The local sports club is considered by many to be the heart of a community. This has definitely been the case for Sporties, a fixture in the NSW border town of Barooga for almost four decades.
Since opening in August 1981, the club has provided facilities, entertainment, sponsorship, and support to many in the Murray River region. No mean feat, with the needs of the community changing considerably over time. The sports club itself has a strong history of financial success and has only made one large operational change in the last 20 years – purchasing a local golf club that was in financial trouble about 10 years ago. This didn’t compromise the business’ day-to-day function, but it did put a strain on Sporties’ capacity to improve its facilities and grow its business in line with the needs of its patrons.
To sustain Sporties’ important role in the community, the team knew they needed to transform the way they operated. They had to think creatively, for solutions that would improve their current operations, while at the same time ensure longevity for the club and its role in the community’s future.
“If we can protect our revenue streams and maintain and increase our profits, the community will be the sole beneficiary of that.”Bobby Brooks
CEO Bobby Brooks explains, “It’s not that the club was financially insecure – a lot of our cash flow was tied up in our operations, so we weren’t able to inject the same level of capital into our gaming floor that we had done previously.” This is where MAX’s innovative approach to improving venue design and performance came in.
“In looking at how we could get cash or capital back into our gaming floor, we had to think outside the box about how we could, into the future, present a gaming floor that was current, state-of-the-art, and appealing to a discerning gaming public,” says Brooks. On the one hand, Sporties needed to protect its main source of revenue – the gaming floor – but it also needed to stay ahead of the pack, and making bold choices was the best move it could make.
“We had fairly lengthy discussions beforehand with MAX, about what the partnership would look like going forward,” says Brooks. “Then – considering it’s one of the biggest decisions this club has made – we had to convince the board. There was a lot of consultation, a lot of collaboration with the experts at MAX and finally, we made a deal that everyone was really excited about.”
Broadly speaking, the partnership commenced with a substantial investment of new gaming machines as MAX, in consultation with the club, identified the opportunity to improve performance through the subsequent investment.
This not only facilitated the replacement of old machines with new equipment and technology; it also established a more comprehensive and dynamic gaming environment for the patrons and the club. Through its partnership with MAX, the club now has regular product deployments throughout the year designed to drive performance year-round.
Brooks says the full-service offering was part of the appeal. “MAX provides the physical aspects of the floor, but also allows us to tap into its technology and analytics and gives us advice on the performance of the floor, so we can make changes accordingly. This has allowed us to more or less have an independent consultant, advising us all the time on our floor performance.”
As well as performance analysis and support, the MAX offering also includes a wide range of opt-in marketing solutions for its partners. Venues can choose from a range of promotional programs to offer in their venues, as well as having options to run their own promotions, supported with print and online marketing materials and social media support through MAX.
“This is a long-term business strategy for us, says Brooks. “The first stage is a five-year deal and we are fully invested in its success. All going to plan for both parties, we intend to sustain a long and fruitful partnership with MAX into the future, well beyond the initial five years.”
To sustain Sporties’ important role in the community, the team knew they needed to transform the way they operated.
Along with the transformation of the gaming offering, the MAX deal also boosted Sporties’ operating capital, enabling it to reinvest into other parts of the club, as well as the complete refurbishment of the gaming area. “It’s allowed us to bring forward a couple of other capital works projects, which we would have otherwise had to seek external funding for.” The construction of a brand new pub-style bar is currently underway, and the main bar will be refurbished later this year.
Throughout the process of redesigning the gaming floor, the team at Sporties were able to tap into guidance from a number of different professionals – from builders to draftspeople, and project managers to interior designers – who not only assisted with the nuts and bolts of the gaming floor redesign but whose advice has also flowed into the two new bar projects as well.
The most important aspect of Sporties’ collaboration with MAX is the flow-on effect it will have for the local community. Operating as a not-for-profit, the club covers its personnel and infrastructure costs, and everything else is channeled back into the community.
“We employ 164 people and we provide around $700,000 per year in sponsorships to local sports and community teams,” says Brooks. “If we can protect our revenue streams and maintain and increase our profits, the community will be the sole beneficiary of that.”