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University of Otago named as major Highlanders sponsor

Clocktower at sunset

Monday 10 February 2014 10:20am

VC and Highlanders players
Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne and Highlanders players Craig Millar and Ben Smith.

The University of Otago has become one of the major sponsors of the Highlanders, in a move primarily aimed at capitalising on the rugby franchise’s significant marketing exposure by the national and international media.

In an announcement at the Forsyth Barr Stadium today (Monday), Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says the decision to back the Highlanders Super Rugby Competition franchise was based on many strong synergies with the high-profile team representing provinces south of the Waitaki, including Otago and Southland.

This is a first for a New Zealand university, although in Australia and the US, for example, it was not uncommon for universities to support their high profile local sports athletes and teams. A principal sponsor of the Brumbies rugby franchise in Australia is the University of Canberra.

Among the opportunities for the University of Otago, the sponsorship will bring the University’s name to the back of the Highlanders’ jerseys, on the medics’ bibs, and the University’s logo will also be painted on the stadium field and appear on sideline digital signage during games at the Dunedin stadium. University television advertisements will play at the stadium during intervals, and players will involve themselves in more University events and academic initiatives.

“The Stadium and the Highlanders will be a canvas to highlight the University of Otago, which is located literally on the doorstep of this world-class facility,” she says.

During home games at the stadium, the international television broadcasting of matches meant powerful brand exposure. At other stadiums in New Zealand and overseas, including in Australia and South Africa, the international marketing benefits of having the University’s name on the jersey, visible to an average of 250,000 viewers at each game in 2013 alone, was also a major benefit of the sponsorship arrangement.

“This agreement provides the University with more than just the opportunity to increase our visibility to our markets across New Zealand and overseas.

“Rugby is not just a game on a Saturday night - it’s a business as well. When you look at the high-level skills that have been used to develop professional rugby success – the expertise in medical, physiotherapy, marketing and business areas, the science in clothing and nutrition – a lot of this has come from students, graduates, researchers and teachers from the University of Otago.”

Highlanders General Manager Roger Clark is delighted to welcome the University of Otago to its family of major sponsors.

“We congratulate them on becoming the first university in the country to align with a professional rugby franchise in such a significant way. Good business strategy, innovation and support for the community have long been hallmarks of the University of Otago and this unique partnership certainly continues that legacy,” he says.

Mr Clark adds the University of Otago is New Zealand’s oldest and finest university and an iconic brand showcasing international success from our region.

“Super Rugby and the Highlanders have a strong following within New Zealand and across the globe. We believe this association will help further our respective brands and businesses both domestically and internationally.

“We are excited about taking the field in a jersey bearing the University of Otago logo, a jersey that already means a great deal to us will mean even more now.”

Professor Hayne adds that a career within the multi-million-dollar industry of international rugby in New Zealand is among the highly satisfying occupations that Otago graduates have chosen in the past and will continue to pursue in the years to come. Moreover, some of the most prestigious universities in the world have strong sports programmes, and it was hoped the support of the Highlanders franchise, and associated benefits, would draw more of the “best and brightest” to study at Otago.

“So there are very real synergies that make this sponsorship such a great fit for our University.... not the least of which is that each year, a large group of our students are probably the most colourful and passionate fan-base of the Super Rugby Competition in New Zealand,” she says.

The University of Otago also has “a long and proud history” of nurturing some of the best Highlanders (and Otago) players, and future All Blacks, as they studied for their degrees at Otago while pursuing their rugby careers.

Professor Hayne says an important consideration of supporting the Highlanders was also the Stadium itself, and the need for the Otago and Southland community, of which the University is a part, to support it.

“The University has a commitment to the Stadium, which we use for University events, including student Orientation, and it’s a safe, and a short walk from flats and colleges. Our sponsorship of the Highlanders is a clear and tangible signal of the University’s support of this world-class resource in Dunedin,” she says.

“We are New Zealand’s oldest and finest University, but we are also sometimes its shyest. The location of our main campus in Dunedin is beautiful, but we sometimes run the risk of being overlooked because the University isn’t located in one of the larger cities. It's important for our University to lead from the front and let it be known that this is a community of endless opportunity. The Highlanders are also a part of that community.”


Jo Galer
Senior Communications Adviser
University of Otago
Tel 64 3 479 8263

Amanda Gould
Marketing Manager
Tel 64 3 479 9280

Roll call of University associations

Otago University Rugby Football Club’s history with the Highlanders

Several Otago University Rugby Football Club (OURFC) players have been Highlanders. Players include Anton Oliver, Adam Thomson, James Ryan, Tom Donnelly and Simon Maling. All five of these players were also All Blacks.

Other OURFC club members who have played for the Highlanders include Brendon Timmins, John Leslie, Justin Cullen, Mike Mika, John Blaikie, Duncan Blaikie, Josh Blackie, Nick Moore, Sean Romans, Chris Noakes, Pita Alitini, Matt Carrington, Kenny Lynn, Jason Kawau, Ryan Nicholas, Matt Berquist and Grant Webb.

*Taine Randell, former All Black Captain and former Highlanders player, is also a graduate of the University of Otago.

Highlanders players and staff who are either University of Otago current students or graduates:


Liam Coltman Working on a BPhEd degree
Ben Smith Working on a BPhEd degree
Gareth Evans BSc in Geography
Tom Franklin BCom [BusMgt]
Craig Millar BCom [Acctg]


Jamie Joseph (Head Coach)

  • Bachelor of Physical Education

Dr Greg Macleod (Team Doctor)

  • Bachelor of Physical Education
  • Bachelor of Science (Nutrition)
  • Bachelor of Physiotherapy
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Medicine
  • Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Child Health

Adam Letts (Physiotherapist)

  • Bachelor of Science (Anatomy)
  • Bachelor of Physiotherapy
  • Postgraduate diploma in Sports medicine
  • Postgraduate certificate in Acupuncture

Karl Houltham (Assistant Physiotherapist)

  • Bachelor of Physical Education
  • Bachelor of Physiotherapy
  • Post Graduate Diploma (Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy)
  • Master of Physiotherapy (Manipulative Physiotherapy)

Natalie Fraser (Mental Skills Coach)

  • Diploma for Graduates (Physical Education)
  • Currently completing Masters of Physical Education in Sports Psychology

Fiona Simpson (Sports Dietician)

  • Bachelor of Science (Human Nutrition)
  • Bachelor of Physical Education
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics

Andrew Beardmore (Strength and Conditioning Coach)

  • Bachelor of Physical Education

Mike Kerr (Commercial Manager)

  • Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing/Management) –
  • Diploma for Graduates (Psychology)

Amanda Gould (Finance and Marketing Manager)

  • Bachelor of Commerce (International Business)

Peter Sinclair (Personal Development Manager)

  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Masters of Education
  • Post grad Diploma in Education Psychology
  • Diploma in Education

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

Electronic addresses (including email accounts, instant messaging services, or telephone accounts) published on this page are for the sole purpose of contact with the individuals concerned, in their capacity as officers, employees or students of the University of Otago, or their respective organisation. Publication of any such electronic address is not to be taken as consent to receive unsolicited commercial electronic messages by the address holder.