Sport AFL Buddy business and why he’s right for Sydney
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Buddy business and why he’s right for Sydney

Buddy Franklin, fashion entrepreneur, at the races.
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Buddy’s back. After a shaky start to the season he showed enough last Friday night to suggest that the Swans are going to get value for money from him on and off the field.

But it won’t be a kick in the park. There’ll be the inevitable Buddy-type problems along the way.

He’s big, brash and a bit of a hoon. Two years ago he was pinched for doing 90 km/h in a 50 km/h zone in his luxury ‘Merc’. Just recently he crashed his girlfriend’s $70000 top-of-the-range Jeep Cherokee into a line of parked cars. He’s got the money to cover it, given his $10 million deal to play for the Swans over the next nine years.

Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin divides opinion. Most media opinion suggests he’s not worth the money. He’s too much of a party-boy and an individualist who will disrupt the Swans play-for-the-jumper culture. He’s also bad for business. Even with the Swans’ cost-of-living allowance, he’ll place too much pressure on the salary cap.

The Swans already have an expensive tall forward in Kurt Tippett. He’s setting the club back around $887,000 a year. There’s no need for another high-priced forward, especially one who will drain the budget and erode the collectivist club culture nurtured by Paul Roos and maintained by John Longmire.

What rubbish!

Feel the love: Franklin after the Swans' win on Friday. Photo: Getty
Feel the love: Franklin after the Swans’ win on Friday. Photo: Getty

Buddy’s just what the Swans and the Sydney footy market need. He’s got the grungy edginess to attract the Gen Ys to the SCG, and can court enough controversy to put Australian football in the media spotlight in what is very much an NRL stronghold.

He’s part owner of the clothing brand Nena & Pasadena. It’s a multi-million dollar concern, has Neverland outlets in Melbourne’s CBD and trendy Chapel Street, and is even on the hangers in Harrods.

Despite the AFL’s propaganda, it hasn’t made a splash in Sydney and needs Buddy firing on and off the field. Any publicity is good publicity and if Buddy’s presence results in increased attendances, television ratings and social media hits, he’s done his job.

He was right to knock back GWS. Buddy’s more Bondi than Blacktown, and he’d be wasted out west. He’s got enough designer ink and attitude to appeal to Sydney’s beach ‘burbs’ party set. Throw in model girlfriend Jessinta Campbell and Buddy’s got the chic ‘cred’ to strut red carpets and set twitter buzzing.

The more hits the better, both on and off the field.

Buddy is big business. He’ll boot goals, contribute to the team, and lift the club and game’s profile in Sydney. The Swans’ brand has evened-out in tinsel town and it needed a marquee signing to attract new supporters, especially as there’s a new mob out west.

Sydney FC followed a similar strategy with the signing of Alessandro Del Piero when the Wanderers came on the scene. Buddy’s no Del Piero, but the Swans are going down the same path.

It’s a high-risk strategy, but a product of free agency. More clubs will attempt to lock topliners into long term, cashed-up contracts to ward off competitors.

Franklin’s already played a lot of football and is the type of power-running forward who will twinge more soft tissues as the wear-and-tear sets in.

Spruiking the product.
Spruiking the product.

At $10 million over nine years, the playing expectation is that the twin towers – Franklin and Tippett – will deliver a premiership or two within the first five. Once Tippett’s off the books, Franklin will be paid the bulk of his contract and the Swans can start to regenerate the list.

Buddy and the company have copped it from both the AFL and women’s groups. He’s distanced himself from the company, though he remains a co-owner.

The marketing expectation is that Franklin will become an iconic player and a merchandising magnet. The test will be if Buddy, from his Bondi beachhead, can cut it in the Sydney market.

He has quite a bit at stake. Buddy’s no fool despite popular perceptions. He’s part owner of the clothing brand, Nena & Pasadena, established in 2010. It’s a multi-million dollar concern, has Neverland outlets in Melbourne’s CBD and trendy Chapel Street, and is even on the hangers in Harrods.

The brand has a British distributer, the former English cricketer Kevin Pietersen. Like Franklin, he’s designer inked, an individualist who divides public opinion and is co-owner of the brand. Though he’s still a quality batsman, Pietersen’s Test playing days are over. England’s cricket management considers he plays the game on his rather than the team’s terms.

Like Franklin and Pietersen, the brand has raised eyebrows with its raunchy t-shirts and blokesworld marketing strategy. Nena & Pasadena sells not just a clothing range, but has been accused of promoting an offensive brand of sexism.

More Bondi than Blacktown. Photo: Getty
More Bondi than Blacktown. Photo: Getty

As the company’s Facebook page recently posted, whether women wear a g-string or thong, “it’s coming off”. On the off chance of sex there are no guarantees: “We don’t owe you a text.” This is waivered of course if the blokes involved “like you…or want another shag”.

Franklin didn’t come to Sydney for anonymity. He went for the money and the opportunity to promote his fashion interests in Australia’s biggest market.

Not surprisingly, Buddy and the company have copped it from both the AFL and women’s groups. In 2012, campaigners against the sexploitation of women, Collective Shout, criticised the brand for “sending the message that women exist for men’s sexual entertainment”, while the AFL refused to condone the images used to promote the clothing range.

But Buddy’s no mug. He’s distanced himself from the company, though he remains a co- owner, shareholder and plastered across the net in the brand’s t-shirts.

No doubt he will use his time at the Swans to push the brand in Sydney’s beachside and designer grunge boutiques. As long as his form doesn’t slump and he continues to play the marquee role, the Swans’ management will be happy, no matter what t-shirt he’s wearing.

Franklin didn’t come to Sydney for anonymity or to escape the Melbourne’s footballing goldfish bowl. He went for the money and the opportunity to promote his fashion interests in Australia’s biggest market.

He may be big, brash and a hoon, and his fashion label may send out the occasional misogynistic message, but he’s the one hope the AFL has to crack the Gen Y set in Sydney.

Dr Tom Heenan lectures in sport studies at Monash University.

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