Sport

Digicel to replace Flow in Champs sponsorship change-over

BY HOWARD WALKER
Senior staff reporter
walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 13, 2019

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DIGICEL looks set to be the next telecommunication partner of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships after Flow's three-year sponsorship deal ended last year.

According to an impeccable Jamaica Observer source, Digicel, which also replaced telecoms rival Flow as ISSA's football partner, is on the verge of another deal that will make them stakeholders in high schools' two main sporting events.

Efforts to contact ISSA for a comment proved futile, but a press statement is expected to be issued soon.

Flow's high schools track and field deal with ISSA, worth $81 million over three years, expired in March 2018. And just as the company did with schoolboy football in August, they pulled the plug. The title sponsorship of ISSA's schoolboy football was valued at $150m and expired at the end of the 2017 season.

In a press release on Thursday, Flow, which said it has been a supporter of sports development in Jamaica, announced its withdrawal from the high school athletics showpiece, regarded as the biggest of its kind anywhere in the world.

“For more than a decade, through our partnership with the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), we delivered a significant level of innovation, fan engagement and creativity to the annual staging of the ISSA GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Championships as a supporting sponsor,” said the statement.

“Our sponsorship agreement with ISSA, which ended in March 2018, will not be renewed as we chart the path for the next chapter of our investment in local sports,” it continued.

“We extend our heartiest gratitude to the organisers and wish them a safe and successful staging later this year,” the statement concluded.

It wasn't all sweet and dandy for Flow in that deal as in 2015, Calabar's captain Michael O'Hara, upon winning the 200m, removed his vest to reveal an undershirt bearing the words “Be Extraordinary”, a registered trademark of Flow's direct competitor Digicel. It was deemed ambush marketing and forced ISSA into implementing safeguards.

Carlo Redwood, Flow's vice-president of marketing and products at the time, had expressed satisfaction at the way in which ISSA went about adjusting their policy after the incident.

Flow re-signed with ISSA for $27m a year with that arrangement lasting until last March.

Meanwhile, Digicel, which had a significant foothold in athletics since 2015 with their multimillion-dollar Digicel Grand Prix Series, dubbed the “Diamond League” of youth athletics, will be staging its fifth edition, starting February.

The track and field showdown will see high schools across the island compete in seven events across five development meets for millions in cash and prizes.

Calabar High and Edwin Allen High were crowned champions in 2018 with the series concluding inside the National Stadium. Calabar and Edwin Allen are also the respective ISSA Boys' and Girls' champions.


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