National Group to expand sponsorship strategy in 2023

Priorities are supporting communities in remote areas where the company operates.

As Head of Marketing and Partnerships at National Group, Kain Ford is passionate about growing the company’s sponsorship of community events and charities in 2023.

He wants National Group’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program to expand into health-related initiatives and support for Indigenous communities.

“The key is the alignment of values,” says Ford. “We want to support organisations and events that have values strongly aligned with those of National Group.”

Ford says this alignment of values is often multi-faceted. “Our best sponsorships often bring together multiple stakeholders around a common cause. It’s great when we work with a customer, employees and the community to support an event.”

National Group’s sponsorship program has common themes. “A priority is supporting remote communities that support us,” says Ford. “Many National Group employees live and work in remote towns, so it’s important that we help in those areas when we can.”

Another theme is supporting events that serve the needs of mine workers. Over the years, National Group has sponsored many sporting events in mining towns.

Ford emphasises that National Group sponsorships are varied. “Our support has ranged from providing water bottles for a local footy club, to providing shipping containers for an Indigenous community.  Our sponsorships usually don’t have the fanfare that comes with larger events, but they make a real difference to communities.”

As National Group’s sponsorship program expands this year, Ford wants to retain its grassroots approach. “We want people to bring good ideas to us that need support. We also want to work with our stakeholders on the causes they get behind.”

Ford says National Group sponsorships often begin through customers. “A National Group customer will support a cause and ask if we can, too. That works well because we usually have common values with our customer around the cause.”

National Group employees are another source of sponsorship ideas, says Ford. “Some of our best sponsorships have emerged from employee suggestions. A staff member might be involved in a club or charity that needs support, so we pitch in. The response from National Group staff to our sponsorship initiatives has been terrific.”

Significant growth

National Group’s sponsorship program has come a long way in the past few years. The Queensland-based company has supported many sporting and industry events since its launch in 1997. But the size of the support has grown substantially in recent years and the breadth of the program has expanded under Ford’s leadership.

A 2022 highlight was National Group’s support for the Mapoon Aboriginal Community at Port Musgrave on the western Cape York, about 80 kilometres north of Weipa.

National Group donated a refurbished 20-foot shipping container and secured another for Mapoon at a subsidised price. National Heavy Haulage transported the two containers from its Nebo workshop in Queensland.

The first container stores gardening and other equipment. Used by the Men’s Group in Mapoon, the container sits next to the community’s Yarning Circle. The second container will store equipment for a planned horse-therapy program.

Also at Mapoon, National Group sponsored a touch football competition in September 2022 designed to raise awareness of domestic family violence. National Group provided 75 jerseys for the Paanja Touch Football Tournament.

Ford says National Group’s support for Mapoon took the company’s CSR program in new directions. “We were able to support an Indigenous community and help raise awareness of domestic violence. That’s new for National Group’s CSR strategy and something we want to do more of in 2023 and beyond.”

The Mapoon sponsorship also enabled National Group to provide significant in-kind support through National Heavy Haulage. “Moving the containers involved an 18-hour trip on one of our trucks. The breadth of National Group’s services means there are ways we can help organisations and events, beyond financial support.”

Bright prospects

Ford says National Group’s sponsorship program has several goals in 2023. The first is building long-term partnerships in communities where National Group operates.

Weipa is an example. A number of National Group employees live in the area and its  machines are used at Rio Tinto’s East Weipa, Andoom and Amrum mines.

In 2023, National Group will co-sponsor the Weipa Fishing Classic. “We want to provide ongoing support for Weipa and other key communities we operate in,” says Ford. “It’s all about building long-term CSR partnerships with our stakeholders.”

Supporting health-related charities – particularly around mental health – is a goal. “We want to help organisations that help protect the mental and physical health of mine workers and their families in remote communities,” says Ford.

Helping organisations during natural disasters is another focus. “It’s an area we’d like to do more in through financial or in-kind support when remote communities need help during a bushfire or flood.”

Ford says National Group is looking at ways to enable its employees to support their favoured causes. “We don’t have a formal policy for this, but in the past have supported employees who give back to community organisations and events. It’s something we hope to do more of as National Group’s CSR program expands.”

These and other initiatives will build on, rather than replace, the company’s previous CSR work, says Ford. “You’ll still find National Group sponsoring small sporting events in small communities and mining industry events from time to time, as we play our part to support the resources sector.”

National Group’s CSR work is gaining traction. Ford says he receives at least three sponsorship requests each week. “Like any company, we can’t sponsor everything. We have to be very selective about the projects that best align with the values of National Group and its stakeholders – and that get the best result for communities.”

Ford adds: “But sponsorships are something National Group wants to do more of in 2023 and beyond. We want to hear from potential partners about worthy causes.”