By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY: Rugby League is always in the headlines in New South Wales and Queensland, and last week the sport, and its sponsors, endured a horror week, with Manly star Brett Stewart tainting the game’s reputation with his exploits at the club’s season launch. Today, however, the news is very different for one club – and its shirt sponsor.

For the first time in almost 20 years, the South Sydney Rabbitohs lead the NRL competition, and as the newspapers salivated over their demolition of the Sydney Roosters, all the photographs captured the name and logo of the appliance company supporting them: De’Longhi.

The front and back pages of the Daily Telegraph, Sydney’s most read weekday newspaper, feature visible De’Longhi signage adorning six smiling Souths winners. No police, no handcuffs, no controversy: just fantastic publicity for a leading supplier supporting a grassroots community-based sports club. Well, as grassroots as a Russell Crowe-owned team can be.

The Academy Award winning star was on the Channel Nine’s Footy Show last week, and in between picking winners and promoting his new movie State of Play, Crowe personally endorsed the De’Longhi brand. This is all great publicity for a brand that prides itself on devising creative marketing strategies to drive consumers into retail stores.

And more great publicity might be forthcoming for De’Longhi, not just with the Rabbitohs now favourites to go back-to-back against Parramatta this Friday. On Friday 17 April, De’Longhi will be looking to win its fourth straight ERA Award for Best Heating Supplier. De’Longhi has never been beaten in this category, but with very strong competition from fellow nominees Everdure, Kambrook, Rinnai and Sunbeam, this category is expected to be a lot closer than Souths’ 40-point win over the Roosters yesterday.

To find out more about the ERA Awards, please send me an email.