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Exclusive Look: Commercial Return From On-Field Success With Port Adelaide GM Of Commercial

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peaking to Ministry of Sport, Port Adelaide Football Club general manager of commercial, James Lindsay, discussed how the club’s on-field success has added value to existing and future commercial partnerships.

After being in a challenging situation at the end of the 2019 AFL season, searching for a new joint major partner for 2020 onwards, Port Adelaide managed to lock in MG Motor Australia on a five-year partnership, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic put the fate of the 2020 AFL season in jeopardy.

Lindsay, however, in an interview with Ministry of Sport, said the support from MG and the club’s existing partners has highlighted the strength of the club going forward.

“Last year, the most prominent position we had to fill was our joint major partner and we signed MG Motor Australia into that position, and MG wouldn’t have thought they were signing up to a 17-game season with shorter quarters and the impact COVID has brought,” Lindsay told Ministry of Sport.

“Yet, those guys have been phenomenal from day one.

“Without hesitation, they’ve offered to stand strong and committed to the club and we’ve seen that through the likes of a car giveaway we were able to do for our members that committed to Port Adelaide during this season.

“So for us, we’ve been able to work really closely with them on alternative assets to present MG and build from the 2020 season onward.

“A lot of digital activations and interactive digital platforms we haven’t done typically in the past, and we’re still on track to deliver the metrics we committed to for MG at the start of this season, so we’re really pleased that’s not been able to derail the start of this relationship with a great international brand…

“As with every year, we will have a couple of sponsorship positions we will need to fill and its likely there will be some new assets the AFL will endorse off the back of this year which will allow clubs to commercialise some more inventory to help supplement some impact for 2021 and going forward,” he said, thinking forward to the club’s commercial plans for the years ahead.

When asked how the club’s on-field success, having finished on top of the AFL ladder for the 2020 season and heading into the Preliminary Finals, has influenced the off-field commercial strategy, Lindsay said existing partner’s have been rewarded for their commitment with the added value finals matches provide.

“It’s been a great season for us on the field, and hats off to our playing group and football department who have just kept a really level head during this whole process and taken the approach of ‘whenever, whatever, we just need to get it done’ and not really looking at why things could be challenged,” Lindsay said.

“It’s more about ‘how can we move on and get the best result for our fans and partners’, and we’ve seen that, we have seen some of that success from on-field come across to off-field.

“Our key metrics have reflected that; our average TV audiences have lifted by 21%, that’s been translated to our digital channels, where we’re about 16% up on our website views and 45% up on Facebook interactions and 20% up on Instagram.

“So all of those things come together to provide more eyeballs and more opportunity for partner brands and engagement with our fans and the AFL audience more broadly.

“For us, our QI value is 7% up year on year as at the end of the minor rounds, which based on a shorter season, is a phenomenal result, so we can confidently present to our current partners, as well as prospective partners that we are in discussions with, the value for this year has certainly been supplemented through the teams on-field performance and eclipsed on previous years.

“That’s a positive surrounding this year, but also what next year looks like; we have had some inbound enquiries for next year, which is always pleasing to see.

“Being top of the table, with Preliminary Finals and the Grand Final to go, you see the value finals bring to partners, and an old general rule of thumb is you can roughly generate the equivalent amount of brand presentation during a full finals campaign through to a Grand Final as the entire minor premiership season.

“So that’s been a lot to be able to reward our partners to be able to stay strong for this season, and it also gives us a really good confidence going into 2021,” he said.

Discussing the impact Port Adelaide’s chairman, David Koch has on the club’s off-field performance, Lindsay said Koch is a massive help to the club in helping partners see the value the Adelaide-based club has in a national competition that is primarily played in Victoria.

“David’s a magnificent asset for the club, both in the leadership he provides and the day-to-day management as the chairman of the club, but also through his profile and his national presence,” Lindsay said.

“A challenge we do face is Port Adelaide not being based in Victoria and Sydney; it’s often brought up how we can play that role for partners on the national stage, and David’s a very strong asset for us on that front.

“He’s a great ambassador for all things Port Adelaide and he’s been incredibly generous with his time for the club, but also for partners and supporting those partners with whatever he can do, whether it be through the football medium or through the broader medium.

“He’s often hosting partners’ events and conference as well as supporting their initiatives interstate.

“David’s a really significant part of what our club is able to deliver,” he said.

“I think what we’ve seen is magnificent innovation based on COVID,” Lindsay told Ministry of Sport, when asked about the future of the sports sponsorship market in the post-COVID-19 world.

“Whilst there’ll be some things people might see less of, what we’re seeing is the ability to innovate as a league and an industry, and how we can work with partners in a more integrated fashion.

“What it has done is really sharpened the opportunities for innovation within the industry, and so that might allow us to be more agile and flexible to pursue those types of things.

“Just seeing the level of acceptance from all parties involved that when things like this happen, we’re able to come together and try to look at how everyone can benefit.

“Digital innovation, asset innovation, and partner integration innovation have all been enhanced during this period, rather than detracted from, and I think that’s the positive side of the future that we’ll see.

“Whilst the core will remain largely the same, what we have seen is how agile, fluid and innovative we can be when we all pull together and see what’s possible,” he said.