How a small soccer club grabbed $250,000 in sponsorships and transformed its fortunes

Dunbar Rovers, named after the eastern suburbs pub it was conceived in, has managed to turn the costly pursuit of chasing football glory into a self-supporting franchise where marketers are tapping into the potential of grassroots sport. Mumbrella's Simon Canning chats to the club's commercial director to find out how a small club secured big dollars.

A small football club founded by some mates at a pub has created a self-sufficient sponsorship platform to help it compete in the NSW state league by offering sponsors a unique network for business and promotion.

Matt Delves, commercial director of Dunbar Rovers says the club started looking at the potential of sponsorship beyond local butchers providing a meat tray to raffles when it saw the escalating cost of registrations and the potential for players to be driven away from the sport.

“A number of years ago we started to look at the cost of regos and obviously they were going through the roof and we said ‘Right, we better go and get sponsorship’,” Delves says.

“It’s probably easier to be said than done to be honest, so we went out and at the time we raised about $6,000 in sponsorship.”

Realising the club needed a more formal approach to sponsorship and backed by success on the pitch, Delves then looked within the clubs’ own network.

In order to enter the NSW state league – a major stepping stone for young players with their eyes on the Hyundai A-League – the club needed to increase its funding capacity significantly.

The first step was separating the community-based club and its teams from the state team so it could stand alone.

“We realised we can’t charge money on the gate, we don’t have access to our own canteen to raise money from and so we really needed to bring it in through sponsorship,” he said.

“We had some sponsors who had been with us for a while and we got them back, but then we started to create a business network encouraging people to be able to do business with each other. On the supply side we considered what are the things businesses need to do business.”

Two of the club’s biggest sponsors, Honan Insurance Group and Attribute recruitment are national companies.

“The beauty of insurance is a number of our sponsors need insurance and we say if you are going to do a transaction, do it with someone within the network,” he says.

“As the team was again promoted it was required to field youth teams and now uses the sponsorship to p[ay for player registration where other clubs force players to pay the fees.”

Sponsorship funding for the club has grown to more than $250,000 per year through packages with Honan, Attribute, OFX, Luxury Boat Syndicates, IOC and Five By Five along with a smaller group of second tier sponsors.

“We call it the Dunbar Economy,” Delves says.

The club has also managed to swing some big names in Australian football behind it with its disruptive model, convincing Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou to speak at a business lunch just 10 days out from a do-or-die qualifier for the team.

Mumbrella will be tackling a range of sports marketing issues at the Mumbrella Sports Marketing Summit on July 21. To see the program and to buy tickets click here.


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