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Using the power of sport to strengthen diplomatic ties between Australia and Japan, the Sharks have announced an innovative new business venture with Ito En, Japan’s largest tea producer.

With no branding and no player or coach involvement, the Sharks-Ito En partnership is unique and ground breaking in that it is a professional services agreement with no “sponsorship” component.

“We believe this is a first in the sport and entertainment sector globally, as it sees the Sharks entering a market normally occupied by consulting firms and agencies,” explained Jonathan Prosser, Sharks GM of Strategy & Growth.

“The deal itself is not sponsorship, and instead sees Ito En entering into a professional services agreement with the in-house business growth agency the Sharks have built. For this reason it is culturally significant and also is the latest example which sees the Sharks as leading innovators in their industry.”

The Sharks unveiled the Ito En partnership at a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony held at Ryokan Gojyuan in Balmain earlier today.

The ceremony and venue, chosen to juxtapose a partnership announcement with a traditional tea ceremony, which according to Japanese culture creates lifelong bonds between the participants, boasted an impressive guest list including the Treasurer of Australia Hon. Scott Morrison, Japanese Consul Mr Shinichi Tamamitsu and President, Japan Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Mr Nobuharu Hirota.

Sharks Group CEO Lyall Gorman, Mr Masashi Sato, the Head of Ito En in Australian, Mr Minoru Tajima from Japan Airlines and Mr Shuichi Hirano, Managing Director of JETRO Sydney were also present.

The NRL Premiership trophy, won by the Sharks on the first Sunday in October, also made a ‘guest appearance’ at the partnership announcement event, with Gorman proud to reinforce the fact the Cronulla club are about more than winning NRL titles.

“The Sharks are more than just a football club,” Gorman began. “Outside of the Premiership success, off the field a growing reputation for innovation has seen the Sharks secure coverage in the business and technology pages while also being the focus of the opening address of this year’s Chief Innovation Officer Summit.

“In entering into a partnership with Ito En we have also secured another world-first for the industry. We are not operating as a traditional club, but instead are taking up the challenge to be the club of choice for all, including international business, trade, and diplomatic missions.

“I would suggest that no sports organisation in the country has attempted something of this stature and cultural sensitivity, bringing together as it does VIPs and customs from both Japan and Australia, and from the spheres of government, diplomacy, business, and sport,” Gorman said.

An institutional brand in their country, Ito En are Japan’s largest tea producer.

“They are seeking growth in Australia and rather than working with a consultancy or agency, they are exclusively partnering with the Sharks’ Growth Agency,” Prosser added.

Ito En grow green tea in Australia following a government invitation and grant in the mid-90s which saw tobacco farmers re-trained. They also fund an institute at the University of Texas which is currently trialling the impact of green tea to treat cancer in humans, having been successful in testing situations. 

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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