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Part 1: Inside Look With Richmond GM Of Commercial On Building A Strong Commercial Portfolio

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n an exclusive interview with Ministry of Sport, Richmond Football Club general manager of commercial operations and stakeholder engagement, Simon Derrick, discussed the ins and outs of what goes into building a strong commercial portfolio and the link between on-field and off-field success.

In part one of the two-part interview series, Derrick said the success of Richmond’s commercial strategy goes beyond the successful performance of the club on the field in recent years.

“For us, we always try and get long-term partnerships and enjoy long-term partnerships with our portfolio,” Derrick told Ministry of Sport.

“It means that we’re after the long-term sustained growth, as opposed to being volatile or trading positively off good results or negatively off poor results.

“We want consistency, we want progressive growth in our commercial portfolio and values, but we want to do it based on understanding the depths and having close levels of connection and integration with our partners.

“We think, if we do that part well, that’s what will actually continue to give us a platform to sustain ourselves and to grow into the future.

“We try, like everybody probably does, to insulate ourselves the best we can from the on-field side of things because its so unpredictable.

“We think our relationships will stand on their own two feet if we’re well embedded and we understand their objectives and we’re able to align our capabilities to help them,” he said.

When asked about the potential for a club with limited on-field success to have greater success than a high-achieving sporting club, Derrick said on-field success has obvious benefits to the off-field outcomes, but it’s more about the entire package.

“I think it depends on how rights holders like us package and present themselves,” Derrick said.

“From our perspective, we know on-field success drives fixture improvements, we know it drives better media outcomes, better media valuations, so it would be silly for us to suggest there is no alignment between value and on-field success.

“But then you look at it like, we’ve also diversified what we do, we extend our offering and our brand into sectors like the educational sector, through a partnership we have with Swinburne University, we extend ourselves into the health sector, because we’ve established a separate business called Aligned Leisure, which is a part of the Richmond Football Club, and we’ve got programs like the Korin Gamadji Institute, we’ve got programs like Bachar Houli Foundation.

“All of a sudden, when we think about attracting investment to our club, we’re actually able to bring sources of revenue from things that are sometimes aligned to football, but sometimes actually quite separate from football.

“I think that is an opportunity for us that has meant there’s a platform for growth, but it actually stretches our brand and the sorts of partnerships we attract and takes us into a space other organisations could take themselves into, irrespective of their on-field success.

“For us, it’s all about sustaining our success on and off the field, for us we know the next couple of years are probably going to be difficult from an economic perspective, but we also think because of the role football plays in our community, we still think it’s going to be relevant to people’s lives.

“We think the audience numbers are still going to remain strong, we think the media consumption is going to remain strong in a fragmented marketplace in terms of media consumptions, we still think we have a great value proposition for our partners in connecting to those audiences.

“We don’t think that will change significantly, if anything, we think we’re well placed to come through that volatility.

“Unashamedly, we want to protect our market as best we can, so we’ve got an opportunity to make sure we are not only sustaining what we currently have, but we’re still optimistic of our growth potential,” he said.

Richmond became the first sporting club in Australia to surpass 100,000 members in 2017 after winning their first premiership since 1980, a feat that was only matched by the West Coast Eagles this year, becoming the second sporting club to reach 100,000 members.

Talking about what that achievement has meant for the club’s commercial partners, Derrick told Ministry of Sport the connection the club has with its members, fans and commercial partners highlights the passion and scale of the club.

“It’s testament to the level of connection that our members and supporters have with the football club,” Derrick said.

“Whilst we’ve been able to sustain 100,000 members, it’s also important to note the milestones leading up to that 100,000.

“There were no premierships leading up to that time, it was based on trying to engage and communicate with our members, making sure they understand the impact of their membership and what it means for us, and not to take it for granted.

“To make sure we manage those memberships and relationships, and we can sustain it irrespective of on-field success.

“I think for our commercial partners, what it demonstrates is the passion and the scale of the football club, but also the depth of relationship with our members, and our audiences,” he told Ministry of Sport.

Part two of the interview with Simon Derrick will look at what the future has in store for Richmond Football Club, both in terms of commercial portfolio value and in the broader sense of where the club fits with the Australian sport landscape.