IF Jamaica's football was considered to be on life support, from a financial standpoint, up to yesterday, it would have been awakened from its comatosed state with a robust shot in the arm from a corporate saviour.
The iconic international beverage brand Coca-Cola, through its local distributor Wisynco, has supported the cash-strapped Reggae Boyz team, and the national football programme by extension, with a whopping US$1.6-million ($147 million) deal over six years.
William Mahfood, Wisynco's managing director, told the Jamaica Observer that the commitment was borne out of a desire to give back to the people of Jamaica after they had helped to bring great success to the company.
"Our business has continued to grow, and we continue to invest, and not only in our own company, but the people of Jamaica," he said at yesterday's press briefing at the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) offices.
"Because Coca-Cola and its portfolio had a tremendous year of growth, one of the best years in the history of the business in Jamaica, we felt it was good to give back, and here's an opportunity for Coke to say to the people of Jamaica as we go into this (World Cup) campaign that Wisynco and Coca-Cola thank you for supporting us, and now we are supporting a national pride through the national teams," Mahfood said.
The Wisynco boss could not provide a detailed breakdown offhand, but said the majority of the sum would indeed be cash.
"That's what (cash) the Captain said they need (most of all) to cover operational costs. Of course there will be some products, then there's going to be some performance-based incentives, so if they hit important milestones, like actually going to Brazil, then there's a certain amount of cash that kicks in, and what this does is to ensure that each step of the way during the campaign they have funds to help carry them through," Mahfood noted.
With the Boyz set to kick-start the decisive hexagonal round of the CONCACAF Brazil 2014 World Cup qualifiers away to Mexico next Wednesday, head coach Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore said the new deal was timely.
"We have to give thanks for any support we can get and this is a tremendous boost... football is not only played on the field, but off the field as well, and having this wonderful gesture this afternoon (yesterday) tells me that football is alive and well. I now urge other sponsors to come on board to help us make 2014 a reality," said the France 1998 World Cup two-goal hero.
"When you look at the conditions that the team has to play under at times, it is amazing, and the kind of (positive) result that we get, so any sponsorship this programme can get will be a morale-booster," Whitmore added.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who attended the press conference in her capacity as Minister of Sport, said Coca-Cola and Wisynco's gesture spoke volumes to corporate Jamaica's posture on sport in general and football in particular.
"This (sponsorship) is affirmation that corporate Jamaica has faith in the Reggae Boyz. We, as a Government, are grateful to Wisynco and Coca-Cola for (demonstrating) their corporate and social responsibility," she said between reflections on some memorable experiences -- pleasant and sour -- travelling the world with the Boyz.
Meanwhile, JFF boss Captain Horace Burrell was beside himself with delight at the news and hoped that Coca-Cola and Wisynco's gesture would spur other corporate entities to throw their support behind the 'Mission To Rio' campaign.
"I am extremely elated at Coca-Cola coming on board... we are hoping that by them coming on board and being such a high-profile company, that it will act as a catalyst to attract other sponsors to do likewise.
"When a brand like Coca-Cola partners with you in any endeavour, then you are a winner. My appreciation is more than the cash value, I see a world-renowned brand associating with Jamaica's football, which to me is phenomenal, and I believe that there are several benefits that will come," he concluded.
Also attending yesterday's function were members of both the men's and women's teams, Coca-Cola Senior Marketing Development Manager Shermin Peters and the beverage company's senior marketing manager of the Caribbean, Marcelo Herrera.