RaboDirect involves fans as brand enters fifth year of Melbourne Rebels sponsorship

RaboDirect photo

RaboDirect Rebels photoshoot

A five year partnership between RaboDirect and rugby union team the Melbourne Rebels has helped the bank’s brand become “more real and tangible to people”, the bank’s chief marketer has said.

A new campaign is rolling out in market featuring nine Rebels players, five RaboDirect customers along with four finalists from the Conversion for Community grassroots rugby program which the bank runs as part of the sponsorship deal.

Speaking to Mumbrella as RaboDirect enters its fifth year of partnership with the Rebels, the bank’s group executive of marketing Greg McAweeney said: “We felt that looking for a premium sponsorship opportunity would help elevate the brand and help make this virtual brand more real and tangible to people.

“Victoria was a very important market for us, we were under-represented with our penetration into Victoria so that was another pretty important consideration,” he added.

When RaboDirect began playing in the sponsorship space McAweeney said it was important to find one that was “like minded”.

“When you look at sponsoring something you often have had a sponsor before you. It was a green field with the Rebels and that was quite attractive to us because we wanted to help build something and something that would leave a lasting legacy within Victoria,” McAweeney said.

“We’re a challenger brand in our market place, we like to challenge the main banks and we felt the Rebels were likeminded because they’re also a challenger brand because they’re trying to create a rugby franchise in Victoria where it is AFL mad.”

The team has not been without its fair share of scandal in its short history, with high profile players including James O’Connor, Kurtley Beale and Danny Cipriani on the wrong end of media attention for off-field issues. However McAweeney dismissed those problems as “a fact of life”.

“We know that sports players aren’t going to be angels,” he said when quizzed on the risks any scandals could pose to the brand.



“We’re mindful of drug taking in sport. I had a lot of meetings with the Rebels and the ARU on that and getting reassurance on the protocols they have in place.

“In terms of players going off and doing stupid things, that’s just a fact of life,” he continued.

“It happened to the Rebels with some pretty high profile players but the thing for us is you know it happens and as long as you have a good relationship with the franchise and they’re there telling you about it up front and communicating with you, telling you early before things come out in the media then you’re better able to prepare for it.

“But in all truth, they don’t have any lasting damage to our brand, we know it’s a risk but we’re prepared for it. Thankfully the Rebels have dealt with some of the issues they’ve had in a very pragmatic way.”

But it is not all about risk, McAweeney said sponsoring a sports team helps RaboDirect fulfil some of the brand’s community objectives.

“We have spent a lot of money and time with Rugby in Victoria where we have placed a lot of emphasis on raising the profile of grassroots rugby. That’s really important to us because that’s about getting people playing and getting people active,” he said.

McAweeney explained the decision to move foward with the Rebels sponsorship deal was “beyond” being “just a media play” and is about developing meaningful relationships with customers.

“When our customer base see us as being very authentic and committed to helping promote grassroots Rugby it goes beyond just having the logo on the chest of a player, anybody can buy that, it doesn’t mean a lot to customers,” he said.

“But when they see you doing something they have a shared belief in that means more to them and you get better brand advocacy from that. The more you can deliver to that the more impactful those brand partnerships can be.

“If any brand wants to do a sponsorship it helps if you have a common purpose or shared brand values,” he added.

On what lies ahead for the RaboDirect brand he said: “Later in the year we will be refreshing our brand platform.

“We’ve had a very successful  marketing campaign for RaboDirect over the last couple of years but we’ve decided to renew it and revamp it so we’ll be launching that in the next number of months. We’re busy working away on that, it will probably have more of a digital element to that, the media mix is changing all the time.”

Whybin\TBWA is RaboDirect’s creative agency while ZenithOptimedia handle the brand’s media buying.

On the challenges ahead in the marketing space for the brand, McAweeney cited clutter.

“Obviously our competitors have a higher budget then us, so its always very important for us to have creative that has high cut through and hit the mark,” he said.

“I’d rather take the time to get the creative right and then have all the elements of a traditional and digital campaign working together rather than just knocking out campaigns that are just average and me too.

“If you have a smaller budget the cut through becomes even more important, you have to punch above your weight.”

Miranda Ward


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