http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoROiLt0sJc Who sponsored the Olympics? If you guessed Visa, BMW, and Coca-Cola, you're right. And then there was P&G (remember all ?the Mom commercials?), McDonald?s, BP and British Airways, among many others. On another level, there were national sponsors, and still further down the sponsor chain were the important companies who backed individual national disciplines. And what a job they did! German riders ?had Fendt, the farm equipment company. ?The Netherlands had Rabobank, which provided media support and fun social media blogs and image galleries for each and every rider. Team GB had both sponsors and official suppliers; the only commercial logo on the front page of their web site is for Land Rover, their longtime official vehicle partner. Here, it took a metropolis of companies and individuals to support the airlift and maintenance of Team USA. Once the Games began, SmartPak had the most visible role. They took a page from Rabobank?s book and blurred the separation of sponsor and media by hosting daily reports from employees on a spree in London for the USEF Network web site. And New Zealand? Well, New Zealand had a lovely cup of tea. Bell Tea has sponsored the Kiwi riders since 1977. Money is what makes things happen of course, but it's the little things you remember, like the comraderie of watching Mark Todd ride in the Olympics on television in the middle of the night. Bell Tea had no hard sell attached to its sponsorship. It just did a lot of little things that seem to fit the spirit and perception of New Zealand equestrians to a ?t?--pun intended. Anyone who organizes an event or a fundraising project will tell you that some companies are sponsors, and some become partners. There is a fine membrane between the two distinctions that some companies just seem to cross. I?ve featured some of the little things that Bell Tea did for and with the team, and it all adds up to quiet understatement. The relocation of the New Zealand eventers to Great Britain and the decision to come as close as possible to having a ?home field advantage? was brilliant, but it was not inexpensive. The company's special Facebook page app for messaging the riders in London is still going strong--the Paralympians apparently like a nice cup to tea, too. New Zealand is a long way from London. The world will probably never know what sort of corporate and public financing was required to make that tiny nation's equestrian teams happen, but happen it did...and we can all be glad of that. As I write this, the New Zealand eventing team is landing in Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand to begin a five-day whirlwind barnstorming monster party of a celebration around the two islands that comprise their beautiful nation. They are returning to a hero?s welcome. One of the team's first stops will be the Bell Tea corporate offices. And while champagne may well be called for--and I'm sure it will be from grapes grown Down Under--I can't help but think that a cup of tea might be more appropriate. Congratulations, Bell Tea and Team New Zealand! Click to watch a Mark Todd commercial for Bell Tea from the 1980s. Thanks to Monique Caddy?at Bell Tea and Diana Dobson, Equestrian New Zealand High Performance Media Liaison, for helping arrange these images and media, and for inspiring me to write this article.
Who sponsored the Olympics? Visa, BMW, Coca-Cola, McDonald?s--oh, and Bell tea bags from New Zealand! Read how cups of tea paved the road to London.