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Holden signs major football sponsorships

Done deal: GM Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux (left) with NRL interim CEO Shane Mattiske.

NRL and Collingwood football sponsorship deals locked in by Holden

1 Feb 2013

HOLDEN has signed three-year, multi-million-dollar deals with both the National Rugby League and Collingwood AFL club, snaring both from Toyota Australia and its Lexus prestige arm.

The company once synonymous with “football, meat pies and kangaroos” has come back with a vengeance after a 15-year absence from football sponsorships, reputedly spending $10 million on the NRL deal and millions more on the Collingwood 'Platinum Partner' sponsorship.

Just hours after the NRL deal was announced yesterday, Collingwood issued a statement on its website that revealed it had parted ways with Toyota’s luxury division Lexus after a decade-long partnership “to avail themselves of other opportunities”.

This morning, Holden announced that it will not only sponsor that famous Melbourne club but its head coach Nathan Buckley and his team of coaches.

Apart from money, the deal entails 22 cars for club executives, coaches and leading players.

Holden, Australia's second biggest motor company after Toyota, is expected to use the sponsorships to help push its new VF Commodore that will be revealed next weekend and on sale from June.

The NRL sponsorship hands Holden naming rights to the State of Origin Series and the national team, which will now be known as the Holden Kangaroos.

The national U20s competition will be renamed the Holden Cup, and the Australian car-maker will also become the major sponsor of prizes for the NRL’s annual ‘Monster Raffle’, which has raised more than $2 million for grassroots clubs across Australia.

Toyota Australia, which is the major sponsor of the AFL and the Adelaide Crows, had been the NRL’s automotive partner from 2008 to 2012.

In announcing the NRL deal, Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux said Holden had six new models to release this year – headlined by the soon-to-be-revealed VF Commodore – and as such had allocated 40 per cent more marketing spend to get it “back in the game”.

He said the deal signals the resurgence of the Holden brand, which for the past decade has been second to Toyota as Australia’s best-selling automotive brand.

In the past two years, Holden has also watched the Commodore lose its status as Australia’s most popular vehicle, deferring to the Mazda3 in 2011 and falling to fourth place last year behind the Mazda and Toyota’s HiLux and Corolla.

“This sponsorship is the strongest indication yet that Holden is back, bigger and better than before, with a long-term commitment to building and selling cars in Australia, and investing in Australian talent,” Mr Devereux said.

“We are very excited about this partnership. It’s exactly what the Holden brand needs to cement our success this year, and into the future.”

In the Collingwood deal, Mr Devereux said: "Our partnership with Collingwood is a natural fit.

"Both Holden and Collingwood are iconic Australian brands and come from strong foundations enriched in Aussie culture, supported by fans that have a real passion for these brands.

“We have big plans for the future and we’re proud to align ourselves with a club and a game that is committed to innovation and excellence.”

Toyota joined forces with Collingwood through its Lexus brand in 2003 and was a ‘premier partner’ for six years and a ‘major partner’ for a further three years.

It was also the original sponsor of Collingwood’s head office and training hub at the Melbourne Olympic Park precinct, which was known as the Lexus Centre, although in recent years Westpac has taken over.

In a statement issued last night, former Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb, who earlier this month was promoted to a senior sales and marketing position within Toyota Australia, said: “From the birth of the industry-leading Lexus Centre player-development training facility, to the way our customers were treated by Collingwood Football Club, our mutual desire was to always be the best at what we do.

“Lexus’ 10 year partnership with Collingwood Football Club will always represent a major period of growth for both of us – and one that saw some of the most enjoyable football in recent history.”

Collingwood chief executive Gary Pert thanked Lexus Australia for “what has been a high profile and mutually beneficial partnership” and said he hoped that the company felt that Collingwood had played a key role in “helping establish Lexus as one of Australia’s leading luxury car brands”.

Meanwhile, NRL interim chief executive Shane Mattiske said it was “significant that rugby league now has two of the biggest and most respected brands in Australia, Telstra and Holden, as its two biggest corporate partners in a sponsor family that supports all levels of the game”.

“We have in place a strong foundation for growth and there are tremendous opportunities ahead for everyone in the game, including our corporate partners,” Mr Mattiske said.

“The opportunity to develop strategic partnerships with people and organisations who share rugby league’s breadth of community involvement is an important part of our vision for the game and in Holden we have a partner who embodies that commitment.

“This is a real partnership that works across the game and it is one that all fans can get behind.”

Holden has been a major sponsor of Australian netball at the national level, but the NRL and AFL deals mark a return to a more mainstream marketing route on the football field, having skirted on the fringes in recent years and even attracting widespread criticism (and the label ‘un-Australian’) in the mid-2000s with the infamous Holden blimp flying over major sporting venues sponsored by its rivals.

It will join several other car-makers prominent on Australia’s major sporting arenas. In the AFL alone, key sponsors other than Toyota include Ford (Geelong), Mazda (North Melbourne), Kia (Essendon), Hyundai (Carlton), Volkswagen (Sydney Swans), Skoda (Greater Western Sydney), Jeep (Richmond) and Opel (Melbourne).

Hyundai has also invested heavily in A-League soccer, Kia in the Australian Tennis Open, and Suzuki is a major sponsor of the Melbourne Storm NRL team.

In related Holden news, media industry website Mumbrella has reported that the car-maker is believed to have ended its long-time relationship with ad agency McCann, awarding all of its Australian business to Melbourne-based independent agency AJF Partnership.

The appointment is still to be confirmed, but a review is understood to have been conducted under Philip Brook, who became Holden’s sales and marketing chief in October after John Elsworth moved to Hyundai.

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