Opinion: Only fools and horses?

Opinion: Only fools and horses?

While perusing the sports pages the other day, I came across the strangest thing. Strange in a Victor Meldrew of TV’s One Foot in the Grave “I don’t believe it!” sort of way.

Telecom backs $2.2m NZ Derby the headline stated. Now, I know things aren’t all tickety-boo with the big T, what with a 34 percent decrease in net earnings for Q3 – and that’s with the company admitting having “not yet experienced a significant impact from the current economic downturn”. But turning to the gee-gees ...?

Well, it would seem our incumbent telco sees a winner in horse racing and has signed a three-year deal to sponsor the New Zealand Derby.

Now, I know that many events rely on corporate largesse to make ends meet. From Air New Zealand Fashion Week to the Rebel Sport Super 14, everyone’s at it. Telecom, itself, already has a few; notably its Community Connection programme that provides support to a number of charities. But I’m surprised at its decision to support the sport of kings, not least the way the whole relationship is being billed.

“The coupling of two such industry leaders serves to reinforce our commitment to providing quality racing and entertainment for the people of New Zealand,” said Auckland Racing Club chairman Bill Gianotti. Huh?

And Telecom’s general manager of marketing David Craig adds: “We trust that people will come out in their thousands to enjoy the newly named Telecom Derby Day.”

Er, what?

And how’s this for the cheesiest quote you’ll have heard in a while: “Racing is about speed and that is a crucial component to our new services,” explained Craig as he justified the deal in The New Zealand Herald.

Horse racing seems like an odd choice. Okay, so I understand the obvious hob-nob potential, along with the corporate wining and dining opportunity – these things make the world go round. Telecom also sees it as a good fit with its promotional aims. I’m told the sponsorship is not about one race, but creating interest around Auckland Cup week, (said, no doubt, with an envious eye on the frenzy that surrounds Melbourne Cup week). All the products, services, marketing nous, the whole nine yards at Telecom’s disposal will be used to whip up excitement. Part of me is intrigued to see what they’ll come up with.

But it still seems like an odd choice.

I’m still miffed that Telecom recently withdrew its support for the School Connection programme, which enabled schools to buy all manner of technology, ranging from digital cameras and broadband services to computer hardware. You know, stuff that helps kids’ education and provides them with a better future.

Instead, we have the Telecom New Zealand Derby (and I’m reliably told that there are more similarly ‘different’ sponsorship deals in the offing). The flagship event of a sport that, at its top end, is a plaything for the idle rich and, at the other, an excuse to gamble.

As I said, it’s an odd choice – I hope it works for them.

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