The Warriors want to establish their own themed pub in Auckland – and are well-advanced on plans to find the ideal location.
The club see significant potential in the hospitality venue, which would leverage off the strength of its brand in the marketplace, which has reached new levels after the historic 2023 season.
The Herald can also reveal that the NRL franchise has plans to partner with several pubs around the country – on a licensed basis – to extend the Warriors’ commercial footprint in each region.
The initiatives have come as part of moves to diversify their business model and expand the horizons of the club.
“We have a very powerful brand and it’s one that people like to engage in,” Warriors’ chief executive Cameron George told the Herald. “I feel we could fit quite well into the hospitality space with our brand and our unique offering, with fans and members and the general public.”
“Most importantly, we are looking to diversify our business - not just being reliant on the NRL for funding and the like. One of the things we learnt through Covid was how reliant we were on memberships and sponsorships and the NRL so we are trying to be smarter and look differently at how we can generate revenue.”
It’s understood the club has been assessing the business case for a themed Auckland pub for the last 12 months and are ready to go ahead. George said they could either take over an existing venue or form a joint venture – “if there is someone out there that sees this as an opportunity to partner with us.”
Warriors chief executive Cameron George. Photo / Photosport
They have engaged industry experts to source alternatives.
“We want a pub with high traffic flow,” said George. “We don’t just want to turn the lights on game days or for away games, we want it to be a very successful business 24/7.”
The club has a “very open mind” about the potential location.
“It could be in the city, it could be on the edges of the city or could be out here in Penrose,” said George. “We believe what we can bring to a hotel is something that will make it a destination hotel, not just a convenience one. We are not rushing, it’s about getting the right establishment.”
George didn’t go into details but there is obvious potential as a game day gathering point, especially for away matches, along with hosted member nights and ambassador and player events, even down to the minutiae of branded food items, whether it was a Shaun Johnson Burger, a Roger Tuivasa-Sheck wrap or an Andrew Webster salad.
Branded or themed establishments are common across the American sporting landscape, while Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal are among English Premier League clubs that have official pubs and restaurants, though they are mostly located within stadium complexes.
The NRL model is different, with almost all Australian teams running licensed venues in conjunction with their leagues clubs, who in turn rely heavily on poker machine revenue, though that system isn’t feasible under current New Zealand legislation.
As well as an Auckland-themed pub, the Warriors are also investigating the idea of partnerships with several pubs around the country.
“We are looking to find a pub in each region to create that partnership,” said George. “We would like to roll out a bit of a model around New Zealand, whereby we can partner with a pub in a particular region and be an exclusive partner to that region and in doing so bring a lot of content and benefits to that town of choice through this partnership. We can bring exclusive stuff, ambassador nights, sportsman’s nights, quiz nights, memorabilia, players and things to do with the local community.”
George said the pubs would pay a licence fee, while the club would deliver various KPI’s and outcomes.
The club have also recently branched out into real estate, purchasing a property in Blockhouse Bay. It contains an eight-bedroom house – used to accommodate some of the club’s aspiring junior players from around the country – while the large section also has development potential.
The Warriors have also invested in an industrial building next to Mt Smart Stadium, with George saying it could be rented out or used by the club for a “number of options”.
“It’s an ongoing process for us,” said George. “What we have generated through a good year and a half, we trying to invest wisely and think separately to football.”
Michael Burgess has been a sports journalist since 2005, winning several national awards and covering Olympics, Fifa World Cups and America’s Cup campaigns. He has also reported on the Warriors and NRL for more than a decade.
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