Johannesburg - Netball received a boost on Wednesday when Spar announced that it was renewing and increasing its sponsorship of netball for another three years.
The sponsorship, which runs from January 2013 to December 2015, is worth R20 million. The sponsorship covers the national team and the national championships, and will also include the Under 21 and Under 19 teams.
"For the past 10 years, we have had a strong and close relationship with netball, which has become our flagship sponsorship," said group human resources director Alison Zweers.
"Sport provides an exciting platform on which to build our brand and women's sport presents an excellent channel for this.
"A huge majority of our customers are women, and we believe we have a duty to support them in return. Netball provides us with a great opportunity to demonstrate our support for our customers."
Zweers also revealed that the grocery chain would be a broadcast sponsor of netball on Supersport.
"This is important as we need to expose this beautiful game and our sponsorship not only in South Africa, but throughout Africa and the world," said Zweers.
"We are delighted to renew our very strong relationship with Spar," said Netball South Africa (NSA) president Mimi Mthethwa.
"They have been with us through thick and thin, and have helped the Proteas to improve their world ranking. We are now fifth in the world, and with their help we believe we can break into the top three."
Mthethwa said NSA was particularly pleased that the sponsorship was being extended to include the Under 21 and Under 19 squads.
"They are the stars of the future and the players that could take us right to the top," she said.
She said that by investing in netball, the sponsors were also investing in the impoverished areas of South Africa.
Sports and recreation director-general Alec Moemi praised NSA as a shining example of what could be achieved in South African sport.
"The netball Proteas, through their dedication and commitment, have performed very creditably on the world stage, out-performing national teams in some other sporting codes," he said.
"Netball, which is South Africa's biggest women's sport, and the second biggest sport in the country, embraced transformation very successfully, and has reached the point where players in the national teams are selected purely on merit and not according to quotas," he said.
From left to right: SPAR Protea netball coach Elize Kotze, SPAR Director Alison Zweers, NSA president Mimi Mthethwa and Director General Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa Alec Moemi (Reg Caldecott)