Every sporting team would love a Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin.
Most of the time at least… maybe not when he’s behind the wheel, but certainly when he is in charge of winning games of football and commanding media attention.
As the picture below from the Sydney Swans (@SydneySwans) shows from Franklin’s press conference at the SCG today, the Sydney superstar is a media magnet. It’s a press pack rarely seen in Australian sport, even if it’s grand final week.
Franklin has become one of those players theatre-going sports fans will watch and this weekend’s AFL finale is one such occasion. In the stands and on TV this is a Buddy-bonanza for all who partner with the Sydney Swans and the AFL.
A superstar player with a rockstar lifestyle is the perfect recipe to get Sydneysiders excited.
The AFL has had its fair share of stars and the Swans themselves have seen the likes of Tom Hafey, Ron Barassi, Paul Roos and Tony Lockett deliver headlines in the sports pages.
In the history of the Sydney Swans, the only player to come close to Franklin’s all round package was the flamboyant Warwick Capper. But the Wiz wasn’t playing in the Twittersphere, and in the digital age and the age of celebrity, no-one comes close to Buddy.
Franklin captured plenty of attention when it was announced that he would collect $10million over nine years for a shift from premiers Hawthorn to premiership favourites Sydney.
He arrived in the Harbour City and initially appeared more interested in counting his cash than calories, was snapped frolicking at the beach and crashing his girlfriend’s Jeep. The team lost three of their first four games, including an embarrassing loss to Greater Western Sydney in the opening round and everything looked somewhat out of shape.
But then came 12 wins in a row with Franklin producing plenty of heroics. He ended the regular season as the leading goalkicker in the competition, selection as an all-Australian and as runner-up with fellow superstar Gary Ablett Jr in last night’s Brownlow medal.
By almost any measure – and the media pack surrounding Franklin and the resulting awareness of the team is an easy one to measure – Sydney are getting a return on their investment, whether or not they win this weekend’s AFL Grand Final.
Fickle Sydney crowds are up, membership has raced past 40,000 for the first time in the club’s history, TV audiences have risen between 15-20 per cent and the Financial Review reported earlier this month that the club looks set to top the $15million dollar mark in sponsorship income this year.
All of this will put considerable wind in the sails of the Swans commercial team, and you could expect the price for a partnership in 2015 will be well north of this year’s financial requirements.
Of course there remains a question on the length of Franklin’s contract and nine years provides plenty of opportunity for the Franklin – Sydney relationship to go off the rails. But for now, at least, the eyeballs of most sports fans will be on him, and his team, when he takes to the MCG on Saturday.
And if Franklin produces some Buddy brilliance in the grand final, on and off the field he will become the most valuable domestic-based sports star in the country.