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Sponsorship Around the World: Australia Edition

Sponsorship Around the World: Australia Edition

6 Minute Read

Article Highlights

• Sports fans are divided between the Australia's top two professional leagues

 Jarryd Hayne, a former rugby star who now plays in the NFL, has become one of the most marketable athletes in the country

 Samsung has built activation programs around the country’s most recognized landmark: the Sydney Opera House

Sponsorship Around the World is a new series published by MKTG appearing in our Friday Insights feature. Sponsorship Around the World will take you around the globe to highlight sponsorship trends and best practices from outside North America. For each installment, MKTG will provide an overview of key insights from a different global market. For the first installment, MKTG travels to Australia to study their sponsorship landscape:

Every January the sporting world turns their attention to the Australian Open, the first of four Grand Slam tournaments in the tennis calendar. For many sports fans this is the most prominent and recognized sporting event in Australia, attracting the top names in both men’s and women’s tennis. While a highly prominent event on the world stage, there are a number of other popular sporting and arts properties for brands to consider when evaluating sponsorship opportunities in this market. Just as each country has their own cultures and customs visitors should be aware of, the same is true for sponsorship. MKTG discusses five sponsorship insights regarding Australia. 

1. Two professional leagues dominate sport viewership and compete for fans and sponsors

Two of the top sports leagues in Australia are the Australian Football League (AFL) and the National Rugby League (NRL). The AFL is the professional league for Australian Rules Football and the NRL is the professional rugby league. While both sports appear similar to an outsider, each sport has its own distinct set of rules. The dimensions of the pitch, the number of players allowed on the field, and the methods for passing all differ between the sports. Australia can be separated into two distinct regions by what is called the “Barassi Line”. West of the line, Australian Rules football is the preferred sport and East of the line it is rugby. 

In a study conducted by the Newspaper Works in Australia, it was revealed that the AFL has a larger fan base with 6.25 million supporters versus 4.7 million supporters for the NRL. The AFL tends to have a more affluent fan base as more than half of their attendees are upper middle class. The NRL has had a reputation of being a league for the “blue collar” fans. It is reported that only 12% of fans support both the AFL and the NRL, meaning that fans are very loyal to their league of choice. As a brand and potential sponsor looking to enter into or solidify the Australian market, both the AFL and the NRL offer an opportunity to reach a large audience. However, the differences between both leagues must be understood prior to investing.  

2. Some of Australia’s most marketable athletes have built their brand through success overseas

Jarryd Hayne & Sally Pearson

Jarryd Hayne & Sally Pearson

In 2014, rugby player Jarryd Hayne announced that he would be leaving an accomplished career in the NRL to pursue a career in the NFL. Five months later Hayne had signed as running back with the San Francisco 49ers. Hayne struggled his first year in the NFL but currently remains with the 49ers. During his transition to the NFL, Hayne was a major focus for both NFL fans and NRL fans due to his unique story. In September of last year, Hayne signed his first endorsement since making the move to the NFL with Under Armour. Sally Pearson is an Australian hurdler who has won the World Championships in 2011 and the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. She is the first Australian to win the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Female Athlete of the Year and in 2014 was named as the most inspirational Australian athlete. Pearson is known for her relatable image and charming personality in interviews. Pearson currently has endorsements with Adidas, Visa, Audi, Cadbury, and has appeared in commercials for Powerade. Both athletes received success and notoriety for their accomplishments on the world stage, later to become the subject of activations in their home market. 

3. There has been movement inside the country to ban corporate sponsorship by alcohol brands

In recent years there has been a push by the Australian government to curb the frequency of alcohol sponsorship in sport with some calling for the complete ban on the practice. The government has created an initiative called “Be the Influence”, aimed to reduce the exposure of alcohol sponsors to young people and to end the practice of binge drinking. Be the Influence currently partners with 15 National Sport Organizations who have pledged to ban alcohol sponsors. Carlton & United Brewers, a sponsor of both the NRL and the AFL, was highly critical of the movement. 

4. Major tech brands like Google and Samsung invest in a sponsorship of the Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Australia due to its distinct architecture and its prominence on the Sydney waterfront. The Opera House contains multiple performing venues allowing it to host over 1,500 performances annually which are attended by 1.2 million people. The iconic status and reach of the Opera House has made it an attractive property for a number of sponsors. Samsung is the Opera House’s first Principal Partner and has launched the Samsung Digital Discovery Program which is an interactive app designed to enhance tours of the Opera House. Other major sponsors of the Sydney Opera House include MasterCard, Google, Intel, and Airbnb.

5. The largest domestic grocery brand has created a best practice grassroots sponsorship program

The Australian Open provides brands an opportunity to associate with Australia on an international stage. Australian grocer and tournament sponsor Woolworths sponsors the ball kids at the Australian Open; they are known as the “Woolworth Ball Kids’. Through the sponsorship, Woolworths is promoting the ball kids as an example on how to live a healthy lifestyle, driving home the fact that Woolworths is the retailer to go to for healthy food. 

While the fundamental purpose behind investing in sponsorship transcends any one particular market, each country has its own intricacies that can provide key learnings for marketers across the world. In the coming weeks, MKTG will continue to profile a variety of countries. If you have a market you are interested in learning more about, let us know in the comment section below or email us at insights@mktg.com.

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