Start sweating sponsors: the NRL is back!

By Patrick Avenell

Today is just like any other day. Except today marks the start of nine months of rugby league action — a period in which normally sane and rational marketing executives from the electronics industry become paranoid nailbiters, each one hoping their brand isn’t the one implicated in an off-field scandal.

Since corporate sponsorship first began permeating rugby league in the 1970s, the electronics industry has kept close ties with the game. Companies such as Panasonic, LG and Samsung used the game to launch these brands, with the two Korean brands finding out firsthand what can happen when things go wrong.

As recently as last year, on the day that Trend Micro launched a suite of new security products, its spokesTiger Benji Marshall was in court facing criminal charges. Marshall was cleared of any illegal activity.

This year is no different, with companies once again lining up to take their chances with the greatest game of all.

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The season kicks off tonight with Newcastle v St George Illawarra. The Knights have put a sword through sponsorship from this industry, though the Dragons are breathing fire into Telstra.

Tomorrow, Parramatta will be showcasing Toshiba in its match against the Brisbane Broncos. Although the retailer is currently in receivership, the Broncos are still sponsored by WOW Sight & Sound.

In the battle of Australia’s past and present capital cities, the Canberra Raiders (Mitsubishi Electric, Konica Minolta and WOW Sight & Sound) are taking on the Melbourne Storm, which has very few corporate sponsors, and none from the electronics industry.

In the age old battle of Cat versus Dog, the Penrith Panthers will play its first game in over a decade without Sanyo across its shirtfront. The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, however, are still flying the flag for major sponsor Jaycar Electronics.

In a game made for Foxtel on a Saturday night, the Harvey Norman-sponsored North Queensland Cowboys face their “local rivals” the Harvey Norman-sponsored Gold Coast Titans, who are also backed by Foxtel.

In a rematch of last year’s Grand Final, the Vodafone New Zealand Warriors lock horns again with the Kaspersky Manly Warringah Sea Eagles. The Warriors are also sponsored by Konica Minolta, Bunnings, Trend Micro and the very quaint Scott Electrical Limited (for all your electrical, lighting and data needs). The Sea Eagles also have Lavazza and Telstra on board.

Trend Micro is backing up on Sunday afternoon to join Daikin at the Wests Tigers, who will be losing in a close one to the Hisense Cronulla Sharks.

Finally, on Monday night, De’Longhi and Kenwood staff will be cheering on the South Sydney Rabbitohs while they tackle old foes the Sydney Roosters.

Patrick’s Top 8 Prediction:

1. Newcastle Knights
2. Brisbane Broncos
3. Melbourne Storm
4. Canberra Raiders
5. Wests Tigers
6. St George Illawarra
7. Cronulla Sharks
8. North Queensland Cowboys 

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