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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

From male-grooming vouchers to free meals, UAE rugby clubs get creative with sponsorship deals

Barter deals are nothing new in Gulf rugby, but clubs have become increasingly creative of late, with an increased number of teams vying within the same market for corporate investment.

Jebel Ali Dragons, in blue, and Dubai Exiles, in black, are among the UAE rugby clubs striving for sponsorship. Satish Kumar for the National
Jebel Ali Dragons, in blue, and Dubai Exiles, in black, are among the UAE rugby clubs striving for sponsorship. Satish Kumar for the National

West Asia champions Jebel Ali Dragons appointed Mike Phillips, the Welsh rugby pin up, as their new coach this summer.

Almost simultaneously, they signed a sponsorship deal with Chaps & Co, a bespoke male grooming company based in Dubai.

Coincidence? Apparently so, according to Stuart Quinn, the club’s chairman.

“Hopefully having Mike on board has helped get sponsors to sign on the dotted line, but this one works out as a good quid pro quo,” Quinn said of a deal that sees Chaps & Co vouchers given to the man of the match in Dragons games.

“We are an all-encompassing club, but we do have a lot of bearded men who like that kind of hipster vibe.

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“Sponsorship is so hard nowadays, because of the economic climate. These are the sort of deals we need to do. We need to say, ‘Give the guys a discount, and we will encourage them to go’.

“We are basically crowd-funding our sponsorship. We hopefully give them a return of real revenue, in return to them putting their hand in their pocket for us.”

Barter deals are nothing new in Gulf rugby, but clubs have become increasingly creative of late, with an increased number of teams vying within the same market for corporate investment.

Dubai Hurricanes, who have a vast junior section complementing their senior sides, have retained 11 sponsors, and added two new ones this summer, according to Eddie Rayner, who is in charge of managing the club’s sponsorship.

One of the deals exclusively relates to junior players, with Reddy Roast, a restaurant based in Sports City, providing free meals to the man of the match in 300 games per season.

“We have worked hard in the past season or so to give each sponsor a specific and measurable ROI, and listened to what their idea of success is like,” Rayner said. “This is why the majority are happy to renew and increase the size of their support for the club.”

Hurricanes’ fellow tenants at The Sevens, Dubai Exiles, also have a variety of deals in place, ranging from cash sponsorship to service agreements.

These range from having a heavily-discounting rate from Edge, the architects of their new club house at The Sevens, to limited-edition Bremont watches with the club logo on.

This season, they will also welcome back Ed Armitage, their former scrum-half who had left to study for a law degree in London. He has returned to work as a paralegal for Dentons, the law firm with which the Exiles have a long association.

“That, to me, is a great example of a sponsor and a community-based rugby club working in harmony to achieve mutually beneficial results,” Mike Wolff, the Exiles chairman, said.

“Exiles gets a great player, Dentons gets a hard-working and keen young potential lawyer, and Ed gets a great potential career going with the world’s largest law firm.”

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