Sport

Let's say 'Grace'

Food giant nourishes Champs 2014 with $66-m injection

BY HOWARD WALKER Observer Senior Reporter walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, March 13, 2014    

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THE official launch of the 104th staging of the ISSA Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships took place yesterday with title sponsors GraceKennedy handing over a whopping $36.75-million cheque to organisers.

The event, with this year's theme being "Celebrating School Spirit", was hosted and aired live by associate sponsor TVJ with the five-day championship set for March 25-29.

Don Wehby, Group CEO of the 92-year-old conglomerate GraceKennedy, said he felt a huge sense of pride every time he hears his organisation's name linked with the championship.

"Our association with ISSA and our support for Champs is such a big part of who we are as a company. That's why we have been sponsoring Champs since 2007, and that's why we will be title sponsors until 2018 at the very least," said Wehby.

Wehby, who won the Class Three 100m hurdles at Champs in 1978 as a St George's College student, revealed that in addition to the $36.7 million GraceKennedy invested in Champs, an additional $30 million will be spent on marketing.

"We don't think of this as a cash sponsorship, this is an investment in our young people and in Jamaica. We go all out for this event, putting our whole heart in it," he noted.

This year, GraceKennedy will be instituting, for the first time, a coaches' incentive where the winning coaches of both schools will walk away with $150,000 each as well as a $25,000 gift certificate from Hi-Lo Supermarket, a subsidiary of GraceKennedy.

The five-day spectacle will see 205 schools and over 2,500 athletes participating. Tickets for the event go on sale on Saturday, March 22, between the hours of 8:00 am and 2:00 pm.

Apart from the ticket turnstiles at the National Stadium, patrons can purchase tickets in Port Antonio at Titchfield High School; Cornwall College in Montego Bay; St Elizabeth High School in Santa Cruz; and Manchester High in Mandeville.

Access to the National Stadium on the first day will be free, but on Wednesday and Thursday it will cost children $100 and adults $500 to enter the only point of entry which is the grandstand.

On Friday, the prices rocket to $2,000 for regular grandstand and $500 for Bleachers, where students in uniform pay $200.

On Saturday, the final day, it will cost $3,000 for regular grandstand and $1,000 for Bleachers. Category One Season Tickets go for $6,000 each and $5,000 for Category Two.

This year's honorees will be five stalwarts of Champs. They are Lloyd Goodleigh of Calabar High (1970-76); Carol Cummings-Kellum (Vere Technical 1960s); administrator Garth Gayle; coach of a female team, Leacroft Bolt of St Andrew High; and coach of a male team, Rohan Bryan of Morant Bay High.

At yesterday's launch, there were presentations from the associate sponsors TVJ, LIME, SportsMax, 361 Degrees, and Gatorade and a new partner in the Canadian High Commission who will be promoting the idea of studying in Canada.

While TVJ will be airing the event live locally, Sportsmax will be broadcasting live internationally to 27 countries in the Caribbean and in the New York Tri-State area and Toronto, Canada, via their sister station CEEN TV. SportsMax will also be streaming live via the Internet.

"We are pleased to bring Champs to the world again as we see the value of track and field, not just to Jamaicans locally, but to the world wherever Jamaicans and fans of Jamaica reside," said SportsMax Marketing Manager Tanya Lee.

"The talents of our athletes deserve global promotion and recognition and this is what we aim to continue doing through our free Internet stream," she added.

Meanwhile, Champs' official telecom provider, LIME, will be taking a multilayer approach. Carlo Redwood, vice-president of marketing, said they would be engaging the students and schools that participate through their Ultimate BBQ Fund-raiser Giveaway, as well as through its community-wide I Run This Town Fastest Man and Woman competitions that started on March 1.

Those online, "through our exciting and nostalgic Facebook Journey to Champs videos", will get to be a part of the journey.

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