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Bedpost Shows Its Mettle With Southern Steel

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It might be the off-season for the Southern Steel netball franchise – and they might be forgiven for being more interested in August’s Netball World Cup in Sydney than preparing for the 2016 ANZ Championship – but they’re working hard to put together the right team for next year’s tournament.

And, as well as finding the right combination on the court, they’ve got a winning team behind them thanks to Bedpost’s recommitment as sponsor.

The announcement that Bedpost would continue a relationship that started in 2011 came hot on the heels of the Steel re-signing the bulk of its young 2015 squad, which finished third in the New Zealand conference.

The franchise’s Corporate and Communications Manager, Kate Buchanan, said the two brands had lots in common – but having Bedpost on board since 2011 had played a role in building and retaining a strong squad of players.

“It’s around aligning our brand with a successful New Zealand brand and it is really important to partner with a company that has very similar values to us,” she says. “Bedpost epitomises that hard working culture of New Zealanders and the commitment, professionalism and dedication which we expect from our players.”

The Invercargill-based Steel works hard to build a loyal squad in order to keep the players heading south and Kate says Bedpost’s enthusiasm for netball helps create an attractive family atmosphere in a competition which has become so much more hard-nosed since the tournament included franchises from both sides of the Tasman.

“We made a decision a couple of years ago to recruit a very young squad with a longer term plan in place. It wasn’t just about winning that year, there was a bigger picture in play and we needed to retain and develop a new crop of players. Now we’re just starting to reap the rewards.

“It’s very hard for us to attract players to Invercargill and Dunedin because for a lot of them – especially the Auckland players – it does feel like other end of earth. It’s a very different environment down here … with an infamous weather pattern (which we try not to mention!). When all the franchises are operating under very similar salary caps, we have to have a point of difference and to me that’s the way we treat our players. We make them feel part of the family and feel valued and we do everything to ensure they are settled and happy. Bedpost has helped us do that.”

Going that extra mile brings practical benefits for the players as well – the squad and management group were all kitted out with Tempur pillows, several new players bought their beds from Alan and Denise Preston’s Dunedin Bedpost, and when the squad signed towering Jamaican international Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, Bedpost were able to custom-build a 2.10m bed for her 1.98m frame.

“Jhaniele is a special case,” says Kate. “Bedpost made that initial bed when she first arrived and then the following year when she returned after getting married in Jamaica, Bedpost had new super king-size bed waiting for her because she had her husband with her.

“Things like that are amazing because when you come from the other side of the world to play netball in a small provincial town not knowing a soul and then have a company like Bedpost say ‘we appreciate you have some challenges to your sleeping and here’s a custom built bed for you’ it really made her feel so special.

“And from our perspective that went a long way to us being able to retain her here as because it really made her feel part of the family straight away – I honestly believe that played a large part in why she’s now spent three years at the franchise and has recommitted for another two seasons as well.”

The players and fans also appreciate how a national brand like Bedpost wears its sponsorship of a provincial team on its sleeve – and is happy to wave a few flags as well.

“For the first time in Bedpost history, they had a franchisee meeting outside of Auckland and moved it to South Island so they could come and cheer us along at a home game,” Kate says. “For them to come and support our girls on home turf was incredible – it really meant a lot to the players. Of course we had a lot of fun with them as well with the Bedpost owl mascot there, we gave away a bed at halftime and then sent the franchisees out curling with some ginger wine. It even snowed the next day as they were going home so that completed the southern experience.”

The Steel also hosts the Auckland Bedpost franchisees each year during the game against the Northern Mystics in Waitakere – where Bedpost can again show its true colours:

“We have a lot of fun – I suspect the Mystics hate us coming up because we pretty much take over their corporate area with our tables and we’re all kitted out in Steel colours.

“For us, Bedpost is a unique sponsorship though in that they are a national sponsor and cover the length of the country – and we’re based in Invercargill where they don’t even have a store.

“So it says a lot about the relationship that they see the benefits from a national perspective and it’s really important for us to take their brand with us as we compete on the national and international sporting stage in the ANZ Championship.”