Sydney Roosters, Charity and an odd T-shirt

Tue, 13 Oct, 2020

Unibet has been a proud sponsor of the Australian rugby team ‘Sydney Roosters’ for the last three years. And when The Roosters announced that Sonny Bill Williams was joining the team this fall, they reached out to Unibet with a wish that culminated in a previously unseen idea.

To know more about this amazing initiative we called Nathan Reeves, General Manager Australia and asked him some questions.

Nathan, can you tell us a little bit about the background?

Well, it started with the Roosters calling us to ask if we would have any objections to having a player run out without the Unibet logo on his back due to his religious beliefs. Given the amount of media attention this player was always going to receive, we chose not to be a barrier in the player’s return and decided that we would work with the Roosters to find a suitable replacement option. 

Where did the idea of donating the space on the shirt come from?

We, of course, respect Sonny Bill Williams’ decision, so we thought to use this opportunity and replace the empty space on one of the world’s most recognised athletes with something meaningful. The initial suggestion was a charity of our choosing. However, after attending my son’s local football game, I noticed the lack number of grass-roots sponsors on the back of the kids' jerseys and came up with the idea of putting a grass-roots sponsor on the back of a world-famous player. 

I floated the crazy idea with my team, and they thought we could use this as a way to create community engagement on social media and build a larger audience. 

What happened next?

After initial discussions with the Roosters, the player via his manager and considering this special time that we are all living in, we decided to limit this to a single business affected by Covid-19 and a charity of our choosing.

How did you choose the charity?

The charity was chosen based on the effect that Covid-19 had on mental health and suicide rate increase amongst young Australian men. The charity Gotcha4Life’s founder happens to be a major Roosters fan and a local media personality with appearances on TV and a regular radio show.

Using the charity founder’s media network, the Roosters’ social media and our own social resources, we launched the campaign to find a small business that was affected by Covid-19. We thought it important that the business in question had some real affiliation and genuine fan interest with the Roosters.

How was the campaign perceived?

Amazing result, if you ask me! We received close to 100 applications. Of those we received, many grass-roots businesses would have been worthy choices. Some of them had been tragically affected by the Australian bushfires, along with the Covid-19 pandemic.

It must have been difficult to pick a winner?

Oh yes, I wish we could choose them all, but unfortunately, that was not doable. Finally, we settled on Select Music as the winner. The live music industry was significantly impacted by the pandemic and is still yet to recover. There was an element of strategy involved in the decision also, as live music within pubs and clubs is something that all of our audience can enjoy. Select Music will also to perform at one of our VIP events as a thank you, which we will also profile across our social media.

Overall, how was the initiative received?

I am so happy that overall, the media have reported very favourably on the initiative, with a premier Sydney journalist being very eager to gain an exclusive on this. This has also played out extremely well across our social media channels: there was a lot of buzz around one player having a different sponsor. 

In retrospect, this has been a win-win situation?

Yes, you can absolutely say that. The fact that this was immediately noticed and created a major talking point, has encouraged us to do the same again next year. With a longer lead-time, we can generate more engagement around this and make it incredibly effective. Changing sponsors on the back of a shirt for two games in a round of 25 is an incredibly strong talking point and provides invaluable PR within the community and supporters of the Roosters. When we do this next year, it will be the entire team, which will create an even larger effect.