An entire New Zealand community has joined together to sponsor a national sports team in its quest for Olympic glory in what it's calling a world first.
The Hawke’s Bay has partnered with our national hockey teams – the Black Sticks men’s and women’s teams – to give them the support they need to take on the world’s best next year in London.
This unique sponsorship agreement is the brainchild of Vector Arena co-owner and the man behind the phenomenally successful ‘Walking with the Dinosaurs’, Bruce Mactaggart. A hockey fan, he was looking for a way to get the Black Sticks the financial support they needed, while at the same time galvanising a community and its resources behind them.
Bruce and Robyn Mactaggart, along with Hastings businesswoman Jenni Giblin and mayor Lawrence Yule, brought together a group of some of the region’s most influential residents. They assembled at a local winery where Mactaggart outlined his vision.
“While I personally believed this was a great notion, I obviously wasn’t sure if others would agree with me. But in my view, the potential for global exposure for Hawke’s Bay and the opportunity to drive this community forward was too good to miss,”he said.
Convinced, the 23-strong group immediately began writing the cheques necessary to initiate the sponsorship.
“This isn’t just about hockey, it’s about what is possible when a community comes together – how we can unite and use all our resources, financial and intellectual to support our national team while also galvanising and supporting our own community,” Mactaggart said.
It not only gives the players the financial support they need to focus on being the best they can be, but the backing and energy of an entire community, he says.
Hawke’s Bay will host an induction weekend from November 25-27 as well as team training camps next year. The Black Sticks will also visit schools, businesses and community organisations in the region.
Yule sees it as a fantastic opportunity to take the Hawke’s Bay ‘brand’ to the world.
“While we couldn’t have commenced this initiative without the fantastic financial support of the initial ‘leaders’, we’re going to look for ways to engage the entire Hawke’s Bay community in supporting the Black Sticks," he said.
“This partnership is a unique and innovative way to promote Hawke’s Bay, and the opportunities to live, work, invest and play here, to the world. This region is an amazing place with amazing people.”
Black Sticks vice-captain Shea McAleese grew up in Hawke’s Bay and knows how supportive the community is.
“The Hawke’s Bay is a pretty special place to come from. The community has been really supportive of me over the years.
"To have 23 leaders financially back us and to have the support from the wider community over the upcoming months is huge for the Black Sticks, it will make a big difference."
The Black Sticks’ uniforms will feature the Hawke’s Bay logo in all international games leading up to the Olympics. Both Black Sticks teams leave for Hobart this Saturday where they will compete in the Oceania Olympic Qualifier against Australia.
The Oceania region has two Olympic allocations courtesy of world rankings for both men and women and with Fiji having pulled out, Australia and New Zealand have automatically qualified for the London Olympics.
The Black Sticks men then take on the best in the world at the Champions Trophy from December 3-11. The event, which is screened to more than 38 million around the world, recently relocated to Auckland after India lost the rights to host it.
This story originally appeared on StopPress.