We love to boogie . . . the Beef and Lamb ads look like fun, but for the athlete it is a crucial deal that lets them continue in their sport and perform at elite levels.
After their Olympic success, Sarah Walker and Lisa Carrington are the new faces of Beef and Lamb New Zealand. This means doing lots of fun ads, but also lifts a huge weight off their shoulders – the sponsorship deal will carry them through to the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.
For a brand like Beef and Lamb these high achieving females – the double Olympic gold medallist Evers-Swindell twins, cyclist Sarah Ulmer, and now Walker and Carrington – are a marketing dream but for the athlete the sponsors are what they rely on to be able to perform.
Ulmer won gold at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, and as a result was part of the first Beef and Lamb iron maidens campaign. She says sponsors helped her “massively”.
“They were the only reason I could stay in the sport for as long as I did, and as a result get the performances and results that I did.
“Had I not had the feeling of being financially stable, I wouldn’t have been mentally strong enough to stay at an elite level.”
After a fourth place in BMX at the Beijing Games in 2008 Walker joined the campaign with Ulmer and the Evers-Swindells.
Silver in London lead to her becoming the face of Beef and Lamb, along with gold medallist kayaker Lisa Carrington.
Walker understands the importance of sponsors in supporting her while she is competing, and in providing some security for the future, but says she has morals when it comes to what brands she will represent.
“I’m not just going to be sponsored by anyone who wants to throw money at me. I want to be aligned with brands that I can represent well and believe in.
“It’s always hard to turn down money, especially when it gets into the five figures and you’re saying, ‘No sorry I can’t do it’, because obviously anything helps to set you up.”
Chief executive of Beef and Lamb Rod Slater says they choose to use the female athletes for these same reasons.
“They’re heartland Kiwi women that have achieved in a very quiet and determined Kiwi way and I think that’s why so many New Zealanders identify with them and respect them.
Slater sees the campaign as benefitting both parties: “We scratch each others’ backs.”
“We help profile them, and we commit to them for the long haul – we’re not five-minute charlies. We’ve committed to them already right through to 2016 and their next Olympic campaigns.
“But I think we must remember that we’re making a commercial decision here. We see an investment in them, in giving us a return.”
Walker understands that it is a business decision, but sees it as an opportunity to help in the campaign for success and a secure future, and where athletes can benefit from the returns too.
“But if you get carried away in trying to find money all the time then it can be a distraction so it’s trying to find the balance.”