Melbourne goes tennis crazy every January when the Australian Open hits the city, but local brands have the long game in mind as they jump aboard a big year for sports marketing.
New spaces for companies to form sporting partnerships are available in 2017, with the inaugural season of the Women’s AFL league, as well as a rebooted national netball competition.
While the idea of athlete brand partnerships might conjure images of expensive Olympic brand endorsements, smaller local businesses are acutely aware of what a sporting star can do for their business.
Local health food brand Slim Secrets identified this opportunity and jumped on it, recently inking a partnership deal with the world’s number one ranked female tennis player Angelique Kerber.
It’s a deal that Slim Secrets founder Sharon Thurin sees as being about much more than Melbourne Park.
“With what we’re doing, we’re looking at someone that could grow our brand globally,” Thurin tells SmartCompany.
— Angelique Kerber (@AngeliqueKerber) January 12, 2017
“[Tennis] is growing in popularity in countries like China and Japan, hence that was the goal behind choosing a brand ambassador.”
Last week Slim Secrets sat down with Kerber, who has already been promoting the brand on her own social media, to film a quick set of film clips for use in China.
Thurin says the global nature of the deal will also help Slim Secrets at a time when the battle to stay on supermarket shelves is becoming the most fierce she’s ever seen.
“We’re not a Kellogg’s or a large brand, so it is a challenge—but we’ve been on the shelves for 10 years … our goal is to stay there,” she says.
Thurin founded Slim Secrets as a hobby from her home more than 10 years ago, having previously worked as a weight loss and wellness coach. In 2015, the business was turning over more than $2 million annually.
The goal of the partnership with Kerber is to interact with fans on the ground by connecting them directly to the star and the source. Meet and greet competitions have been set up as part of the deal, both at Melbourne Park for the Australian Open and in China later in 2017 for the China Open.
“Ideally we’d also love to look at different types of brand ambassadors in different fields, [including] celebrities, and we’ve already done social influencers … I think it’s important to look at different sectors of lifestyle,” Thurin says.
Australian sport opens up new partnerships in 2017
Meanwhile, other companies are kicking the year off with promotions for their deals with clubs in the inaugural season of the AFL National Women’s League. Deals have been announced since September 2016, with seasoned sponsors of the men’s teams and new additions both spruiking a grassroots approach to engaging with customers.
In August 2016 Harris Scarfe executives said the retailer’s partnership with the Adelaide Crows women’s team would open up the brand to a new group of potential customers.
Meanwhile, Priceline Pharmacy has committed to deals with the Sydney Sixers women’s cricket team, the Adelaide Thunderbirds netball team, and the Western Bulldogs women’s AFL team. The business has used its partnerships as the basis for a digital campaign focused on women in sport, with general manager of marketing Mark O’Keefe telling SmartCompany the strategy is to engage young fans on the ground across all codes.
“We think with all the sports we’re involved with there is a strong family component,” O’Keefe says, highlighting that sport adds “colour and theatre” to spreading awareness of the pharmacy brand’s offerings, both in person and online.
“We’ll complement everything [the Western Bulldogs] do with our social media,” O’Keefe says.
For Thurin, Slim Secrets’ partnership with Kerber is also about being in a position to reach audiences that are already aware of other big name brands the star is associated with.
“Her brand ambassadors are massive,” Thurin says.
“In terms of conceptualising [the partnership], we want to use it as much as we can through our online strategy.”