By Eric Lam
It may mean less money in the coffers, but the Ryerson Students’ Union has decided the best sponsorship policy for students is not to have one.
“We don’t depend on corporate sponsorship,” said Chris Drew, RSU vice-president of finance and services. “Having the maximum amount of sponsorships isn’t our goal.”
The RSU doesn’t have a plan in place, saying they pick sponsorships based on what previous regimes have done, rather than on an entrenched corporate strategy.
“More often than not, sponsors come to us. If we don’t know the corporation well, we’ll do research,” said Mike Verticchio, executive director of operations and services.
The de facto RSU sponsorship policy is two-fold: short-term sponsorship agreements with corporations for specific events like frosh week, and longer-term agreements, such as ones made with Belair Direct or the TTC, are described as “partnerships” and can last anywhere from one to five years.
All sponsorship agreements are signed off by the executive committee, sometimes on the advice of a designated committee formed by the Board of Directors, after ensuring no prior contracts or exclusivity agreements are violated.
But even though RSU executives come and go each year, Drew said, there hasn’t been a need to set down in writing what they already practice.
“We haven’t brought on a sponsor that students are outraged about,” Drew added. “(Corporations) have to be in line with the values of the RSU. This means no tobacco, no weapons, and, quite honestly, no Coca-Cola.”
Whatever RSU wants to call it, sponsorships mean serious money in the form of commissions, campus advertising and annual payments, which Drew acknowledges is largely untapped.
According to Verticchio, sponsorships from Rogers and Xbox allowed them to place booths at Ryerson during the Week of Welcome in September brought in $10,000.
The 2005-2006 RSU budget also shows RSU received $7,000 in revenue from “discount car insurance” and $15,000 from an “Affinity credit card agreement.”
That’s serious money, which the RSU decided to do without this year. “We’ve actually dramatically reduced the amount of sponsorship,” Verticchio said. “Our handbook used to have between $40,000 and $50,000 in ads, but now there’s only $8,000 to $10,000.”
“Students are heavily advertised (to), they’re treated as consumers, and we want to provide an environment that isn’t like that. We could open the floodgates but we don’t want (students) to be exposed to that life in university,” Drew said.
Also, the RSU’s own mandate can get lost in between ads for new cell phones and cheap car insurance.
“One of our biggest complaints was from students who missed the health plan opt-out,” Verticchio said.
“With all the junk students get, it all gets lost in the shuffle.”