CT Corporate Advisory Director Jonathon Flegg discusses our most recent victory in the sports advisory space, and the instrumental role that CT Group played securing a coveted new Club License in Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL).
It is no secret that Australians are generally considered sports mad, especially when you observe the enduring popularity of our great ‘national past-times’ such as Rugby League, Aussie Rules, and Cricket.
These sports occupy a space in the Australian national psyche akin to Basketball, American Football and Baseball in the United States.
So it was with great excitement that the CT Corporate Advisory team were able help the first expansion club in over a decade to enter the premier NRL.
The Dolphins loom large in the Queensland state competition and have been the nursery for many rugby league greats, including 23 national representatives. Despite their illustrious history they have spent over 30 years playing in the Queensland competition, being overlooked at the advent of a national competition in 1988 (prior to this, senior club competitions were all state-based).
In the years following, the Dolphins built an impressive asset base of over A$100 million and a series of secure business interests (including a shopping centre and stadium assets), turning over approximately A$35 million per year.
While very impressive for a state-level club, top-tier football continued to allude them. For the Dolphins, whose primary ambition was to play rugby league ‘at the very highest level’, the pain was all too real.
Everything changed when the NRL announced a strategic expansion bid process, motivated by growth in the game, larger broadcast revenue, and securing a territorial presence that would frustrate rival sporting codes.
CT Group’s significant experience in sports advisory, bid management and media management was perfectly suited to aid the Dolphins in formulating a Strategic Bid Team that left nothing to chance. For the club, failure was not an option as it would mean the Dolphins might not get another chance to enter the national competition for another decade or more.
Importantly, CT Group had recently completed a similar project leading the Bid Team that was successful in securing a soccer Club License for the Macarthur Bulls in the high-profile A-League.
CT Group was instrumental in reimagining the Dolphins brand, through capturing the very best of the club’s illustrious history. The new contemporary brand was developed to engage the die-hard supporters and energise new target-markets of the youth and female fans.
The Dolphins have powerful brand equities that has led the Club to fiercely defend its brand from being used by other sporting organisations, both in Australia and abroad. The goal is to not only be a national brand, but through time, to become an international one.
Nothing was left to chance as the Bid Team endeavoured to ensure that the NRL had little choice but to select the Dolphins as the successful expansion team. Extensive financial modelling was prepared to the NRL’s satisfaction, as was demographic catchment modelling, and detailed masterplans that outlined the redevelopment opportunity on the Dolphins’ main 11-hectare site. The masterplan proposal offered a world-class sports precinct, including an expanded-capacity stadium, convention centre, boutique hotel, training facilities and sports academy.
Interest from 16 corporate sponsors were established, providing the NRL with comfort that the Club had enough firepower to de-risk the Dolphins’ financial strategy and revenue projections. Significant investment was secured to expand the game in the Dolphins regional catchment area, providing assurance that the Dolphins were financially viable and would offer exceptional growth opportunities to the game. We had 26 Members of Parliament from all three tiers of government demonstrate their support for the Dolphins’ elevation to the national competition.
CT Group built a multi-faceted and positive campaign around the Dolphins bid that left the NRL and the national media with no doubt as to which of the contenders enjoyed the overwhelming support of key stakeholders, fans, and the wider community.
Our key messages centered around the financial strength of the bid, the burgeoning population catchment the Dolphins represent, a compelling infrastructure plan spanning three ‘NRL ready’ stadium venues, highly detailed plans for growing both the men’s and women’s game, and the celebrated history of the club and its iconic former players.
After establishing a Bid Room and a four-week effort to deliver a highly detailed 366-page Bid Submission, the NRL agreed that the Dolphins bid had been successful, scoring exceptionally well against all the stated evaluation criteria. The moment was captured as a pre-prepared Launch Strategy hit every digital channel and the national media. There was no doubt that in a sports mad nation there would be immense interest in this historic moment.
Thanks must go to many people, but in particular I would like to highlight the efforts of our Executive Chairman, Remo Nogarotto, and the core CT Corporate Advisory members who participated in the Bid Team, including Nicholas Nogarotto, Leo Shanahan, William Dempsey, Reinhardt van der Walt and Georgia Baillie.
To the wonderful Dolphins: CT Group wishes you every success and a long and illustrious future playing rugby league at the very highest level – just as you have always dreamed of.
To read the Dolphins’ media statement click here