Solar panel supplier Opal Solar has been named as the major new sponsor of New South Wales National Rugby League team the Cronulla Sharks, in an 11th-hour deal made with the NRL reigning premiers.
The deal, announced on Tuesday and just days out from the start of the 2017 season, will give Opal Solar prime branding positions on both the front and back of the Sharks’ NRL and Under 20s jerseys, as the club’s official new Naming Rights Partner.
According to reports, the late timing of the deal has put the club tens of thousands of dollars out on pre-season merchandise sales, as Sharks fans waited for the release of the official 50-year blue and white jersey with the major sponsor.
But Shark’s CEO Lyall Gorman said his club – which goes into the 2017 season at reasonably long odds, despite being the defending champion – had been in the market to find the right partner, not just any partner.
“Opal Solar have got a great brand around environmental responsibility which aligns with a lot of the principals our club has in regards to community involvement,” Gorman said.
“They’ve recognised we’re the premiers and a brand on the rise. It’s a strong statement in our brand and reinforces where this club is heading.”
For Opal, it is the second such deal – albeit a much bigger one – made with an NRL team, after signing as a sponsor to go on the back of the Canterbury Bulldogs jersey – a deal that winds up at the end of 2017.
Opal Solar director Rami Fedda said on Tuesday the company was “delighted” with the Shark’s long-term strategy and looked forward to forging a great partnership with the club.
“The renewable sector is one of the fastest growing industries in Australia, with over 1.7 Million rooftops now generating electricity from the largest source of energy, the sun,” Opal’s Andrew Burgess added.
“Our vision is for Opal Solar to be at the forefront of this and to allow every Australian to have access to clean, renewable electricity.”
The NRL is not the only football code in Australia to be making strategic ties with renewables. In the AFL, Melbourne-Based team the Kangaroos, installed a 200kW rooftop PV system at their North Melbourne headquarters in August last year.
The $462,000 project, which was installed by Envirogroup, was partly financed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and co-funded by the City of Melbourne and the Kangaroos
Fellow Melbourne-based AFL team, the Richmond Tigers, has also inked a solar sponsorship deal, in this case with the now-defunct local installer Metro Solar, who in 2012 installed a near 100kW solar system at that club’s home ground.
That sponsorship story did not end so well, however, with the Tigers suing Metro Solar in the County Court over the terms of its two-year agreement, and then the solar company going into liquidation in mid-2016.