Volume 95, Issue 42

Thursday, November 15, 2001
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Corporate funding: the good, the bad and the ugly

Up close and personal with Western's corporate side

Up close and personal with Western's corporate side

By Lindsay Satterthwaite
Gazette Staff

Lauren Starr/Gazette

Tim Hortons, Pizza Pizza, Coca-Cola and the latest addition, Adidas, are just some of the corporations that have a major presence at Western.

Ted Garrard, Western's VP-external, said companies sign partnerships with Western in order to market and sell their products on campus, but certain criteria must be examined before a deal is considered.

"In any case, [Western] looks to the organization for their credentials – if they are reputable and if they conform to good standards," he said.

Adidas is the most recent corporation to have formed a commercial relationship with Western, Garrard said.

In September, Adidas announced a five-year contract that will see Western varsity athletes exclusively outfitted in Adidas footwear, clothing and accessories.

"The athletic students are getting top quality athletic wear," he added.

Dan Smith, Western's director of athletics and recreation, said Adidas first approached the university last spring. "Adidas identified Western as a marquis [athletic] program to be associated with," he said.

Smith said Adidas was an ideal corporation to sponsor Western's intercollegiate athletics because the company is well-regarded around the world.

Seanna Robinson, sport promotion co-ordinator for Adidas, said the contract requires varsity athletes to exclusively wear Adidas products. "This has not created any major problems. There are enough [additional product] options for athletes which can be purchased at a discounted price," she said.

The arrangement with Adidas and intercollegiate athletics will supply Western in excess of $1 million worth of clothing and equipment, Smith said.

Robinson added Western is a premier university that exemplifies a high athletic standard. "[Adidas] focuses on quality, not quantity. This partnership communicates a performance message," she said.

"Adidas offers a training line [of clothing] and a presentation line [of clothing] for varsity athletes," she explained. The partnership with Adidas not only benefits varsity athletes, Robinson said. There is also a Mustang clothing line in the BookStore available for all students to purchase, she explained.

Adidas is excited to sponsor Western because it is involved in 35 sports, Robinson said. "Sponsoring athletes at the university level is great because it is a key developmental stage. Hopefully, athletes will follow the programming throughout their career," she said.

Jesse Greener, VP-external for the Society of Graduate Students, said it is important to look at the bigger picture when examining corporate sponsorship.

"Government funding has been slashed so badly and the only way to make up for it is to raise tuition fees or bring in money from commercial enterprises," he noted.

Greener said money from corporations may not be a negative thing on the surface, but there may be underlying problems involved in any partnership.

Commercial relationships limit choices and force students to buy one product, Greener said. "The inability to choose various vendors may hurt down the road," he said.

In addition, varsity athletes who may have found a specific piece of equipment that works well for them may not be able to use it if it is not designed by the appropriate company, he explained.

Political considerations must also be taken into account.

"It is important to look at the political climate of the times. [Western] has been critically under-funded for six years and if it continues, the university must either cutback or bring in money from corporations," he said.

"The bottom line for a corporation is to make money and the bottom line for a university is to provide high-quality education. There will eventually be a conflict between the two principles," he said.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001