Carlton & United Breweries is tapping into small sports clubs with a newly-launched online drinks store, Club Connect.
Sports clubs can order beer and wine as well as water, energy and soft drinks online, funneling club purchases through the platform.
The soft sponsorship program also involves a rebate system which gives clubs money back for their purchases.
Carlton & United Breweries’ chief executive Peter Filipovic said CUB wanted to help smaller sports clubs with the program.
“After extensive consultation with local sports clubs, we think Club Connect is the best way to help solve some of the problems grassroots sports clubs face,” he said.
“Sporting clubs are at the heart of local communities and drinks sales are critical to helping them raise badly-needed funds.”
The Club Connect platform will only be available to local clubs with liquor licences for on-premise consumption of alcohol.
Currently the program is only available in state capital CBDs, but CUB is planning to expand to clubs across Australia by mid-year.
As part of the deal, CUB will give $1 back for a case of water, up to $3 for beer and an unspecified amount for wine. This will act as a “new fundraiser for cash-strapped local clubs” according to a press release about the launch.
The brewer said it will use price monitoring software to remain competitive with other major online retailers.
The AFL and NRL have both reportedly backed the brewer’s move into the local sports market.
NRL chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo said rugby league supported the growth of grassroots clubs.
“This CUB initiative can only help the future of all local football communities,” he said.
“CUB’s new Club Connect initiative enables clubs to be rewarded in ways that will assist with improved club facilities and experiences for players and volunteers.”
Beer and sports
The initative comes at an interesting time for sports sponsorship, with more and more craft brewers tying up with smaller local sports teams.
All deals differ but they can involve pourage rights, branding and merchandise rights, even TV and radio advertising slots.
Over in the US, many sports teams and venues already have partnerships with local breweries, and have even been shown to be shifting the proportion of the market of big players such as AB InBev and MillerCoors.
Last week it was announced that WA brewery Gage Roads had taken over the sponsorship of AFLW team the Western Bulldogs from Two Birds Brewing.
At the time, Professor David Shilbury at Deakin Business School said that we should expect to see more movement in the space.
“It’s a commercial negotiation, if they can obtain more money from another sponsor and it meets their needs and their return on investment, they will. It happens all the time,” he said.
However as craft beer moves further into the space, craft brewers will need to navigate an arena that the major brewers have been playing in for decades. Club Connect is a mechanism allows Australia’s largest brewery to offer grassroots support, and embed its brands, without the necessity to have individual sponsorship agreements.