Anyone for a Castle?

These are interesting times in the world of sports sponsorship with Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi threatening to implement a ban on alcohol sponsorship in sport which could have catastrophic effects on all three major national sports as well as some of the country’s biggest club sides – Orlando Pirates, for example.

So which out of soccer, rugby and cricket would be best able to cope – and survive – if SAB were forced to pull out of the sports market? I’m no expert, but one thing to consider, I would think, is that – as things stand at the moment, cricket doesn’t have any other sponsors. (We are told that they do but they’re too embarrassed to have their names associated with the game while the bonus scandal rumbles on and on. And on.

SAB, through its ‘Castle’ brand, has been associated with the national team for 20 years and even sponsored the Currie Cup before Supersport’s deal with CSA obliged them to take over the sponsorship of the first-class competition. In any relationship of 20 years there is bound to be a certain amount of ‘taking each other for granted’ – that’s perfectly natural. However, like in a long marriage, when one partner decides suddenly to move on, or dies, the other finally realises just how much they used to do, and how difficult life is without them.

It’s hard to know exactly what CSA’s attitude is to sponsors. Recently, when the Standard Bank Cricket Annual was launched in Jo’burg, not a single member of the CSA executive was present – not even a senior member of the staff. And when they issued a press release congratulating the Annual’s five ‘Cricketers of the Year,’ they never mentioned Standard Bank once. A small thing, perhaps, but when similar incidents were added together over a decade, it all became too much and they withdrew from the cricket market altogether.

Significantly, the silence from SAB and Castle for the last four months has been deafening. Their good name has been dragged through the mud and yet they have decided to maintain a dignified silence. Scandals come and go, but the game carries on and the good times will return. It’s a mature perspective. But now that they are under attack from the government, will that approach change?

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