.

“We are optimistic they will renew,” said Melville. “We delivered the best we could. We can’t control the budgetary process and they may come back with less than last time. Nothing’s guaranteed.”

Melville said talks continue with the National Guard, and also with some other potential sponsors. As for those others, the CEO said it was all “just a lot of talking” at this point.

- Alex Goff

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