As the sun rose on 14th April, over the Eildon Hills overlooking the sleepy Scottish Borders town of Melrose, the local rugby club, along with the town’s 2,200 residents, readied itself to welcome visitors to its annual Rugby Sevens tournament for the 128th time.
The Melrose Sevens, the first tournament of its kind, was inaugurated in 1883 and was conceived by two stalwarts of the town’s rugby club, Ned Haig and David Sanderson, in an effort to help stabilise the club’s finances.
From this modest beginning, Rugby Sevens is now played and enjoyed all over the world and recently featured in the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
Each year, up to 15,000 rugby devotees make the pilgrimage to Melrose to enjoy a full day of exciting, fast paced rugby in addition to traditional Scottish Borders’ hospitality and the opportunity to meet up with friends old and new.
In addition to those attending in person, a worldwide television audience, in the hundreds of thousands, tune in to watch the historic tournament unfold over the course of seven hours or so.
Over the 136 years of its history, Melrose Sevens has enjoyed the support of many high profile sponsors, including a number of blue chip companies.
For the past three years, thanks largely to the efforts of Scottish Rotary member Andy Ireland, a rugby referee himself, Rotary has had the opportunity to join that list of sponsors and the benefits gained have far outweighed the relatively modest financial input that has been made.
All round the world famous Greenyards pitch, in the most prominent of positions, as far as television camera angles are concerned, adverts promoted Rotary.
The huge video screen which overlooks the pitch regularly broadcasts Rotary People of Action promotional videos.
To add a personal touch, there is a veritable army of Rotary volunteers, drawn largely from the Scottish Borders Rotary Clubs, stationed at all the entrances to the ground and elsewhere, ready to engage with the attendees, speak with them about what Rotary is and what Rotary does and collect, in this year’s case, on behalf of the Purple4Polio campaign.
Over £1,500 was collected, and with the 2-to-1 financial uplift from the Gates Foundation, donations go even further, meaning over £4,500 was raised for End Polio Now.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the sponsorship package was the appearance on the back of the tournament referees’ jerseys of the Rotary logo and reference to the Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland website.
The idea of placing the logo on back of the jerseys is a masterstroke, given that, in the case of the referees, this aspect is seen much more prominently than the front!
In addition to the brand recognition on the day itself, Rotary benefits from exposure on the tournament’s website in the months leading up to the event (the 2019 Melrose Sevens site is already live) as well as receiving significant exposure on social media.
As a spin off, Rotary also gains significant coverage in SCRUM Magazine, a multi-platform media outlet that covers every aspect of rugby in Scotland and beyond.
2018 represented the third year of Rotary’s four year sponsorship package of this prestigious event. I for, one, sincerely hope a way can be found to extend this beyond 2019 as, in my opinion, there can be few better ways to raise awareness of Rotary among the very people we seek to recruit.