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How the Knights are rebuilding the sporting economy

A successful commercial network is as vital to a sporting club’s success as a star-studded roster. Yak Writer Ben Collison explains the importance of  commercial success in sport, and recaps his experience attending the latest Knight’s Business Breakfast event.

It’s fair to say that commercial success for a club is not on the radar of even the most passionate of fans. For many, a club’s success is only defined by their team’s performance on the field. What is often missed is how a club’s commercial success enhances its players’ competitiveness by supporting the infrastructure and pipeline development. A great example of this is the Knight’s investments in the Centre of Excellence which has become a holistic community asset.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, sporting codes across Australia looked at ways to diversify their revenue streams and increase the Return on Investment (ROI) for their existing partners.

As the economic impacts of COVID-19  took hold, it become increasingly difficult for corporate partners to justify big-ticketed expenses without measurable returns on their investments. Traditionally, macro corporate partnership opportunities were limited to apparel, players, signage, and hospitality packages. Targeted at businesses of all sizes, these opportunities often required a significant investment.

Most partnerships are built on personal connections to the club. Looking to build on brand recognition, leveraging the club’s regional presence or simply passion for their club of choice generally serve as the motivators of their investment. But as the economic fallout from the  pandemic and rise of cost of living and inflation, even the most loyal corporate partner considers austerity measures.

The most significant blow to the corporate world was the end of the 30-year partnership between Rugby Australia and Qantas. Citing the global economic climate, travel restrictions and Qantas posting a $2 billion dollar loss; the iconic partnership between the two came to an end.

Sending a rippling wave throughout sporting codes in Australia, organisations looked to find new ways to attract new partners and, most importantly, retain their current client base.

From this, came a re-evaluation of how clubs viewed their partnerships. Instead of the traditional business-to-Consumer (B2C) approach, clubs turned to foster an environment where Business-to-Business (B2B) connections could be nurtured, leveraging each party’s passion for rugby league and driving commercial success.

Leading the way throughout the Hunter with this dynamic approach to partnerships is the Newcastle Knights Business Breakfast series. Initially run in 2022, the return of the series is led by local industry heavyweights and will cover a range of topics ranging from building resilience, building your brand through social media, women in sport and business, and  technology and innovation.

The Breakfast series has revitalised the B2B community in Newcastle, uniting the most die-hard of Knights supporters and industry leaders together; leveraging their passion for rugby league.

I joined the Knights for the latest event focusing on Women In Sports. On the eve of the NRL’s Women in League round, the crowded Captains Lounge at McDonald Jones Stadium heard from Knights Fullback Tamika Upton, Wellbeing & Education Manager Holly Fuda, Olympian Chloe Dalton and Broadcaster & Professional Netball player Sam Poolman.

From their personal experiences within sport, to the future of the NRLW; the panel hosted by Glenn Hawke captivated the audience. Energised, the Knights NRLW squad have embarked on their title defence.

Players and corporate partners alike are optimistic about the bright future the NRLW has throughout the Hunter region as the Knights take the lead both on and off the field.

Feature image by Ben Collison, Yak Writer & Photographer

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