NRL returns to Nine & Foxtel with ‘strongest sponsor lineup’ in years

Nine's Matt Granger and Foxtel's Martin Medcraf unpack their returning sponsors and new partners in a chat with Mumbrella's Zanda Wilson ahead of the first game of the 2021 NRL season.

The NRL season kicks off tonight at AAMI Park, as last year’s champions the Melbourne Storm take on the Rabbitohs in the opener at 8.05pm on Nine, as well as Fox Sports.

Nine will air three games over round one, with Friday night’s game between the Broncos and the Eels and Sunday afternoon’s matchup between the Raiders and the Tigers rounding out the lineup. These, and the remaining games of the round, will also be available on Foxtel and Kayo Sports.

NRL 2021 Season Launch

Speaking with Mumbrella ahead of the much-anticipated return of the competition, Nine’s director of sales – sport, Matt Granger, says the response from sponsors and partners has been exceptional.

“We have seen the strongest sponsor and partner line up across the NRL season of any recent year. To my mind, this reflects the wider economic confidence and brands recognising what a powerful platform the NRL is.”

Granger says it is “very exciting” to welcome back returning partners Harvey Norman, McDonald’s, Sportsbet and Telstra, while key returning sponsors are Ram Trucks, Chemist Warehouse, Hisense, Stan, Kia, Tradie, Beam Suntory, Menulog, Cbus and Isuzu.

Meanwhile, Kellogg’s, DoorDash, and BWS are joining as partners for 2021. “All of these brands are capitalising on what NRL represents, and the unique connect[ion] it has with its fans,” Granger says.

In terms of expected performance, Granger says Married At First Sight, in combination with the wider Nine content and audience ecosystem, “represents the ultimate launchpad to remind audiences that Your Footy, Your Way is back.

“2021 has been our strongest start to the ratings year in a long time and we expect that lead to continue as the NRL comes into the schedule.”

In addition, he expects audiences across multiple platforms to grow. “It will be another exciting season, with ratings reflective of the quality of football and the strength and expertise of the Wide World of Sports team.

“For Nine we always view sport through a cross platform perspective and I expect we’ll see the audience on 9Now continue to grow.”

Nine director of sales – sport, Matt Granger

Foxtel Media sports sales and partnerships director, Martin Medcraf warns that COVID still “presents uncertainties” despite the fact that everyone is heading into the season with “plenty of optimism”.

“Fox Sports has also shown it can successfully adapt and innovate to bring fans an outstanding product. We are also continuing to grow sports subscribers across the Foxtel Group who are attracted by the quality of our production, commentary and shows, and the breadth of our sports coverage,” he tells Mumbrella.

Fox Sports’ NRL offering in 2021 will consist of a 24/7 Fox League channel, which will air popular shows like the Matty Johns Show and NRL 360. Between these, and Kayo, Madcraf says Foxtel has “plenty of opportunities outside of the live broadcast to deliver on each sponsorship.

“Advertisers want to harness the passion that the big codes like NRL create to build their brands and deliver commercial outcomes,” he continues.

In terms of sponsors, Fox Sports is welcoming back Red Rooster, Xero, Toyota, Bundaberg Rum, Harvey Norman, McDonald’s and Chemist Warehouse, among others, to its 2021 NRL coverage.

In addition, it welcomes new partners VB, Youi, Ampol and Subway. “We feel good about the growth momentum from the starting point of about two million sports subscribers across Foxtel and Kayo,” Medcraf says.

“This saw significant audience growth last year, with NRL viewing up 19%, so we feel good that 2021 can bring an exciting winter season to even more fans.”

Citing audience growth off the back of the recent Indian test series, as well as the transition of the NRL Live Pass to Kayo, Medcraf says Fox Sports has “never been in a stronger position to deliver passionate audiences, at scale, to advertisers.

“And the market has responded, with sentiment and demand being overwhelmingly positive about the Footy season ahead.”

Foxtel Media sports sales and partnerships director, Martin Medcraf

After a stop-start 2020 season which saw a significant chunk of games played behind closed doors, games in NSW and Queensland will start with full capacity crowds, for the first time since Round 1 of 2020.

Victoria’s 50% crowd capacity limit is expected to be eased in the coming weeks.

“We couldn’t be more excited to kick off a new season,” Granger adds. “The entire Wide World of Sports and Nine team, from our hosts, commentators and experts are all pumped to be kicking off the 2021 season this Thursday with the Storm vs Rabbitohs.

“We know that Aussies love their footy and as Australia has returned to COVID normal I think both audiences and advertisers are excited to see the season start on time. “


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