Why Ash Barty is a ‘Happy Little Vegemite’

Ross Greenwood speaks to Adam McNamara, Bega Foods General Manager of Consumer Products about why Vegemite is sponsoring Ash Barty

Ross Greenwood:  Going back a few years, you might remember when Li Na became the first Chinese tennis player to win a Grand Slam Open of tennis. Now, the interesting part about that, the Blackmores which was distributing its product into China at that time was also the sponsor of Li Na. Its product, its share price, the whole thing took off. Well, this year, I wonder whether we’ve got a small similar example of what’s taking place. Ashleigh Barty, as you know, right now on the center court going up in her quarterfinal to try and see if she can be the very first woman since the 1980s to make a semifinal.

In fact, she is the first Australian woman to even make the quarterfinals of the Australian Open since Jelena Dokic in 2009. Behind Ashleigh Barty, apart from all the Australian supporters, of course, there’s a very interesting story. Because you see, Bega Cheese we’ve told you about many, many times is also the owner of Vegemite. Remember, that one of the absolute supporters of Vegemite and, in turn, the supporter of Ashleigh Barty, well, is Ashleigh Barty herself.

Now, this is going to be another bad opportunity. I thought it might be just worthwhile to get on to the line right now, the general manager of consumer products at Bega, Adam McNamara. He’s on the line right now. Adam, many thanks for your time.

Interview with: Adam McNamara, General Manager of Consumer Products, Bega Foods

Adam McNamara: Great to be here, Ross.

Ross Greenwood:  Just explain the relationship between Bega, Vegemite and Ash Barty. How does that work?

Adam McNamara: Yes, absolutely. We’ve been sponsoring Ash since late 2017. Really, for us, it’s a celebration of Vegemite being back under Australian ownership by Bega.

Ross Greenwood:  How did you pick Ash Barty?

Adam McNamara: We just think she’s just a wonderful role model. She’s very humble, extremely honest, hardworking and down-to-earth. It is a great brand fit for Vegemite.

Ross Greenwood:  Okay, so you’ve got a whole bunch of stuff as a company, as a consumer brand, capitalizing on her brand and her success. You’ve got a whole bunch of things even at the open to try and capitalize on this, haven’t you?

Adam McNamara: Yes, we have. We’ve got a partnership with the Ballkids. This is the second year we’ve been sponsoring the Australian Open Ballkids. We’re totally part of that. We’ve also been sponsoring Ash the last two years. Together with that, the Barty Army has been formed. It’s been great to see that Vegemite done not only on Ashley’s part but on many on the crowd as well.

Ross Greenwood:  I got to tell you it’s interesting because I know, say for example, that there were 3,500 kids who applied to be Ballkids at the Australian Open. The final squad of 360 was selected after months of training and tryouts as well including [unintelligible 00:02:58] point out my nephew, Darcy Line, who’s there at the Open during this past couple of weeks doing it all. It’s a great thing and a great honor for all these kids to be able to do this. Here’s the interesting thing, how do you– You’re sitting there as the manager of consumer products. You’ve got obviously a pretty decent free kick here. I understand that your workout capitalize upon it. How do you workout whether the money you’ve spent actually is returned to you in extra product sold? Because that’s the bottom line for you to try to work this out for the company.

Adam McNamara: Yes, and Ross sometimes you got to take a longer-term view on those type of things. Certainly, we’ll be looking to stay within short-term but we see this sort of partnership a longer-term, take a longer term view of them as I help to build the equity of the brand. We think that’s very important. Having partnerships with people like Ash, we think really does great things for the brand.

Ross Greenwood:  Apart from Bega which now owns Vegemite and its board of range consumer products as well, but the key is to bring the Australian identity of Vegemite very firmly into the minds of the Australian consumer. That’s really what it’s all about.

Adam McNamara: Absolutely. We’re just thrilled to be the custodians of the Vegemite brand and back on the Australian ownership by Bega. If you like this partnership with Ash, it’s a real celebration of that. We think it’s important that all these understand that the brand Vegemite back under Australian ownership.

Ross Greenwood:  It’s going to be really interesting to see. I presume that Ashleigh has now got a lifetime of supply of the Vegemite from you. Is that pretty much the way it works?

Adam McNamara: Absolutely. She’s been a supporter as a kid. She always tell the truth of Vegemite wherever she’s playing. Rest assured, she’ll have a lifetime supply of Vegemite.

Ross Greenwood:  I find this interesting. I’m sure some of them from overseas would be a little whimsical at least anyway when they see the very famous Vegemite brand around the place. It’s just a great story. She clearly is a very terrific example of a brilliant sponsor and carrier of this. Just one final thing. When you sit and negotiate with her team, Adam, how do you know how much to pay her?

Adam McNamara: Look, Ross, it’s commercially-sensitive–

Ross Greenwood:  No, I didn’t ask you how much you paid her. I said how do you know how much to pay her?

Adam McNamara: Obviously, you got a way that you’re seeing that, depending on the profile of the individual and how much exposure they’ll get on the media. Those sort of things that we’ll weigh out. Rest assured, I think Ash is going to come under a lot of demand I think in the future given the success that she’s having but also just the way that she carries herself.

Ross Greenwood:  Do you deal directly with her or through her agency? Is that generally through her agency or her manager.

Adam McNamara: Yes, we do it directly with her manager.

Ross Greenwood:  Is that a tough negotiation? Because clearly my price, here your price, you got to come together in the middle somewhere or is that actually all a value-added stuff that could come into it as well?

Adam McNamara: Yes, I think it’s a total package. We have a really great relationship with Ashleigh’s manager and Ash herself as well. I wouldn’t describe it as a tough negotiation necessarily. I think it’s a really collaborative relationship and one that we’re both really happy with.

Ross Greenwood:  That’d be head of sports marketing, always a very interesting and sometimes delicate thing. The general manager of consumer products at Bega which owns Vegemite, the sponsor of Ashleigh Barty is Adam McNamara. Adam, I appreciate your time in the program this evening.

Adam McNamara: Absolute pleasure, Ross. Thanks for having me.

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