Jaguar had a great ride for the whole season with the Melbourne Demons winning the first nine matches, being beaten by just a point in the 10th match, then winning the next two games to win 12 out of the first 13 matches.
It also sailed home winning the final six games of the home-and-away season with all players displaying the Jaguar brand to prime TV and online audiences.
Jaguar, in a huge leap of faith, chose to back the Demons for the 2019 season after the club had finished in fifth place on the ladder in 2018. But in 2019 it languished in 17th place out of 18 teams.
Last year Melbourne recovered to finish just outside the final eight in ninth place. Jaguar is the only luxury car brand playing on AFL jerseys and one of 11 automotive companies on the field, though minor sponsorship to some clubs includes franchised dealers including the Audi Centre in Perth supporting the West Coast Eagles.
Chinese brand, MG, which enjoyed taking top spot on the ladder in 2020 in its first year with Port Adelaide wound up in second place this year.
MG has been a star not only on the new-car sales chart – where its year-to-date July figures are up 233.3 per cent on 2020 – but also in its move to back Port Adelaide.
The football team picked up MG last year and promptly rose to top of the ladder for every round in 2020. In the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Port Adelaide’s best achievement was 10th place.
Ford came third on the ladder this year as a staunch Geelong Cats supporter. If it was not for some stumbles in the last few matches of the 2021 season, the Cats were headed to top the minor championship.
Ford has been the primary sponsor of Geelong since 1925, a period regarded as the world’s longest-running sponsorship deal in professional sports.
Geelong finished inside the eight in 2018 and topped the home-and-away season in 2019, then was fourth in 2020.
Ford may be buoyed by Geelong’s strong 2021 season with its own sales up 34.8 per cent this year compared with the same period in 2020.
Hyundai is playing two cards with its sponsorship of the Brisbane Lions now about a decade old while still supporting Carlton Blues for the past 25 years.
Carlton isn’t on the radar this year (it finished 13th) but the Lions came fourth on the ladder in 2021. The team has served Hyundai well in the past couple of years, rising from 15th in 2018 to second in 2019 and second again in 2020.
Hyundai’s association with the Blues also got off to a good start all those years ago with Carlton winning the premiership in the first year of their association.
Who drives what team*:
- Jaguar – Melbourne Demons
- MG – Port Adelaide
- Ford – Geelong Cats
- Hyundai – Brisbane Lions
- No car sponsor – Western Bulldogs
- Kia – Greater Western Sydney Giants
- Volkswagen – Sydney Swans
- No car sponsor – Essendon Bombers
- No car sponsor – West Coast Eagles
- No car sponsor – St Kilda
- No car sponsor – Fremantle Dockers
- Jeep – Richmond
- Hyundai – Carlton Blues
- Nissan – Hawthorn
- Toyota – Adelaide Crows
- No car sponsor – Gold Coast Suns
- No car sponsor – Collingwood
- Mazda – North Melbourne
*Ranking of car makers on the AFL ladder at the conclusion of the 2021 home-and-away season
The Blues played finals in three of the following five years and played in the 1999 grand final (losing to North Melbourne).
But more recently Carlton has been languishing; albeit with a glimmer of hope for its sponsor and supporters. It was last in 2018, 16th last year and in 2020 managed to get 11th on the ladder before finishing 13th this year.
Western Bulldogs, a team that now has no auto sponsor after former backer Mercedes-Benz Vans withdrew this season, made it into fifth place.
Kia Motors Australia sponsors the GWS Giants after moving across from the Essendon Bombers in 2018. That year GWS was seventh on the home-and-away ladder and jumped a place to seventh in 2019 but slipped to 10th in the 2020 season.
However the Giants secured sixth spot this year so Kia made it into the finals.
Kia withdrew from its eight-year sponsorship with the Essendon Bombers. The car-maker was Essendon’s primary sponsor and stuck by the club throughout the drawn-out drug supplements saga.
It is understood that Essendon had asked for a larger financial commitment from Kia but the car-maker declined and moved to GWS. Essendon has not yet found another auto sponsor.
Volkswagen came into seventh place as backers of the Sydney Swans, a pleasing result over the 16th place Sydney managed last year.
Richmond has an 11-year association with Jeep and the partnership has delivered three premierships; last year and in 2017 and 2019. But this year proved disappointing for Jeep which saw the reigning premiers fail to make the finals, finishing in 12th place on the ladder.
But performance in ALF alliances for car brands does not necessarily correlate with sales.
For market leader Toyota, its AFL partner Adelaide Crows finished the season in 15th position while second-placed car-maker, Mazda, had its sponsored team North Melbourne finish at the bottom of the 2021 ladder.
Volkswagen is the ninth best-selling brand at the moment and has done well on the field with its Sydney Swans in sixth position, while Nissan (fourth-best seller) is backing Hawthorn in 14th slot.
It is interesting that there are only three Japanese car makers as AFL sponsors and all of them are well down the ladder in terms of football club results.
There have been some changes to the automotive corporate backing of some teams.
West Coast has never had an OEM brand but has been supported by Toyota WA Distributors until this year, making way for WA’s sole Audi agency, Audi Centre Perth.
Teams without a car sponsor include St Kilda (10th) although it has Jayco as a supporter; Colingwood (17th) which was previously Holden and lost the support when the car-maker pulled out; Fremantle (11th) although sponsors include three WA Toyota dealers; Essendon (eighth); and Gold Coast Suns (16th).
By Neil Dowling and John Mellor