ALTHOUGH it will provide no immediate cash injection, the Rugby Football League insists a three-year deal with Stobart Group could, in the long run, be significantly rewarding for Super League.
The governing body yesterday revealed the details of their “cross-marketing” tie-up with the nationwide logistics company which secured the naming rights of the Stobart Super League until the end of the 2014 season.
However, while predecessor Harrogate-based Engage Mutual Assurance ploughed in £1m-plus a year for exclusivity during a seven-year tenure which culminated in October, the newcomer is not paying any annual fee.
Instead, Stobart will freely advertise the game on 100 of their 2,250 famous trucks as they travel across the country in a bold initiative which will bring a whole new vehicle, quite literally, to the RFL’s on-going hopes of expansion and raised profile.
Given the company’s claim that one of their vehicles is passed, on average, once every four and half minutes when driving on the UK’s major roads, it is easy to see where the benefits lie, the marketing worth projected as high as £2.5m every 12 months.
Super League clubs voted in favour of the deal – albeit narrowly – as opposed to a hard offer of around £750,000 per year from Betfair and the RFL maintain it now allows them the freedom to secure additional commercial partners which will leave the sport essentially in the same financial region.
“The title sponsorship in previous years was all-encompassing, in effect a lock-out of other brands,” said RFL chief executive Nigel Wood.
“This is the exact opposite. This has freed up inventory that is available which has a commercial value for other blue-chip brands to come in and support the Super League.
“You will see over the course of the next couple of months partnership packages supporting the Stobart sponsorship so that you will find that the sport as a whole is financially in the same position.
“We set ourselves the challenge of getting all the benefits of this enhanced visibility of profile without hurting the profit/loss account.”
Each of the 14 Super League clubs will also have trailers branded with images of their players and team colours and Wood added: “We had lots of interest and there was more than one offer on the table but, without a shadow of doubt, the offer from Stobart was one the RFL and the clubs themselves thought was too good to turn down.
“It’s a positive, progressive partnership which will move the sport forward. This is a fantastic deal for the sport. We think, and more importantly, the clubs believe we have an obligation to promote the Super League competition as aggressively as possible and at the same time retain the commercial value.
“It’s always difficult to nail it down to a figure but we’ve had estimates ranging from £1m to £2.5m a year in terms of the marketing value of this association.”
Stobart already sponsor Super League newcomers Widnes Vikings, who start the new season with a televised home game against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats a week tomorrow.
“Eddie Stobart has become a ‘superbrand’ due to the public exposure of our 2,250 trucks, driving millions of miles each week,” said the company’s chief executive Andrew Tinkler, who suggested players could be offered jobs as truck drivers at the end of their careers.
“Now we can help build the Super League brand, promote rugby league and its brilliant clubs through the exposure our fleet and Superbrand status offers.
“There’s a cash investment as there’s always costs involved in dealing with something like this. There might be cash involved further down the line.”
The Stobart Super League is launched on Wednesday with a convoy of branded Eddie Stobart trucks driving from Widnes to Old Trafford.