Dick Smith aiming for trans-Tasman cut-through with NRL Auckland Nines sponsorship

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Todd Carney, Greg Bird, Dick Smith CEO and MD Nick Abboud, NRL CEO David Smith, Willie Tonga and Robbie Farah.

Dick Smith has signed up as the inaugural naming rights sponsor of the NRL Auckland Nines, a two day festival of short-form rugby league to played in New Zealand’s largest city in mid-February 2014.

This sponsorship is the latest in a series of advertising and public relations ventures undertaken by Dick Smith’s post-Woolworths owners, and the first major initiative to be announced since listing on the Australian Securities Exchange on 4 December 2013.

Dick Smith is also a sponsor of the Melbourne Stars Twenty20 team in the Big Bash League, several 2014 tennis tournaments, children’s charity Variety and disability advocacy group Ability First Australia.

A spokesperson for Dick Smith said this competition was chosen as it opened up multiple activations, including branding and in-store player appearances.

“We are focusing on sponsorships that are innovative and give our customers the opportunity to participate or benefit from our association and support,” the Dick Smith spokesperson said, via an email interview. “This includes a presence at the tournament, but also the opportunity to [do] in-store events with opportunities to met some of the NRL’s brightest and biggest stars who will be competing for the trophy.

“We saw a great opportunity to partner with another innovative organisation [and] believe this exciting new tournament will be New Zealand’s biggest summer event, attracting many of the star players from the NRL, who will not only play at Eden Park, but also meet our customers through events at Dick Smith stores throughout Auckland.”

The 2014 NRL Auckland Nines is the first time a shortened form of rugby league will be played in a decade. For 12 years between 1988 and 2004, various formats of rugby league sevens were staged, while in 1996 and 1997, the rebel Super League organisation staged its own international Nines competition.

There has been an incredibly high level of interest in the Auckland Nines, scheduled to be held at Eden Park on 15 and 16 February 2014, with the NRL reporting that 36,000 of the 44,000 tickets available for each day have been sold or allocated.

“This is a brand new product for our fans and members and we couldn’t be happier with the way New Zealand rugby league fans have embraced the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines,” said NRL CEO David Smith.

“There is obviously an appetite for Nines rugby league – something we are very happy about as we look to grow the game in New Zealand.”

The New Zealand national team won both iterations of the Super League nines, while Nick Abboud’s favourite team, the West Tigers, is the reigning sevens champion. The upcoming Auckland Nines will only feature the 16 NRL teams, in four groups of four, followed by quarterfinals, semifinals and a final. Unlike in previous years, there will be no international teams at the event.

Although Dick Smith does not plan on making any further inroads into rugby league sponsorship at this stage, the company’s spokesperson did say that it will continue to invest in various community and sporting initiatives. This particular event was attractive, the spokesperson said, because of its trans-Tasman nature.

“Dick Smith has a 44-year history as a retailer and we play a significant part in the communities across Australia and New Zealand. We are passionate about investing in the community and see our sponsorship of the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines as a perfect opportunity to re-energise our relationship with the Australian and New Zealand communities, especially in Auckland where the support of our business is so strong.

“For any sponsorship we always seek a strategic partner who shares our vision and a sponsorship program that is unique and will offer our customers or the community something special.

“Dick Smith has a strong focus on engaging its community and customers through unique marketing opportunities, which is why we believe the Nines is a perfect fit for Dick Smith.”

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Dick Smith CEO and MD Nick Abboud hopes this won’t be the last time he presents the trophy to West Tigers skipper Robbie Farah.

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