New Title sponsor energises Taunton Rugby Club’s community presence
British Gas unveiled as title sponsor of National League One rugby club in multi-year partnership, writes Richard Kitzinger
Taunton Rugby Football Club is on the rise. The club’s semi-professional First XV, Taunton Titans, recently completed their first ever season in National League One in 8th place out of 15, more than holding their own against some of English rugby’s most-established names.
If that wasn’t enough to capture the attention, then this will. British Gas, a household name, has been revealed as Taunton Rugby Football Club’s new title sponsor. It’s a multi-year deal that will be the envy not only of fellow National League sides but also the giants of the Premiership.
It’s an exciting arrangement. Neither party is viewing it merely as a handover of funds in return for having the logo on the shirtfronts. Unveiling the sponsorship, Taunton’s Commercial Co-ordinator, Nick Mason, is quick to underline that this is a partnership. “British Gas will be a visible presence here on match days, you’ll see them here during the week having their conferences and training sessions and you’ll see them out in the community. We’re lining up initiatives that the British Gas and the Titans will head up together.”
The prime motivation for British Gas in entering this partnership is not to increase its customer base in Somerset. As James Kew, Area Customer Delivery Manager, explains, “It’s not about getting our brand name out there. Everyone knows British Gas. Part of this is a recruitment drive. Our engineers live in the communities that we serve. So we’ve got a vested interest in looking after their communities because they’re also our communities. We’re looking to employ local people that live in the South-West to serve our loyal customers in the region.”
British Gas will not only be prominently displayed around Veritas Park but will also be using the outstanding conferencing facilities at the ground for training and professional development of its staff, including the engineers who go into people’s homes around the West Country. “Every month,” says James, “Our engineers have training on safety updates. With the club’s location, plenty of parking, first-rate conferencing suites and great catering in-house, this is the perfect place to get our colleagues together.”
On match days there will be British Gas engineers present not to sign up new customers but to run ‘Energy Surgeries’. Referring to the dramatic rises in fuel costs, James admits that many people are having to decide whether to eat or whether to heat. The aim of the surgeries is to help people in the community to understand how they can save money in their home by being more energy efficient.
Community is at the heart of this tie-in. Nick Mason concedes that British Gas could have “Sponsored whoever they wanted really. The reason they’re coming here and partnering with us is that we are an avenue for them to reach our community and their community through several projects we’ll run together.” Titans players will be heading out alongside British Gas engineers to deliver these initiatives. Both Nick and James see nothing but positive outcomes. “People will see our badge, they’ll see the British Gas logo,” says Nick, “They’ll see us helping in schools – careers days, work experience – and in community projects. It can only be good news all round.”
“I love this rugby club. I really do. I love how it treats its people. I love how it treats its kids and players all through the age groups.” James, who coaches junior teams at Taunton, goes on to cite the club’s values of being inclusive and welcoming, showing respect to referees, officials, opposition and team-mates and he draws parallels with the value set subscribed to at British Gas, expecting employees to be courteous, supportive, and respectful.
“It was a no-brainer for us to get involved with the club. Yes, we’re a national business but really and truly we’re broken up into different areas. The way I look at it, I run a local business that’s supported by national infrastructure. We see partnering the rugby club as a brilliant opportunity to be involved in the community in a way that goes far beyond putting up some money to support the rugby. If I’m running a local business, it should be supporting local causes, local schools, local sports centres.”
British Gas has a declared purpose to ‘help you live sustainably, simply and affordably’ and an avowed ambition to ‘create a more inclusive and sustainable future for communities, the planet and each other’. In partnering with Taunton RFC they are demonstrably setting about doing all of that in spades.
“Right now, we’re seeing rising inflation and high energy costs,” says James. “We’ve got to do something about it in the community and this is the ideal time to do it – and we want to be doing this with Taunton Rugby Club.” British Gas engineers have days allocated each year for volunteering and the plan is to get them running sessions for local people to educate them on how to be more energy efficient.
One initiative that’s already up and running for British Gas is a drive to help those coming out of the Armed Forces transition into civilian life through careers and employment opportunities. There are already established links between the Navy and Taunton RFC and Veritas Park has become the de facto home ground for them.
At a recent event for the senior leadership team at British Gas, James delivered a presentation illustrating the proposal for the sponsorship partnership with Taunton RFC – to universal acclaim. It’s not anarrangement that has gone through because of James involvement with the club –it’s been approved of at the highest levels because of the number of ways in which it’s going to achieve many of British Gas’ community outreach goals. Many of his colleagues from around the country asked him for the fixtures list so that they can come along to support Titans in their away games. “It’s a British Gas project,” reiterates James, “and everyone’s on board.”
British Gas sponsoring Taunton RFC is about recruiting people to careers with the energy giant, making big differences in the community for local causes, growing support for both the rugby club and the business and helping the Titans on the path to further success both on and off the field. “People in and around Taunton will know that if they need any help, the rugby club and British Gas are there to support them,” says James.
“When you look at it and see a club with the same value set as our company,” says James, “The foundation for youth, local and national rugby, the inclusive environment and you’ve got a top team performing at a higher level than they ever have done before, you see a club that’s going places and we want to be alongside them, helping them achieve their dream and at the same time helping in the local community.”