I have worked with Carel Nolte for way more than a decade now. There is so much about relationships that he has taught me. But if I had to break it down to just one thing. Its sadly unteachable. You either have it or you don’t. Its heart.

I had the privileged of experiencing the heart of Carel at the Otter Trail Race last month, and it reminded me what he taught me so many years ago. If you genuinely have an enormous capacity for love, humanity, joy, and life, before return on investment, brand visibility, sponsorship rights and pound of flesh, you will get far more from a brand relationship.

Like any relationship, what makes it work is how much you care. My relationship with Simon works, because at the heart of all of it, we genuinely care for each other. His happiness comes before my own. I experienced the same thing, watching Carel with the Easy Equities team at the Otter Trail race. Easy Equities were way more than sponsors. They were friends and partners all working towards the same outcome. A genuinely great event that brought so much joy to so many people. Watching how Carel interacted with his colleagues, with the race organisers, with the athletes, the wives and husbands of the athletes, the cameramen, the DJ, the kids of the parents who were racing. The number of tears I saw him shed at the pure and honest love and joy of what the event was bringing to people. It touched me. It made me realise that sponsorship success isn’t measured by how watertight your contracts are, or how many branding opportunities you have. It’s about how much you love and how much joy you allow that to bring.

When Etana Insurance sponsored the Lions Rugby team under the care of Carel and I in 2011, Carel, then my boss, made me LIVE, Breath and invest so much of myself personally into the rugby union. I drank brandy and coke with the team management at Jolly Roger, I had the coaches cell phone numbers on my phone, and we spoke often, I knew the guy who cleaned the changerooms after each game by name, I knew his kids’ names. Once we had agreed a partnership, we never once looked back at our contract again. We entrenched ourselves in the team, the stadium, the fans, the teams’ girlfriends, the car guards outside the stadium, the promotion girls that cheered the team and fans on during the game. There was nothing and nobody we didn’t know and truly care for. As a result, we received so much more than the branding on the collar of the rugby jersey that we had “paid” for. We sat on a red couch, at the halfway line, at the championship final. My brother reminds me of the moment he saw true passion. Carel Nolte, crouched over on the field at full time, crying tears of joy and punching the ground when the final whistle blew, and we had gone from bottom of the log to curry cup champions in one season. That night Carel and I were the only sponsors invited to celebrate with the team and their families. We were invited to the team celebration after they won the final, the only sponsor who was, and we were the smallest financial sponsor. But they wanted to celebrate with us. And we truly believe we played our part in the win. We gave our hearts to them, and they gave theirs back.

There is no limit to what you get back from life and people if your heart is pure, and your intentions are not self-serving. If you believe in humanity and the ripple effect, it has.

So, if you want to know the key to a successful partnership… be brave enough to leave it all out there, give your heart and you literally can’t go wrong.