HomeExclusiveExclusive: Melbourne Rebels CEO Previews 2022 Super Rugby Pacific

Exclusive: Melbourne Rebels CEO Previews 2022 Super Rugby Pacific

Exclusive: Melbourne Rebels CEO Previews 2022 Super Rugby Pacific

In an exclusive interview with Ministry of Sport, Melbourne Rebels CEO, Baden Stephenson, outlined the off-field success the Super Rugby Pacific club has had in the lead up to the 2022 season and explained some continued challenges facing Australia’s elite sporting clubs.

Ahead of the 2022 season’s start today, Stephenson said the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years has led to a lot of excitement over the new competition.

“We’re really excited about Super Rugby Pacific, it’s quite exciting having two new teams,” Stephenson told Ministry of Sport.

“Obviously, after the last two years being heavily affected by COVID, it’s nice for us in Melbourne and for the Rebels to hopefully have a clear runway to play games in our home stadium and get through the season.

“There’s a lot of excitement from our players, staff and the community to get into the new competition,” he said.

Honing in on the commercial growth of the club and the challenges caused by the disruptions to the Super Rugby competition over the past two years, Stephenson said the club was forced to be innovative and create unique value for sponsors and fans.

“The club certainly had a major focus on our commercial revenue and our commercial partnerships,” Stephenson said.

“We’re absolutely delighted with the new partners who have come on board for the start of the 2022 season and a number of those partners we hope will be in for the long haul.

“Over the last two years, we learnt a lot and had to do things certainly different to what we were doing prior to COVID.

“Our big challenge being on the road for pretty much two years was to try and ensure our commercial partners, our fans and members were able to try and retain that emotional connection with the team.

“Obviously not seeing them in person at our home ground was difficult.

“Like a lot of clubs we tried to do a whole range of activations, on match days we were doing inner sanctum Zoom calls, live crosses in the warm-ups using some of our injured players or our access to the coaching staff before games, during games and after games so they felt part of the journey.

“It was a different context for them, and they seemingly appreciated it.

“Then using our digital assets in a different way to try and commercialise everything we were hosting in and around our matchdays, and can we align a partner with some of those weekly posts.

“There was definitely a big shift in the way we dealt with our commercial partners, and we are hoping we can get some consistent content and games in Melbourne for 2022.

“It’s about trying to get the balance between what we do digitally and in person,” he said.

Expanding on the club’s innovations in commercial partnerships, Stephenson pointed to the entire Rebels structure as crucial to the success of partnership.

“We’re certainly seeing sports partnerships shift a lot from the old days of traditionally slapping a logo on a jersey or equipment,” Stephenson said.

“Partners are definitely looking for alignment with clubs that have got similar values, that align in the way they do their business, but also for our club we’re talking about not only Super Rugby, it’s also Super W, community rugby, grassroots rugby, wheelchair rugby.

“We’re trying to put a proposition to all of our sponsors for the whole of game and that certainly resonates with a lot of our partners on board at the moment and hopefully future partners who see the benefit of supporting all levels of the code.

“When you’ve got a one-stop shop from under 7’s all the way through to the Wallabies and Wallaroos and many touch points across juniors, schools, elite pathways and the professional arm of the game, you can come up with some really creative ways to engage and get good content, branding and awareness, and working towards what each partner actually wants out of it,” he said.

Looking forward beyond the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season, Stephenson said: “There’s some really exciting things happening in rugby, not just in Super Rugby, but with the international game with some big test matches and international content, the British and Irish Lions coming in 2025, hopefully the Commonwealth Games in 2026, and the hopefully soon to be announced 2027 Rugby World Cup.”

“There’s a lot to get excited about in general for rugby as a code right across the country and certainly in Melbourne, being the sporting capital of the world.

“We’re looking forward to hosting some of those events and our partners are excited to be on board with the Melbourne Rebels and be involved and engaged with the international games as well,” Stephenson told Ministry of Sport.

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