Sponsoring a Winner

Last night World No. 1 Rafael Nadal was knocked out of Wimbledon by young up-and-coming Aussie Nick Kyrgios in the surprise upset of the tournament. I wonder how many sponsorship calls he has received in the last 24 hours.


Australians love their sport. Tennis, Rugby, Footy, Cricket, Basketball, Beach Volleyball . . . if there is any kind of ball involved we will tune in. And marketers love this. For a general brand with a wide reach, sponsoring athletes or sporting teams is a fantastic way to get wide coverage and piggy-back on the strong relationships Australians hold with their favourite team.

Let’s take the Australian Cricket Team for example. Some of its major commercial sponsors include Commonwealth Bank, Toyota, Asics, Bupa, Milo, QANTAS. These brands have great appeal across the country and generally are brands that all everyday consumers come into contact with at some point during their travels.

Everybody is concerned with banking, motor vehicles, runners, health insurance and air travel. And the same huge audiences that tune into the cricket each weekend over Summer will have looked at each of these products before when deciding who to fly with, who to bank with and who to visit for running shoes.

However, it is not really the wide reaching nature of these brands that makes athletes or sporting teams ideal targets for brand partnerships. It is the relationships that audiences hold. Visit the MCG or Etihad stadium on a weekend during a match and you will see the strong relationship each member of the audience has with their chosen club. They are in it for the long-term and, no matter how poorly the team might be doing, these same supporters will be behind them the next week.

This relationship between supporter and athlete/sports club forms a strange mutation of the time-tested personal recommendation that every brand is trying to create. Second to none, the personal recommendation is the most effective marketing strategy and due to the audience’s relationship, these brand partnerships essentially create the personal recommendation every brand craves.

And that is why Kyrgios will be on the mind of every sponsorship manager in Australia tonight. After his great success last night, even more of Australia will be in the process of forming this strong, loyal and long-lasting relationship with the 19-year-old as he competes against No. 8 seed Milos Raonic.

Who knows, we could have another Marcos Baghdatis on our hands. After his great success at the Australian Open in 2006, everybody started visiting his favourite Lygon Street restaurant. The same could happen to Nick Kyrgios – so I’d get your reservations in early!