While it could safely be said that at the conclusion of the 2016 season the Sharks ranked first amongst the NRL clubs on the field, with an impressive trophy which sits in the foyer of the Club confirmation of that status, it was off the field where some equally impressive steps forward were taken.
Memberships year to date are up 86 per cent on 2015, with indications that the record figure of 14,300 will be surpassed in 2017, while corporate suites and reserved members seating are approaching the sold out stage more than three months before a ball is kicked.
The playing group have returned to training in their push to defend their NRL title, with fan support and game day engagement also set to reach new levels next season.
But as exciting as it was in October and as positive it has been during and since the Grand Final triumph, the most significant gains might just be in relation to the value of the Sharks ‘brand’.
New research by leading global agency Nielsen Sports, as reported in the Saturday Telegraph, (http://readnow.isentia.com/Temp/78014/692053447.pdf), shows the total value in terms of media exposure delivered by the club to its major sponsor, Southern Radiology, more than doubled in 2016 to $9.5 million.
That figure saw the Sharks jersey media value for 2016 ranked fifth across all football codes in Australia, leaving them behind only the Sydney Swans, North Queensland Cowboys and the AFL’s Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne Kangaroos.
In total it was estimated that the Sharks delivered $51.6 million in media value to our family of partners, despite the fact the club had limited free-to-air coverage almost up until the point when the 2016 Finals Series kicked off.
As Nielsen Sport managing director Guy Port said: “It’s been one of the biggest turnarounds off the field we’ve seen in Australian sport.”
In addition to the impressive figures above, the Sharks also led the NRL in digital communications 1, ranked first for overall member satisfaction 2 and number one for game day atmosphere at home games 3, with further positives emerging including the establishment of the Sharks Have Heart Foundation and the Club becoming the first amongst NRL Clubs to develop a pathway for Women’s rugby league.
Somewhat related to the Sharks push into the Women’s game, Southern Cross Group Stadium is the venue of choice for the 2017 Women’s Rugby League World Cup, representing a coup in terms of showcasing the multiuse capabilities of our stadium asset.
The news on the media value of our shirt also brought to life some of the market challenges that Southern Radiology’s owner, Capitol Health, are currently experiencing.
As Sharks Group CEO Lyall Gorman explains, to that end, as a part of a major cost cutting exercise the Sharks were approached by Capitol Health to consider allowing them to be released from the final year of their existing partnership, and whilst the Board is considering this request as a show of good faith, the Club is actively in the market to determine how readily a replacement could be found.
“Two years ago we ranked near the bottom, now our Club is No. 5 across football franchises in all codes in Australia, in a resounding endorsement as to the outstanding value we provide for our partners,” Gorman said.
“Our 2016 metrics across a number of areas, the remarkable off field milestones that we have achieved in 2016, in addition to the trophy that sits proudly in our foyer, make us an attractive partner for the right organisation.
“Our focus is to engage with brands to create long-term partnerships by bringing to life the remarkable national share of voice we are blessed to have through the wonderful vehicle of professional sport – a true emotive vehicle that more than most touches and opens the hearts, minds and souls at all levels, whether it be community, business or government.
“It’s about creating a win-win situation and a long-term partnership, with on-field achievement paramount but by no means the only measurement of success.
“We are absolutely focussed on consistently being a top four club on the field, but we are equally driven to being more than just a football club off it,” Gorman added.
After a season of remarkable achievement on and off the field in 2016, the Sharks will look to grow their ‘brand’ even further and to build on their success in the New Year, with an exciting ride for Members, fans and the Club’s family of corporate partners assured.
1 Ranked #1 for digital media communications across the whole of the NRL – Source NRL Membership Report – Enhance Research
2 Ranked #1 for overall member satisfaction in the NRL – Source NRL Membership Report – enhance Research
3 Ranked #1 for game day atmosphere at home games – Source EY Sweeney report