It may be time to support sponsors, rather than seek sponsor support

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Like the other 500 or so bowling clubs around New Zealand, the COVID lockdown has been quite disruptive to Bowls Mt Maunganui.  But nothing which retiring Club Administrator, Garrick Hamlyn believes they can’t get on top of at the club.

“In many ways,” Garrick observes, “We were very lucky.  The lockdown came at the end of the season, so disruption of our summer bowls programme was minimised.  In particular, we managed to host a wonderful Nation Fours tournament at the beginning of March, when people were still making jokes about drinking Corona beer.”

“But when we went into Level 4 lockdown (Thursday 26th March), things didn’t look so bright.  Particularly when lockdown included stopping maintenance of the greens.  So it was good work that Bowls New Zealand managed to negotiate a dispensation with the government after two weeks, and get the greens back in the great shape they had been for the Nationals.”

However, the club still wasn’t home and dry when the COVID lockdown moved to Level 3 on Tuesday 28th April.

“We made the decision to keep the club locked off, even at Level 3,” says Garrick. “The managed social-distancing required was going to be too difficult for us to facilitate and police.  So we decided to tai-hoa until Level 2.”

“That mightn’t sound a lot, but we are an all year-round club here at the Mount.  It meant asking our members to continue to be patient.”

The now ZOOM-literate executive of Bowls Mt Maunganui virtually conferred, and made the decision to open up the club again at Level 2.  And the first roll-ups started again on Wednesday 14th May.

“We escaped pretty well,” says Garrick, “Probably much better than other sports clubs .. particularly winter sports clubs, and certainly much better than a lot of local employers and employees who are really having a tough time.”

“It got us thinking about our sponsors.  We have 32 of them, all small local businesses who pay for green naming rights and green perimeter signage … or tournament sponsorship anything from $250 to $1,000 a pop.  They provide more than 25% of the club’s annual income.  They’re critical to the club.”

“However, It’s pretty easy to imagine that 32 out of 32 of them had a tough lockdown, and may continue to have a tough time even after lockdown ends whenever.  We realised that we were now critical to them.”

But it’s one thing to sympathise with their predicament, but quite another to do something about it.

So Garrick and his team compiled a comprehensive list of Bowls Mount Maunganui sponsors … their names, where they’re located, and what they sell … and wrote to all the club’s members exhorting them to use the sponsors’ products and services wherever and whenever they could.  And judging from feedback, it’s worked.

“We ask these local businesses to put their hand in their pocket year after year for the club,” says Garrick.  “It’s out turn to put our hands in our pockets for them.”

Hopefully, one of those sponsors is a bakery where Garrick’s whanau can uplift a magnificent cake to celebrate his 80th birthday celebration, postponed from the Level 4 lockdown. “They’re planning something,” laughs Garrick.  “It can also be a celebration of my retirement from Secretary (8 years) and Treasurer (17 years) of Bowls Mount Maunganui!”