It was hard not to be impressed by the Super League branded trucks as Stobart unveiled its sponsorship masterplan to the press on Wednesday.
The UK’s leading transport and distribution company have agreed a three-year deal with the RFL, and as part of it, 100 trucks will be branded with Super League artwork, including six branded trucks for each Super League club.
The trailers look very impressive, with the generic ones featuring an image of a player from each club, while each club trailer has a player scoring a try on the side, with another eye-catching image on the back, together with the club’s official website URL.
It brings much needed national exposure for rugby league. Eddie Stobart lorries are the most recognisable in the country, and their fleet travels the distance around the earth 24 times a day. An Eddie Stobart vehicle is passed, on average, every 4.5 minutes when driving on the UK’s major roads.
Much has been made of rumoured other candidates for the Super League sponsorship, but none could really rival the national identity that Stobart has. Betfair were said to have offered to stump up cash for the sponsorship, but they are just another betting company who would probably have been expecting to recoup their investment from punters throughout the season.
Rugby league needs partners who are actively looking to grow the sport, and Stobart tick this box. All of a sudden, there’s a new reason to become an Eddie spotter. Will it be bad luck if you see your teams truck on the way to an away game? Or will it be an omen if you overtake a rival team’s truck on the way to a big match?
Stobart CEO Andrew Tinkler said while it was a good opportunity to expose his own brand through the popular Super League competition, it was also a way to drive the sport to a wider audience, and even get the Stobart fan base, which boasts 25,000 members, to rugby league games.
One leading journalist said to me it was the “best thing they (Super League) have ever done” in regards to the agreement of the deal. That’s how impressive the fleet of rugby league vehicles were. With the competition website, logo and SKY Sports information emblazoned on the side, it will be virtually impossible to ignore them on the road.
Clubs were said to have rejected other proposals for sponsorship, of which RFL chief Nigel Wood said there were several, but the Stobart deal turned out to be too good to turn down.
While there is apparently no financial benefit to the clubs, at least up front, the innovative deal with Stobart is likely to provide opportunities in the future for them to reap the rewards of the partnership.
But not only that, such exposure with a national brand, ranking 27th in the latest Superbrand rankings, may attract even bigger blue chip companies to endorse Super League and its clubs the next time the competition is looking for a new sponsor.
Super League is entering an exciting new era under the Stobart brand, and they have promised innovation and to think outside the box with ideas. A sponsor that just throws its money and sits back hoping it pays dividends for them is not what the sport needs right now. It needs a pro-active, like-minded organisation to help drive it forward (excuse the pun), and it seems to have found the right partner in Stobart.
A convoy of Stobart trucks will make their way from Widnes to Old Trafford for the Super League launch event on Wednesday, before the competition itself gets underway on February 3rd.
And the first game under the new sponsorship? The Stobart sponsored Widnes Vikings playing against Wakefield Wildcats at the Stobart Stadium in the Stobart Super League.