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Qantas ends 30-year Rugby Australia sponsorship deal

Qantas ends 30-year Rugby Australia sponsorship deal
September 23, 2020

In a move described as a “huge blow for Rugby Australia”, Qantas has advised that it is to end its 30-year sponsorship with the code and the Wallabies.

Looking to achieve significant financial savings following the collapse of its income streams as a result of Coronavirus, the airline is pulling back from its cash sponsorship deals across sport - that also include cricket, football, Olympic and Paralympic sport.

The cessation of the sponsorship leaves Rugby Australia without a major sponsor at a time when it faces huge financial challenges which existed prior to the impact of Coronavirus.

In a statement released today, Qantas Chief Customer Officer, Stephanie Tully explained the airline’s decision, saying “while we're dealing with this crisis and its aftermath, the cash cost of our sponsorships has to be zero.”

Advising that the airline said it had examined how it could continue its association with existing partners using in-kind support including commercial flights and support with marketing, Tully added “regrettably, Qantas is not in a position to continue its 30-year relationship with Rugby Australia beyond the end of this calendar year.

"Qantas has had a very long association with Rugby Australia and the Wallabies, and we've stuck with each other during difficult times.

"Unfortunately, this pandemic has been the undoing. Like all Australians, we'll continue to cheer them on from the sidelines."

Qantas has been the official airline of Rugby Australia since 1990 and in 2004 took on the official naming rights of the Wallabies. It also supports the men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams as their naming rights partner.

However, last month the airline announced a $2 billion loss, driven mostly by the cost of making workers redundant due to the Coronavirus pandemic and sweeping write-downs of the value of its fleet of planes, which are largely grounded.

Commenting on the ending of the partnership, Rugby Australia interim Chief Executive Rob Clarke said losing Qantas as a partner was “disappointing” but “understandable”, given the current economic climate.

Clarke noted “there aren’t many 30-year partnerships in Australian sport, and I want to thank Qantas for everything they have done for our great game.”

Tully went on to emphasise that the Coronavirus pandemic had been “the undoing” of the partnership, which will expire at the end of this year, rather than controversy relating to homophobic social media posts made by former Wallaby Israel Folau last year.

At the time, Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce spoke out against the opinions that Folau expressed and that sponsorship deals were “supposed to be a positive”.

Tully added “in an environment where thousands of our people have lost jobs and thousands more are stood down while they wait for flying to restart, we can’t maintain these sponsorships in the way we have in the past

Qantas said will continue to deliver in-kind arrangements, such as the provision of official flights, for Cricket Australia, Football Federation Australia, the Australian Olympic Committee and Paralympic Committee.

Its statement said it will continue these associations for the next 12 months before another review.

Images show Qantas' logo on the Wallabies jerseys, for whom it has been the official naming rights partner since 2004.

About the author

Nigel Benton

Co-owner / Publisher, Australasian Leisure Management

Nigel Benton is the co-owner and publisher of Australasian Leisure Management, Australia and New Zealand’s only magazine for professionals in all areas of the leisure industry. Having established the magazine in 1997, shortly after his relocation to Australia, he has managed its readership rising to over 11,500 and its acceptance as the industry journal for professionals in aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues.

As of 2020, he has launched the new Asian Leisure Business website.

Among a range of published works and features, his comments on a Blog (blogspot) from 2007 to 2011, when this website went live in its current form, may be interesting to reflect back on.

Click here to connect with him via LinkedIn.

Read more from this author

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