Rugby supporters have been left fuming after Namibia Breweries Limited (NBL) through its Tafel Lager brand announced that it is in the process of sponsoring another South African based rugby club.
Maties, a university rugby team based in Stellenbosch, becomes the second South African rugby side to be sponsored by Tafel Lager following a similar arrangement last year with the Griquas that competes in the Currie Cup premiership.
The move to sponsor the Griquas was also met with anger locally as rugby enthusiasts felt that NBL - a Namibian company - was investing substantial amounts of money in a foreign club, while the Namibia Rugby Premier League (NRPL) has been without a sponsor since 2013.
Former chairman at Trustco United Rugby club, Desmond Coetzee, expressed disappointment with NBL’s decision to sponsor rugby outside the country at the expense of the local game.
“In my own opinion, they (NBL) were first supposed to have started locally then go outside. Those South African rugby players are professionals and are paid. In Namibia our players are not paid. I would advise NBL to engage with the union regarding a possible sponsorship for the league,” Coetzee said.
Ex-Rehoboth Rugby Club chairman, Johan Ockhuizen, also expressed his anger on the decision, saying that he feel saddened that NBL has overlooked the local front at a time when South African breweries is not eager to sponsor Namibian rugby.
“I am even not happy that Tafel Lager is sponsoring Griquas, because our league does not have any sponsor. We have to pay from our own pockets. This Tafel Lager is running a competition and wants us to take part in it while they are investing the money outside,” Ockhuizen said.
Executive member at the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) and officer in charge of sport at the University of Namibia (UNAM), Werner Jeffery, also expressed his unhappiness with NBL’s decision.
“Namibia is the second highest beer drinker in the world, which clearly means that lots of Namibians are consuming the beer in the country. I am not saying that I am against the move to sponsor Maties, but it will be wise if NBL had first invested in the local league. UNAM also desperately need the funding because they can also be a great ambassador, or even another club in Namibia,” Jeffery said.
In 2016, Ian Stevenson, Global Sponsorship and Events Manager at NBL, told this reporter that the beer producer does not sponsor league matches in Namibia because it does not want to associate itself with under age players.
In an interview with the Windhoek Observer this week, Stevenson defended the move to sponsor Maties, saying it was initiated by Heineken South Africa.
Maties competes in the Varsity Cup competition and has produced many junior Springboks players such as Ben-Jason Dixon, Dan Jooste, Schalk Erasmus, Sazi Sandi and Leon Lyons.
“I need to state that [the possible sponsorship opportunity] was initiated by Heineken South Africa, who through the brand Tafel Lager, expressed interest in a sponsorship opportunity with the said rugby club.
“Heineken South Africa produces, distributes and markets Namibia Breweries’ products in South Africa and they also decide on their marketing strategies and advertising spend per brand,” Stevenson said.
He said NBL remains committed towards the development of rugby and other sport codes in Namibia.
“Namibia Breweries, through the Windhoek Draught brand, remains a proud sponsor of rugby in Namibia on a national level and is also involved in many other sport codes,” Stevenson said.
This year, NBL through its Windhoek Draught beer brand also became the main sponsor of the Zambian male rugby Sevens team, while the Namibian Rugby Union (NRU) has over the years been struggling to assemble a Sevens team due to sponsorship challenges.
“We are looking to establish our loved brand across our borders, and in so doing grow our export contribution in line with Vision 2030. In order to establish Windhoek Draught’s (following that of Windhoek Lager) global presence, continuous and extensive investments were made into penetrating the markets where our Windhoek brands are consumed today.
“Brand investment is a prerequisite to creating demand for one’s brand when seeking to penetrate any market,” Stevenson said.