East African Breweries Limited, through their Tusker brand, have terminated their title sponsorship deal with the Safari Sevens rugby tournament, ending one of the longest lasting associations between a corporate body and a sporting event in Kenya.
EABL marketing director Debra Mallowah, in a letter to Kenya Rugby Limited chairman Richard Omwela, on Wednesday quoted Section 6.3 of the contract that allowed for either party to pull out of the agreement.
The beer firm’s letter follows an earlier one written to them by the Kenya Rugby Football Union saying sponsorship of the Safari Sevens had to go hand in hand with that of the Elgon Cup.
The Union had apparently not taken kindly EABL abrupt pullout from the annual Elgon Cup in August.
“We were surprised by the move and told EABL that the Elgon Cup sponsorship had to go together with the Safari Sevens sponsorship. We sent them a letter to either take both tournaments or terminate the Safari Sevens contract,” Omwela said.
The Tusker Safari Sevens contract was signed last year and was due to end next year. This year, the total sponsorship from Tusker was valued at Sh26 million. The Elgon Cup sponsorship was worth Sh4 million per year and had run for two years.
Tusker have had a 13-year association with Safari Sevens, dating back to 1997 when the popular beer brand became the title sponsor.
“We have had our ups and downs with Tusker but it has been a good association; a win-win for all. But life must go on. We have eight months to look for a new title sponsor and must cast our net wider,” Omwela said.
Intense media attention
From a little known international sevens event started in 1996 with the aim of popularising the game of rugby in the country and fundraising for the sport’s development, Tusker Safari Sevens has grown in stature to become a brand in its own right.
Through the sponsorship of Tusker, organisers have managed to bring in established sevens playing nations like Fiji, Samoa, France, Japan and Zimbabwe in addition to strong invitational sides such as British Army, Bristol University Select and Emerging Springboks.
The intense media attention and sell-out crowds in recent years has made Tusker Safari Sevens a must-attend annual sporting and social event in Nairobi.