David Shillington shows off the, almost complete, Raiders 2013 uniform, set to have the Canberra players emblazoned with $1.7 million worth of sponsorship. Photo: Marco Mana
They gave away their major jersey sponsorship for free to a non-profit charity at the start of this season, but the Canberra Raiders will begin the 2013 NRL season with their most lucrative playing uniform of all time.
Despite their ordinary playing form of the past two seasons, the Raiders will run out in 2013 in a strip bedazzled with an extraordinary $1.7 million in sponsorship branding - the most the club has ever received for uniform sponsorship.
And it has not stopped yet, with the Raiders soon to announce a new $100,000 per annum jersey sponsorship on a unique and newly available space - at the top of the chest.
The NRL has endorsed the availability of the space and it's understood the Raiders are very close to securing a new six-figure backer.
Unable to find a major jersey sponsor at the start of the 2012 season, the Raiders played the first four rounds of the season virtually for charity, with the branding of the Eden Monaro Cancer Support Group on the front of their jerseys.
The Raiders yesterday announced a renewed sponsorship deal with Local Liquor, which will switch from the jersey sleeves to the shorts in 2012 in a deal worth an estimated $180,000 per year.
Having completed its first season, Canberra's major sponsorship agreement with Chinese technology giant Huawei will increase to $1 million in funding next season, complementing new sleeve sponsor Defence Housing Australia ($350,000) and back-of-shorts sponsor ACTTAB ($85,000).
For the first time in a decade, the Raiders uniform will not carry the logo of foundation sponsor Canberra Milk.
But Canberra Milk general manager Garry Sykes helped the Raiders secure the deal with Local Liquor and will maintain a $180,000 per year interest in the Raiders for the next three years.
Raiders chief executive Don Furner said the value of the 2013 strip was unprecedented in the club's history and there was potential for bonuses if the team's NRL performances improve.
''Our uniform property is by far the most we've ever got. I think it indicates how well the game rates, the coverage it gets,'' Furner said.
''Most of those sponsors are now locked in for the next two to three years now so that doesn't change, but there are some bonuses in there for top-eight and top-four finishes.
''We started without a sponsor at the start of the year and it's a huge hole in our budget. We're ahead of schedule [for next season] there and that's really pleasing … we're in a good position.''
Furner admitted the prospect of the NRL's new broadcasting deal, set to kick in next year, had aided in the sponsorship hunt.
''Its the deal the sport's deserved,'' Furner said.
''It's probably been under-valued for five to six years so I think it'll start to bring it in line with what the sport is worth.
''Likewise then what the players will be worth going forward because it'll certainly increase their payments through the salary cap.''
A foundation sponsor of the Raiders since 1982, Sykes had spoken out earlier this year about his frustration with the recent performances of the team. At the time, Sykes told The Canberra Times he wanted to see the club's plan before recommitting.
''We've had that meeting, we're all sorted, we know what the plans are for the future and we've decided to renew for another three years,'' Sykes said.
''It's just a natural question to ask … we're all aware of what the performance has been and no one's happy with it at the moment.
''But we've been here for the good times too and these are the bad times.
''The guys are putting in but I think everyone should get off the coach's back and the players' backs and let them concentrate on the football. Because I'm sure it does take a toll every time they run out on the park.''