By Robyn Urback
Glenn Taylor’s basketball team is in danger of losing $12,000. This year, Rogers and Canadian Tire sponsor men’s basketball at Ryerson for $7,000 and $5,000 respectively.
Taylor secured the agreements through personal contacts he had in the companies. But these contacts plan to retire next year, and Taylor is concerned he won’t be able to renew the agreements.
“Unless you have friends [in business], it’s very difficult to get money,” Taylor says. “Now I’ve almost got to start all over again.” The men’s basketball team is one of only four Ryerson teams with some type of corporate sponsorship.
Volleyball, hockey and the rowing team have each secured corporate agreements. Most Ryerson teams receive just enough funding to survive, and without someone on staff pursuing sponsors, the responsibility falls to the coaches.
The other 10 Ryerson Rams teams without corporate sponsorship rely on the budget allotted to them by the university’s Sports and Recreation department.
They also often hold fundraisers and seek private donations through the Adopt an Athlete Program, where individuals can make personal donations to a Rams team of their choosing.
Jean Kennedy, Ryerson’s Athletic Director, attributes the lack of team sponsors, in part, to a presently vacant marketing director position. The job likely won’t be filled until a new athletic director is hired.
“We haven’t got anyone on staff to go out and do it,” she says, with regards to pursuing corporate sponsors. “Coaches shouldn’t do it by themselves.”
But they do. Mirek Porosa, head coach of the men’s volleyball team, has secured agreements with Leasebank for the past four years. Porosa contacted a friend who works with the firm to inquire about sponsorship after several failed negotiations with other companies. “Just finding someone is hard enough, but you have to convince them,” Porosa says. “It’s hard for coaches to go out and recruit. They have other jobs.”
Dominic Kahn, head coach of the rowing team, took it upon himself to seek out a corporate agreement. The team has recently made a deal with Campus Common, the new student apartments at Church and Gerrard streets. Needing new practice and storage space, Kahn approached the owners.
The rowing team previously stored equipment in a gallery near the gym in Kerr Hall West, until the obstruction was deemed a fire hazard.
Unlike other coaches, Kahn left fundraising up to the team. Prior to contacting Campus Common, he was not actively pursuing a sponsor.
“That’s not my job,” he says. “I’m a coach.” For some coaches, such as figure skating head coach Robyn Doolittle, there’s no extra time to pursue negotiations with businesses.
“Our focus is on recruiting,” she says. “Corporate sponsors require networking, and we’re just trying to get our numbers up.”
The team tries to save money by carpooling to events and being frugal with hotel rooms. Coaches of corporately sponsored teams get to decide how to spend the money, though they must seek approval from the university.
The men’s volleyball team spends some of the extra cash on new tracksuits and game jerseys. For men’s basketball, all of the money is put towards bursaries. Other universities typically have someone take care of sponsorship for the teams.
At the University of Guelph, corporate sponsors are typically sought after for the department as a whole, rather than for individual teams.
The task falls to Joe Varamo, manager of marketing and communications. “It comes down to equity,” he says.
“We want to make sure it’s recognized that all sports are important.” At the University of Toronto, all 46 interuniversity teams have corporate money or toys to play with.
Stephanie Geosits, manager of marketing, advertising and sponsorship at U of T, works with coaches to seek out sponsors. Some companies provide new uniforms or products, and other support comes in the form of monetary agreements.
“It can be a few hundred to thousands [of dollars],” Geosits says. “But every team has some sort of corporate assistance.” Compared to Ryerson, the University of Toronto has a much larger alumni base, and therefore greater corporate contacts.
As well, attendance at U of T varsity games far surpasses those at Ryerson. Companies looking for ad exposure can count on more people seeing their logos at U of T games.
“It’s quid-pro-quo,” says Kahn. “What you do for me I’ve got to give back. We’re not the Raptors, we don’t have thousands of people coming to games. So really, it’s a donation.”
Porosa also believes corporations seek out the highest ranked teams. “In order to get sponsored you need a competitive team,” he says. “Corporations are involved with the winners.”