THE Fiji Bitter Nawaka 7s started 26 years ago with a $500 sponsorship from Fiji Bitter.
Over the years, the annual event has maintained the support of Fiji Bitter, culminating with $30,000 sponsorship for this year's tournament.
"$500 was the first sponsorship for the Nawaka 7s. It was probably big money then. As we become world champions, its grown," Pacific Beverages marketing and trade relations manager Joe Rodan said.
Paradise Beverages Fiji, the makers of Fiji Bitter, said this year's event would feature 64 teams in the senior grade and 20 teams in the junior grade.
"The idea is to target grassroots level to show their talents and hopefully players get noticed by selectors. A lot of players for 7s and 15s were identified this way.
"This is one way Fiji Bitter gives back to the people, to the clubs and grassroots level. Most of our sponsorship goes to grassroots level.
"It's also entertainment for people in Nadi," Mr Rodan said. The two-day tournament which begins in Nadi today is among 12 7s tournaments that Fiji Bitter sponsors annually, he said.
Fiji Bitter was synonymous with the paradise-image people had of Fiji, he said. "Fiji Bitter is an icon brand in Fiji. It is the real taste of Fiji. Anywhere in the world, when you think of Fiji, you think of Fiji Bitter," Mr Rodan said.
"We are giving something back to the people for using our product. The majority of our customers are at the grassroots level and, middle and low income earners," Mr Rodan said.
Fiji Bitter's sports sponsorship began some 57 years ago, he said. Fiji Bitter's rugby sponsorship began 36 years ago at Fiji's first 7s tournament, namely the Marist 7s. "It started with five cartons of beer," he said of what is now the country's largest annual 7s tournament. Fiji Bitter, through its sponsorship for rugby tournaments has groomed many players who now play at international level. "Over the years, we have sponsored rugby across Fiji, and we're proud to be associated with the World Cup two-time winner."
Mr Rodan said Fiji Bitter's sports sponsorship was in line with corporate citizenship.
"Sport plays an important part in the development of the nation. For example, the Raiwaqa Rugby Club changed the outlook of Raiwaqa. Red Rock changed public perception of Qauia. Sport is a powerful stage in the development of people," he said.
Mr Rodan said Fijians were sports-crazy people. "We Fijians like to win and that's what sports does. Sports takes us forward, instils hard work and dedication in people. It demands hard work and there are no shortcuts to success," he said.
"Hopefully by winning in sports, they can put the same ethics into practice in their daily lives."
Fiji Bitter sponsors all sports in Fiji. "Even in Lau. We have a hand in all sports development in Fiji, whether it's a carton of beer, netball uniform, volleyball gear, sports equipment, sponsorship or fundraising" Mr Rodan said.
Fiji Bitter is geared toward rewarding customers, taking Fiji forward and developing sports.