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July 30, 2012
The Willowton Group, whose flagship product is the cooking oil Sunfoil, have extended their Test sponsorship of the South African team to four years. The company took over naming rights to home series last season, after an extended period in which Cricket South Africa could not find corporate backing because of the ongoing bonus scandal, and have since committed even further to cricket in the country.
Willowton is a family-run business that was believed to have obtained their initial deal at a bargain rate in November last year. It was at that time that CSA's reputation was at its lowest - they had to give the title rights of a T20 series against Australia away to a charity while it staged the three-match ODI rubber which followed without a sponsor. The domestic one-day competition was also staged without funding.
Sunfoil, who were involved in grass-roots cricket through the township program in Kwa-Zulu Natal, were then approached to provide Test sponsorship. The two-match series against Australia carried their name and they went on to back both the Test and ODI series against Sri Lanka, at a time when no other business would link itself to South African cricket.
In the months since then, CSA have suspended chief executive Gerald Majola and are in the process of taking disciplinary action against him for his role in the bonus scandal. Jacques Faul has been installed in his place, in an acting capacity. Although negotiations with other sponsors were under way during the Majola era, deals were left unsigned because companies were wary of linking themselves to CSA.
Under Faul, insurance company MiWay sponsored the domestic twenty-over competition and financial services company Momentum aligned themselves to ODI cricket, the domestic limited-overs competition and the national club championships.
Sunfoil have also entered into a multi-tiered agreement. Their new deal includes Test cricket, the first-class competition and the amateur provincial three-day tournament. The first-class competition was previously backed by television broadcaster SuperSport, who had title rights to it for the last 17 years although they ceased to broadcast any matches live almost a decade ago.
In recent seasons, SuperSport have run highlights packages and because they will remain broadcast partners to CSA, Faul is hopeful that exposure for the first-class game will grow. "At this stage there will be no live ball by ball coverage of the Sunfoil Series," Faul told ESPNcricinfo. "Although we are in discussions with SuperSport to do live hourly updates from every match." South African Airways were the backers of the amateur tournament but pulled out two seasons ago, leaving CSA to fund it themselves. Sunfoil's involvement in that competition brings to six the number of development and non-international projects they are associated with. They also sponsor two townships programs, in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng, are involved in the Schools Night League and provide financial support to the Dolphins.
Sunfoil have reported record sales since they began their association with cricket.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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