Sports’ stylish showdown

First published in The New Zealand Herald 21 July 2015

The Rugby Championship kicked off this week, at the same time as three of the world’s biggest football clubs landed in Melbourne to play in the International Champions Cup.

The fact that Cristiano Ronaldo, Francesco Totti, Gareth Bale and their mega superstar friends are cruising around the city is certainly not lost on Melbournians.

The uber stylish showdown featuring Real Madrid, AC Roma and Manchester City at the MCG this week has been hotly anticipated by many and bolstered by Melbourne’s large European community. So, if Saturday’s first game with Real Madrid versus AC Roma is anything to go by, this week may bring a lot of style and a little less football substance.

Now before you leave comments about my lack of sports knowledge, let me state clearly that I’m no sports authority in any way, shape or form. However, when it comes to style surely we can all admit that Real Madrid practically owns the word.

Have you seen photos of the team in made-to-measure Versace suits when they’re on official business? Sharp.

Ideally marketing and branding should leave sports alone, but that’s never going to happen. Sport and sports teams are now run like the world’s biggest global brands. They attract massive global sponsorship, generate huge advertising dollars and as individuals and teams are money magnets.

Take the mighty All Blacks. If I had to define them in one word, it’s that one I just used. The All Blacks are mighty in every way. From the haka, to the black uniform and unfussy fern. They’re manly, powerful and about as far from Versace as it gets. As a sponsor when you align yourself to the All Blacks brand you hope a little of that mightiness will rub off on you.

I’ve written about the All Blacks before as one of the world’s most successfully managed brands. Over the years their management has aligned every part of that story with the performance on field and positioned them around their 80 per cent win ratio.

It has been a formula for success with both fans and sponsors, and it’s why the All Blacks brand was valued at $108 million in 2011 by global valuation firm Brand Finance. The Real Madrid brand was given a $1.2b value by the same firm last year. (As a comparison, Brand Finance’s number one global firm is Apple with an estimated brand value of $195b.)

You can take that brand estimate with a grain of salt. Brand valuation is an iffy measure and competitive firm Interbrand varies significantly in its own estimation. However, there’s no denying that sport and branding are tightly interwoven.

Personally, I’ll be keeping a sharp eye on Ronaldo and friends on Friday, as I join the masses at what’s expected to be a full capacity crowd of 100,000 watching Real Madrid and Manchester City.

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