'Brands connect with football because of the passion and the energy'

As Isuzu UTE is unveiled as naming rights partner of the A-League Men, Ant Hearne - chief commercial officer of the A-Leagues - reveals the commercial strategy underpinning the leagues' new brand.


Q: Last week the new A-Leagues brand was unveiled, and this week A-League Men has a naming rights sponsor in Isuzu UTE. Is that deal a case of the commercial strategy validating the strategy for the future of the game?

AH: The work we’ve done developing the A-Leagues brand is about creating something with meaning and with a purpose - how we talk about the brand, and how we represent it graphically is just a small (but important) part of that.

In developing our new brand strategy we are drawing from the strengths that already exist within football, most notably the youth and diversity of our fan base, and we are using those strengths to fuel our wider purpose. The A-Leagues is all about this idea of what Australia is today - young, energetic, diverse and open. 

This is what a brand like Isuzu UTE has bought into. It is really important to get commercial validation quickly, but this is a conversation we've been having for some months now in preparation for this. 

The Isuzu UTE brand values of adventure, reliability and performance mean there's an incredible brand fit between Isuzu Ute and the A-Leagues: we’re both challenger brands, and the partnership opens up that new Australia for Isuzu UTE through that diverse fanbase which the A-Leagues can deliver to brands.

Q: Why did you decide to seek separate naming rights sponsors for the constituent leagues, rather than one for the A-Leagues as a whole?

AH: Commercially, it still makes sense to deliver more value into the leagues and into the sport - having separate sponsors for the two leagues offers us the chance to pursue more revenue opportunities, and that leads to us being able to invest more in each of those properties. If we're doing the brand connection right then the identity of those leagues will be inherently connected with the naming rights sponsor - our partners can fully integrate into how we refer to those leagues and drive further value from the partnership.

For A-League Women, we need a partner who shares our ambition to invest in and grow the women’s game. We’re having live conversations with really exciting brands who see the game’s huge potential, especially in the lead up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup. 

Q: The A-Leagues have previously been described as the engine room for the commercial success of the game, is that a fair summary still?

AH: The better and stronger the A-Leagues are, the stronger the football ecosystem in Australia is. We’ve got the highest participation of any sport, we’re unleashing the potential of the professional game and we’ve got national teams performing on a global stage. No other league is better positioned than the A-Leagues right now. 

The A-Leagues are an opportunity to really engage with football in person - you can play at the weekend, or watch your kids play, you can go to the game and see the players up close, you can go online and get incredible access to clubs and players, connect with a hundred different countries through football, and then you get to see the players you watch every week up on the world stage. 

That is what football is about and that is why brands connect with football, because of the passion and because of the proximity, because we’re the world’s game - people want to be part of that energy.