Today HSBC announced the renewal of its sponsorship of the British & Irish Lions. The partnership, which will run until the end of the next Lions Tour to Australia in 2013, follows the successful sponsorship of the 2009 tour to South Africa, signed in 2007. The agreement means that HSBC are the first Principal Partner to ever renew a sponsorship with The Lions and will see the Group become shirt sponsor of the team once again. The partnership was formally announced at a joint media conference with the British Lions Limited (BLL) committee at HSBC Private Bank in London.
The announcement adds to the Group's growing portfolio of rugby sponsorships, including the IRB Sevens World Series. These rugby sponsorships help to build the Group's business and support our vision and values. They enable our customers to experience our brand philosophy and connect with our business through shared passions. The unique platform of The Lions provides the perfect vehicle for this.
The 2009 Lions Tour allowed us to connect with communities, our staff and customers across the UK, Ireland and South Africa. Through our grassroots investments from youth coaching to coach education and a ticketing and mascot programme in South Africa we were able to make a significant difference to the communities we served - the legacy of which continues today.
At today's media conference, BLL also announced that for the first time ever The Lions will play a game in Hong Kong, facing the Barbarians in what promises to be a historic curtain raiser to a hotly anticipated Tour.
BLL confirmed that former Lion and Scotland international, Andy Irvine, who made 41 appearances for The Lions, will be Tour Manager to Australia in 2013, taking over from Gerald Davies, who performed the role during the Tour to South Africa last year. Davies, the flying Welsh winger and a Lion in 1968 and 1971, was in turn appointed Chairman of BLL.
Sandy Flockhart, Executive Director for HSBC Holdings plc, said: "We are delighted to renew our association with one of the world's greatest ever sporting events. Today's announcement is a demonstration of the continued international appeal of the British & Irish Lions, and HSBC is committed to building on the successful relationship that was forged on last summer's Tour to South Africa. I have no doubt that the next three years will be an exciting journey for both HSBC and The Lions, and in particular we are looking forward to welcoming The Lions and the Barbarians to Hong Kong for an historic fixture and look forward to another exhilarating Tour to Australia in 2013."
John Feehan, Chief Executive of BLL and 6 Nations, said: "It is a mark of the partnership that we have built with HSBC that we are able to announce this sponsorship renewal almost three years ahead of the next Tour to Australia. We look forward to working with HSBC over the coming months to ensure that The Lions Tour to Australia in 2013 is a success off the pitch, as well as on it. To be able to confirm today that The Lions will also break new ground with the first ever fixture in Hong Kong will ensure that the Tour to Australia is even more special and includes even more fans".
John Spencer, Chairman of the Barbarians, is excited about the Tour curtain-raising game in Hong Kong: "The Barbarians and The Lions have a rich history and both share a unique place in the game of rugby. To bring two such sides together and be able to create history in Hong Kong is very special indeed, and it will be an incredible occasion and the perfect way to kick off the 2013 Lions Tour. We are proud and delighted to be part of such an innovative chapter in Lions history and are already looking forward to the match."
Four former Lions - Simon Shaw, Gavin Hastings, Jamie Roberts and Tommy Bowe - attended today's announcement, representing the unique spirit of The Lions in combining four home countries in one.
Gavin Hastings, who played in all three Tests in the victorious series versus Australia in 1989, said: "The Lions Tour is as special an occasion as there is in the world of rugby. Touring as a Lion and winning the Test series in Australia in 1989 was without doubt one of the highlights of my career. Having witnessed firsthand how hard a place it is to tour, I am looking forward to another closely fought series in 2013. It is also fantastic that HSBC will once again be sharing in The Lions journey having brought so much to the 2009 Tour."