Can Lyall Gorman’s brand focussed business smarts rebuild the Cronulla Sharks?

The Western Sydney Wanderers have certainly been a shot in the arm for the A-League. In their extremely short history they have built a club that would be the envy of many, with one of the most fanatical group of supporters in the country.

It was with interest then that this weekend I stumbled across an interview in The Age with the former executive chairman Lyall Gorman discussing the important role the Wanderer’s brand played in the development of the club – including the playing list.

“Del Piero was offered to us first,” Gorman said. “Once we did the seven forums and identified the sort of club we were going to be and the brand essence and what we stood for from a values and cultural perspective, Del Piero wouldn’t have been the right fit for that. If we talk about the brand values at the time being very raw and real being out in western Sydney, we needed someone who could reflect that western Sydney look and feel.

A three-time World Cup player in Shinji, but one of the most humble, giving and down-to-earth players you could ever find. I remember sending him to a Japanese school in Frenchs Forest for an hour to do a community appearance, but three hours later we had to drag him out of there. That’s the sort of player we needed to have that really reflected the brand we were building around this club.”

Getting clear on the brand they wanted to build first has really paid dividends for Western Sydney, and is another example of how often sporting clubs have a better understanding of the power in a brand than the business world does.

The Wanderers have given western Sydney a sense of ownership and belonging, with the fractured heartland of Australian football on the same page for the first time in a long time. – Michael Chammas, The Age

Belonging! Where does that come from again? Belief! And belief begins with a clear set of business objectives and values.

The proof is certainly in the pudding with the Wanderers, and their place in the hearts and minds of western Sydney and indeed the wider Australian sporting landscape owes as much to Lyall Gorman’s decision to build the club up from a foundation of brand clarity as it does to how they play their football.

His success with the Wanderers has now brought Gorman to one of the most broken sporting brands in Australia, the Cronulla Sharks in the NRL. He has a huge task ahead of him to rebuild a club currently with no major sponsor coming off the back of two years of doping, player and coaching issues, but he seems to be  starting with a familiar message…

“Our goal is to start off by changing the narrative of the club and re-positioning its brand,” Gorman said.

“The opportunity to harness the tremendous pride, passion and parochialism that exudes across the members and supporters of this club and the broader Sutherland Shire provides the perfect platform to build a successful and winning high performance culture on and off the field.

“Combining those ingredients, with a board which has a very clear vision for the future; an exceptionally talented playing roster across all teams in the club; a professional and committed football, management and administration staff; a wonderful Junior League Association and a very committed group of corporate partners and supporters, has been the carrot to convince me that this is where I want to be”

I will be watching with much interest over the next twelve months. Watch this space.

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