Underarm Delivery

By Brand Heeler

A very novel approach to sports advertising

There’s hardly an aspect of modern professional sport that remains untouched by commercial sponsorship. Team kits and track-side hoardings have always been obvious targets for sponsors’ logos (check out any F1 car or driver for a masterclass in space allocation) and the landscape has only been getting more crowded.

Marketeers have needed to be increasingly imaginative to stand their brands out from the crowd. Thirty years ago, anamorphic 3D logos made their first appearance on pitches, where they could be clearly viewed by TV cameras but looked decidedly odd from any other angle. Whole stadiums and entire sporting series regularly benefit from ‘naming rights’ endorsements and even tattoos (both permanent and temporary) are favourites with cheeky ambush campaigns.

Match officials, on the other hand, have tended to be less festooned with branding than the players they oversee. But even they can be fair game, witness EA Games’ long-term partnership with the English Premier League’s soccer referees. So where next for an aspiring sponsor? In a fantastic bit of creative thinking, Unilever has scored sponsorship of CricketAustralia’s Big Bash umpires for its deodorant brand Rexona. The Rexona name and ‘tick’ logo will be embroidered into the armpits of the umpires’ shirts, where they will remain hidden for most of the match. Only when the umpires raise their arms to signal something momentous like a six or a wicket will the branding be revealed in all its glory. It’s a genius combination, especially for a deodorant brand and a sport played in the full glare of the summer sun.

Sport has suffered under COVID as much as any other economic sector, with fixtures cancelled or played without paying spectators. It’s therefore more important than ever for sporting organisations to maximise revenue from commercial sponsorship, and CricketAustralia looks to be having a record-breaking season in 2020/21, pulling in some AUD70m. Some commentators might suggest Australian cricket has long had an underarm problem, going back to Trevor Chappell’s infamous delivery against the Kiwis in 1981.

This article contains our thoughts and opinions on an issue of general interest and is written from the perspective of Australian and/or English law. It is not legal advice and is not provided in the context of a solicitor-client relationship. It may not even be relevant to your jurisdiction. No duty of care is assumed or accepted. Please carry out appropriate research and consult with a suitably qualified legal expert before taking any action or making any decisions.