A relatively minor sports sponsorship announcement in Brisbane yesterday will have many sporting organisations, and the football codes in particular, salivating.

These are not easy times to attract significant corporate sports sponsorship. A couple of NRL clubs, for example still have significant “gaps” in their 2007 sponsorship books. The Bulldogs are one of them. And the NRL itself is still to secure an official, naming rights sponsor, though a deal with Telstra is reportedly close.

The innovative Queensland Reds rugby team has stolen a march on its rivals by being the first sporting team to sign Virgin Blue as a sponsor. The deal is “only” worth a reported $1 million over three years – but the significance lies in the fact it is Virgin’s first foray into sporting team sponsorships in Australia.

Virgin Blue CEO, Brett Godfrey, can expect plenty of calls from ALF and NRL clubs following his comment that the Reds deal was “likely to be the first of several links with football teams.”

Qantas pretty well has had the football sponsorship field to itself. And given the amount of travel football teams, and fans, undertake it is a lucrative field.

And the creative advertisers could have an absolute field day – the Virgin Knights (Newcastle), the Virgin Storm (Melbourne), or, perhaps worryingly, the Virgin Bombers (Essendon).

The Reds seem to have a thing about travel sponsors – their sponsorship portfolio includes Queensland Rail, and Mazda, and now Virgin Blue.

But you have to wonder what the private school set, with the tweed coats with patches on the elbows, will think when they see the word “VIRGIN” emblazoned on the sleeves of the Reds players jumpers?

Peter Fray

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