Holden diverts half of Collingwood sponsorship cash to women’s team and community after Eddie McGuire controversy

Car maker Holden is set to divert a large chunk of its multi-million dollar sponsorship deal with AFL club Collingwood to its women’s team and community programs and infrastructure after controversial comments by president Eddie McGuire.

Holden is one of Australia's top sponsors

Holden is one of Australia’s top sponsors

Holden confirmed last month it was “hugely unhappy” and reviewing its arrangements, thought to be worth $3m per season, following comments by TripleM breakfast host McGuire about drowning journalist Caroline Wilson which many took to be casually condoning violence against women.

Among the comments broadcast during the Big Freeze fundraiser at the MCG were statements by McGuire that he would pay for Wilson to be dunked in cold water, saying: “I reckon we should start the campaign for a one-person slide next year featuring Caroline Wilson and I’ll put in 10 grand straight away, make it 20. And if she stays under, 50. What do you reckon guys?”

McGuire, centre, is one of TripleM Melbourne's breakfast hosts.

McGuire, centre, is one of TripleM Melbourne’s breakfast hosts.

In a statement today Holden’s managing director Mark Bernhard said: “The easy thing to do would be to walk away from Collingwood, the hard road is to stick together and work side-by-side to champion diversity and continue to drive meaningful change. That is what we have decided to do; we sponsor Collingwood, not an individual.

“Industries like automotive and sporting codes like the AFL are often viewed as ‘blokey’ and behind the times when it comes to social issues. We now have a chance to take a stronger leadership position. Large organisations such as Holden and Collingwood have an important role to play in reinforcing the values of diversity, equality and inclusion. We can be a stronger force working together.

“Myself, and the entire Holden team, remain firm in categorically rejecting the comments made by Mr McGuire. This was a difficult decision and I sought counsel from friends, family and colleagues. Ultimately, however, our partnership is with Collingwood and the club has a strong record of championing diversity and inclusion. We want to continue to work together because this partnership is about more than just footy.”

The support of one of Australia’s biggest sponsors would be a big boost for the AFL women’s league which is set to launch next season. As part of the deal Holden will retain naming rights on Collingwood’s Olympic Park headquarters.

Collingwood’s existing diversity awareness programs will also be extended to Holden employees and the carmaker is extending the platform to create a development program for women working in its dealerships.

“Holden is proud of its stance and position on diversity, equality and inclusion. We still have work to do but we have made big strides in recent years,” said Benhard.

“For example, we have a paid leave policy for people who are impacted by domestic or family violence, we are introducing a ‘blind CV’ hiring policy to tackle unconscious bias and Holden ranks in the top two for gender diversity across the automotive industry. This is an integral part of what Holden stands for and we believe Collingwood shares these values. We can be a stronger force for change together.”

The sponsorship and broadcast potential for women’s and grass roots sports will be discussed at sessions at the forthcoming Mumbrella Sports Marketing Summit in Sydney on July 28. Click here for more details and tickets.

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