You see them on television shows, every website and pretty much everywhere you go.

Sponsorships continue to be an effective way to enhance the visibility of various brands and companies. This is especially true in the world of sports, with brands being promoted on game attire (jerseys, footwear, etc.), playing fields, and in between game breaks through various fan promotions. Partnerships with various brands gives sports organizations more funds that goes towards upgrading equipment, travel expenses, employee contracts, and other areas that require attention.

In 2014, the Athletic and Recreation Department at McMaster Universty hired Glen Grunwald, who had previously worked with various NBA teams, including stints as the general manager for the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks.

Grunwald’s main objective since being hired has been to increase funding to the department through corporate sponsors and Marauder alumni.

Since his hire in 2014, the Athletics and Recreation Department has secured sponsorships from notable brands such as Bio Steel and Nike. The department has recently renewed and grown their partnership with the Royal Bank of Canada, who has made its presence bigger with the addition of an RBC Automatic Teller Machine and branch in the David Bradley Athletic Centre.

A partnership has been formed on a more local level with the Westdale restaurant Basilique, which has since been added to the McMaster meal plan and is one of the main advertisers claiming to help “fuel athletes”.

For Grunwald, the key for creating these partnerships is to connect with sponsors who share similar goals with the Marauder brand.

I would like to use those funds to decrease the financial burden on our student athletes and to remain competitive with other universities in Canada.

Glen Grunwald
Director of Athletics and Recreation
McMaster University

“We are trying to target good companies with good brands that share the same values as us,” Grunwald said. “It is tough out there because there are a lot different people looking for advertising and sponsorships, so it’s very competitive. We still work with the local community, and will continue to work with the local restaurants and small businesses.”

While students and spectators see the finished result of these partnerships through advertising and branding, few understand how these deals are made in the first place. The end product that is seen today is the result of a lot of work behind the scenes between various groups to iron out contracts and agreements.

“There are more people seeking sponsorships than there are sponsors, so we have to be aggressive in trying to identify companies that fit the bill,” Grunwald said. “We do a lot of research on them in terms of what their products are, their marketing strategies, how they might benefit associating with us and what their visions and values are as well. We then try and tailor a program that satisfies what they want to do to help them attain their goals, while at the same time providing real value to us and our students.”

These partnerships do not necessarily mean one side giving money to the other. For example, Basilique’s partnership with the Marauders offers student athletes post-game meals as an in-kind partnership, as opposed to a monetary one. BioSteel also provides their hydration and nutrition products to Marauder athletes during and after practices and games.

Since his arrival in 2014, Glen Grunwald has made good on his promise to bring in more sponsors for the Marauders. While the money from their sponsors goes towards the general funding the overall recreation and sports programming at McMaster University, there are areas where Grunwald would like to see more money spent.

“Like a lot of Canadian university athletic programs, all of our sports are at least partly funded by our student-athletes themselves, through direct fees and/or their own fundraising efforts,” Grunwald said in a separate email. “I would like to use those funds to decrease that financial burden on our student athletes and to remain competitive with other universities in Canada. In addition, we would love to better subsidize the cost of our intramural and instructional programming so that our fees to our students on the recreation side could be reduced.”

“We still need to get more sponsors, but I think we are in good shape and we just need to keep working at it,” he said.

By Jemma Wolfe

It has become par for the course that any large artistic event that one attends is “made possible” by corporate sponsorship and that we can expect the corporation’s logo, name and brand to have a prominent presence. Recall the Skydome being renamed to the Rogers Centre or “Virgin Mobile Presents Osheaga” Montreal music festival.

On a local level, think Theatre Aquarius’s transition to Theatre Aquarius Dofasco Centre for the Arts, the TD Festival of Friends, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton BMO Financial Group World Film Festival. What a commercial mouthful.

Most recently, the commercialization of an artistic event or space was witnessed in McMaster’s win of the TD Pump It Up contest. Last Thursday, Nov. 22, approximately 2,500 McMaster students had the opportunity to attend a free concert at Hamilton Place’s Wentworth Room.

The show opened with Young Empires, then Dragonette performed, and Steve Aoki closed the night. These popular musicians’ performances however were completely overshadowed by the corporate presence of TD.

Walking into the venue, one had to move through a green-curtained TD tunnel of sorts, plastered with the TD logo and lined with TD representatives.

Once inside the concert space, the logo was projected in larger-than-life forms on multiple walls, TD representatives milled around the space, the stage was framed with TD banners and slogans, and all the columns were wrapped in posters. Even the lighting was usually green.

Throughout the night, the excessive presence of TD’s logos, colours and signage was oppressive, distracting and incredibly distasteful. Future corporations sponsoring events – by TD or otherwise – should pay more careful attention to the fine line that separates tasteful advertising presence of a corporation’s positive support of arts and culture, from the overwhelming corporate atmosphere that detracts from the artistic purpose of the event.

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