Fifteen NRL stars, one retired legend and a retailer’s CEO gathered today at Dick Smith’s flagship store on George Street to officially launch the high concept jerseys that will be worn by the teams competing in the inaugural Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines tournament, being held 15-16 February 2014.
In an area more accustomed to sale staff dispensing expert advice to prospective TV and smartphone customers, Dick Smith CEO Nick Abboud greeted players from all but one team — tournament favourites New Zealand Warriors were not represented — and showcased the stylish trophy that will be presented to the winning captain.
“I think it’s good that the rugby league players and the Dick Smith business has come together today to launch the jerseys and we’re looking forward to the tournament,” Abboud said. “It is important for us to get involved with the NRL community, for us that is the big prize.
“We have 61 stores in New Zealand so it is very important to support the community there. We are a very large business in New Zealand and we’ve sponsored this for the next five years.”
In addition to the 61 stores across the Tasman, Dick Smith has 298 stores in Australia. The tournament is expected to generate enormous interest in both countries and is being broadcast live on Sky Sports (NZ) and Fox Sports (Australia).
Although there is a general sense that limited-format sports can descend into novelty, the Auckland Nines’ credibility is boosted by a commitment from all 16 clubs to field star players and the NRL’s assurances that the tournament will run for five years.
Of course, it can’t be a Nines tournament without some novelty, and that is being provided by 42-year-old two-time premiership winner and absolute legend of the game, Brad Fittler, who will don the Sydney Roosters’ jersey and play for the premiers.
Abboud said it was pleasing to step out and promote the brand with interesting and unique sponsorships.
“Absolutely it’s enjoyable,” he said. “We’re a $1.2 billion business, we’re listed on the Securities Exchange, we’re going to innovate, we’re going to be faster than our competitors and this is all about the beginning of that.”
And how is Dick Smith going since going public in late 2013?
“We’ll report in a few weeks times and all the information will come out then.”
A dedicated rugby league fan and Wests Tigers supporter, Abboud even took the opportunity to discuss potential tactics for the tournament, which features 9-man teams playing 9-minute halves. Special rules for the event include 5 points for a try scored under the posts, tap restarts after 40/20 kicks and Golden Tries to decide drawn matches.
“We’re excited to see how the coaches will play the game: will they take more forwards, more backs, more centres and halfbacks? Will they throw it around or is it bash-and-barge? As a sponsor, we’re looking for that innovation and we’ll get a lot out of the first year.”
Abboud also noted that the Nines format is likely to attract a younger fan to the game and to the Dick Smith brand. And there definitely will be fans watching the 2-day event: 80,000 tickets have been sold and both days are expected to be sell-outs. In conjunction with this sponsorship, Dick Smith is running a competition for consumers to win a $60,000 prize pack.
In addition to Dick Smith’s naming rights partnership with the event, Turkish appliance brand Beko is a major sponsor. Beko is sold exclusively through Narta retailers. Beko has a long history sponsoring sporting events overseas, including longterm partnerships with English Premier League teams and the English Football Association.
Other electrical and appliance brands that will be on show during the tournament include De’Longhi and Fujitsu General (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Huawei (Canberra Raiders) and Kaspersky (Manly Sea-Eagles).