Tonight’s the night!

It’s not just the players that will have sweaty palms this evening when the 2014 NRL Telstra Premiership kicks off at ANZ Stadium, the marketing and brand managers who have invested their hard earned in supporting clubs and the code will also be nervously waiting to see if these sponsorships will reap exposure and sales rewards or embarrassment and ridicule through myriad atrocities.

The season kicks off with the now traditional cross Sydney clash between the South Sydney District Rugby League Football Club (the ‘Rabbitohs’) and the defending premiers, the Eastern Suburbs District Rugby League Football Club (the ‘Sydney Roosters’).

The Rabbitohs have arguably forged the most successful appliance collaboration in rugby league history – even surpassing the classic days of when Ronson sponsored the Sharks – with their De’Longhi/Kenwood major partnership. Fujitsu General air conditioners and Peter’s of Kensington are also sponsors in the 2014, making Souths the supreme selection for appliance aficionados.

There are no consumer electronics partners at the Roosters, though they are sponsored by excellent noshery Criniti’s.

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The ANZ Stadium action continues on Friday night with a replay of the 1998 Grand Final between the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and the Brisbane Broncos Limited (BBL). The Doggies are once again sponsored by electronics retailer Jaycar and while Canon is a minor sponsor of Brisbane, no industry player has dared to take on the Curse of the Broncos, which has seen Powers Bitter, Ansett Australia, 131 Shop, Traveland and WOW! Sight and Sound all disappear from the Australian landscape.

In a massive Saturday triple-header, the Penrith Panthers take on the Newcastle Knights before the bitter hostilities of Manly v Melbourne are resumed. Manly is a darling of the electronics industry, and is currently sponsored by Kaspersky, Daikin and Soniq. Super Saturday closes with a fixture only for the true believers: North Queensland v Canberra. What can you say about this game, other than that smartphone brand Huawei is Canberra’s major sponsor and that I will not be watching it.

The fierce tackles and highly structured play returns to ANZ Stadium on Sunday for the unofficial Tim Moltzen Plate between the St George Bank St George Illawarra Dragons and the Wests Tigers. Neither of these teams have any electronics partners but I do love those Alfa Romeo logos on the Dragons’ shorts!

The fun/tedium just does not stop! On Sunday evening at the Western Sydney Wanderers’ homeground, Pirtek Stadium, the Parramatta Eels are hosting the New Zealand Warriors. It appears that Chinese brand Changhong has not returned to sponsor the Eels in 2014 — it is not being promoted on Parramatta’s website — while telco Vodafone has returned for another year of flick passes, coach killing mistakes and, ultimately, disappointment with the Warriors.

Round 1 finally comes to a denouement on Monday evening when the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks host the Gold Coast Titans in what must surely be one of the least interesting first round clashes in rugby league’s proud 106-year history on these shores. Hisense is no longer sponsoring the Sharks, meaning neither of these teams is carrying industry support.

We’ve covered the start of the NRL season from an industry sponsorship perspective for five seasons now and it is clear that 2014 is the least active in terms of electronics suppliers and retailers taking an active interest in the competition. It is true that Dick Smith and Beko both sponsored the inaugural Auckland Nines — and that was a roaring, unqualified success — but, as for the real deal, interest is clearly slipping.

Patrick’s 2014 NRL Tips:

1. New Zealand Warriors
2. North Queensland Cowboys
3. Sydney Roosters
4. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
5. South Sydney Rabbitohs
6. Melbourne Storm
7. Newcastle Knights
8. Canberra Raiders

Wooden Spoon: Wests Tigers