Mazda’s support of North Melbourne Footy Club is impressive. After 10 years of being a major co-sponsor, they upped the ante at the end of the ’08 season and signing up for full major sponsorship. It is the biggest sponsorship deal in North’s history, reportedly worth $1.8 million. This was a massive coup for the Club given the GFC (not Geelong Footy Club, the Global Financial Crisis) – just ask St Kilda and Melbourne who are yet to find a major sponsor for 2009.
However, Mazda did not want Ben Cousins at North, essentially because he was too risky. I have a number of problems with this:
- Winning Premierships – If Mazda want North to win a premiership (the best marketing of all) why interfere with the Football Department, no matter how indirectly? McDonald (Football Manager) and Laidley (Coach) were clearly interested in at least having a look at Cousins. And why wouldn’t they be? Cousins is a proven premiership superstar that could add the missing link to North’s midfield and win the club a premiership.
- “The Only Thing Worse Than Being Talked About Is Not Being Talked About” – While I understand that Oscar Wilde’s quote for the ages does not hold true in all cases (see Alan Didak) I can’t see why it wouldn’t in this case. North’s lack of media coverage is, ironically, well documented. Marquee players can change this, particularly the poorly behaved (see Wayne Carey). If Ben Cousins were at North, public exposure would increase for both North and Mazda. Sure, any issues that Cousins creates in his rejuvenated career would need to be well managed. But you need look no further than Wayne Carey to know that North have a proven track record in this area. I would argue that the Club’s handling of his many misdemeanors actually enhanced it’s reputation. There’s no reason why Cousins would not present another case-in-point.In short, I think Mazda’s caginess on Cousins is a terrible business decision. Or does their bullshit ‘brand’ exclude accepting humanity in all its tremendous glory and failure?
- The People’s Game – One of football’s biggest strengths is that it is truly a game by and for the people. From the very beginning anyone could play or watch the game, unlike other sports such as Rugby or Cricket which sought to exclude those of ‘poor moral standards’ (ie. yobbos) and prevented women from even attending. This is a major contributor to Aussie Rules being Australia’s most popular code.As soon as expectations are placed on players’ moral standards, the talent pool becomes smaller, and, even worse, duller. The colour brought to the game by people of ‘questionable’ character makes football what it is today. Think Gary Ablett, Mark ‘Jacko’ Jackson, Brendan ‘The Fevolution’ Fevola, Lance Franklin, Stephen Johnson … the list goes on. Would Mazda allow these players to be drafted today?
All these (incredibly compelling) arguments aside, ultimately the truth can only be found in the market, as in all business decisions. And the market has spoken: Richmond, like Melbourne and St Kilda, was without a major sponsor too. Richmond drafted Cousins. Richmond found a new major sponsor (Dick Smith).
I rest my case.