The University of Waterloo athletics department launched its Warrior Approved Network July 22 with a simple tweet. Designed to be a more open-ended group of partnerships than the standard sponsorships available for advertisers, the Warrior Approved Network is intended to provide opportunities for businesses to associate with the UW Athletics brand while offering more in the way of service than just cash. The webpage for the network is rather bare at the moment, bearing a short description of the program and the logo of the first — and as of yet only — partner: Mel’s Diner. Outside of the regular sorts of advertising seen in marketing partnerships — logos and visual advertising, “this event brought to you by…,” and naming rights — the network will also distribute athletics material to partners and encourage athletics programs and events to make use of partners’ services. For a restaurant like Mel’s, that might mean they host or cater events, or that visiting teams and event participants may be encouraged to visit. One of the most important parts of the network for the athletics department and its programs is that the partnerships may include in-kind transactions. These transactions — goods or services offered as payment instead of cash — may allow varsity teams to cater events and feed their athletes without straining their budgets. This sort of service, and the close connection to the student body as a whole, is one of the reasons that athletics is currently focusing on food vendors in University Plaza and elsewhere around the school. “It’s going to be a group of sponsors or partners, different groups around the area that we’ll encourage our teams, our staff to support. In the past, we’ve had our key major sponsors — whether it be Boston Pizza, McGinnis FrontRow ... We’re just kind of taking a different approach on a smaller scale, so we’re not expecting the sponsors to put out as much, but still be involved with the department,” explained athletics department marketing and events coordinator Jenny Mackay. “It just kind of gives it a broader range, we know our teams and our staff have a lot of different needs — whether its recruiting meals or pre-, post-game meals — we’re always looking for extra prizing, promotional stuff.” Though the network was discussed over the summer, plans only came together at its first meeting last week. Mel’s was involved early and quickly became the first partner, though several more are in the works. At this point, Mackay is only able to say that a number of the potential partners are nearby restaurants. The Warrior Approved Network will not replace existing sponsorships, but simply add a different, more open-ended level of support and association with athletics. “I think just overall we’re excited to get more businesses involved in the area, to better serve the students: to open it up and give them a better experience,” said Mackay.