Why the Panthers are struggling to attract sponsors

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If you follow me on Twitter, you will know that this is something that I have brought up a few times and I am not happy about. As of today, the Penrith Panthers do not have a captain, CEO or a major sponsor.

Earlier this week The Daily Telegraph looks at the latter in an article titled “Penrith Panthers struggle to attract sponsorship for 2012″. There aren’t really any revelations in the article; it reads like an off season paper filler that points out the obvious and then tries to put a slant on it.

Basically, the Telegraph’s line is that Penrith is struggling to get their jerseys sponsorship’s filled, while the AFL team that says it is based at Blacktown but that will play games and train at Homebush Bay has $3 million dollars worth of jersey sponsors – all of which is true.

Interestingly enough, The Sydney Morning Herald carried the story “League wins battle with AFL for TV viewers” in which it points out that over the course of 2011 rugby league had a cumulative audience of 134 million viewers, which was 12 million more than the AFL managed.

So, how does rugby league manage to draw in more TV viewers and yet two clubs in western Sydney from either codes can have such different outcomes when it comes to gaining sponsorship?

Let’s put aside the questions about the quality of management for one moment…

It would seem logical that sponsors just want to have their logo seen by as many sets of eyes as possible. If that was the case, rugby league would easily by gaining sponsors. That is not happening, though.

So do you want to know what is hurting the Penrith Panthers, the club I support?

Well, there are no teams in Perth or Adelaide.

The Panthers can not offer a sponsor a national platform. A potential sponsor can not base its national marketing strategy around any rugby league teams because simply, if they do, they are cutting themselves out of a number of major markets around the country.

You will see the effect of this a lot in national advertising programs by various companies. TV adverts that run in Sydney where they have AFL players throughout their marketing campaigns. The reason you see this is because a company can make one advert and show it right across Australia.

If that same company used rugby league themes, those adverts could not be used on a national basis because the NRL doesn’t provide content that is relevant on a national basis.

This is where the push for expansion of the NRL into the Perth and Adelaide markets is key. Once the NRL has teams in those markets, and provides content to those markets, every single team in the NRL will be able to sell themselves to sponsors on a national basis, and that is something none of them can do right now.

So when clubs meet with the Independent Commission, and they sit down to talk about expansion, it comes down to a test of who looks at the bigger picture.

You currently have 16 NRL clubs who need to put their hand up and say they are willing to see their influence and partial ownership of the NRL cut down from one/16th to one/18th. They also have to be willing to give up a portion of the grant the NRL give them every year to new clubs.

So, less guaranteed money from the NRL. Right now, few clubs are willing to consider making that decision. That right there is the Catch-22 in the expansion argument. Take less money from your NRL grant but make it up on the other side when you negotiate sponsorships and when the Independent Commission negotiates the the 2019-2024 television contract.

I still think it is a massive issue for Penrith to not have a CEO. Phil Gould’s job as General Manager should solely involve the football side of the club. You need a business mind running the business side of things. Some people will say the current club board is taking control of that area, but this is the same board that presides over tens of millions of dollars in losses for the Panthers Leagues Club group and who are currently involved in elections.

So I am not surprised at all that Penrith are struggling to attract a sponsor. A clubs with no CEO, coming off a poor season in which the shambles that was going on behind the scenes was there for all to see, and a club that has not got a great profile in a competition that does not give a sponsor a national profile.

I just hope High Street Pies comes to the part when you take all that into account!

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