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Kia pledges to stick with Bombers

In black and red: Kia’s logo will stay on the Essendon Football Club jumper, according to new Kia Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith.

We’ll honour our deal, new Kia chief tells besieged Essendon Football Club

10 Jul 2014

KIA’S new chief operating officer, Damien Meredith, says he has told Essendon Football Club that he intends for Kia to stick with its major sponsorship of the troubled Australian Football League club, despite the on-going player supplements drama.

The Australian subsidiary of the South Korean car-maker still has more than two years to run on its five-year deal with Essendon, which has launched a Federal Court challenge to the legality of the joint AFL-ASADA investigation in to the alleged injection of 34 Essendon players with illegal drugs.

But Mr Meredith, who moved from Hyundai to Kia six weeks ago, said he met recently with Essendon’s chief operating office Xavier Campbell and told him that he was not going to concern himself with the events of the past two years but would concentrate on the next two years.

“The relationship is with the club – let’s move on and build a good relationship,” Mr Meredith said when talking with motoring journalists in Melbourne last night.

Mr Meredith is no stranger to the world of AFL, having previously worked as a marketing manager with the North Melbourne Kangaroos before joining Hyundai.

He said Essendon had 60,000 members and a strong presence in the north-western suburbs of Melbourne, offering Kia a massive marketing opportunity, not just with private car buyers but also business fleets.

Kia’s five-year deal with Essendon was signed in October 2011, before the supplements saga broke.

Reportedly costing $10 million in cash and kind, including loan cars, the deal was said to be the biggest such AFL club sponsorship.

Kia is a top-ranked “major partner” of the club, along with air-conditioner manufacturer Fujitsu.

The Essendon deal is one of two Melbourne sponsorships by Sydney-based Kia, the other being the annual Australian Tennis Open. While the Essendon sponsorship is funded by Kia Australia, the tennis deal – one of the largest sporting sponsorships in Australia – is largely funded by parent Kia Motors as a global promotion.

Last year, Essendon was stripped of its chance to play in the AFL finals and lost its first and second round draft picks over the matter. Coach James Hird was suspended for 12 months, while assistant coach Mark Thompson was fined $30,000.

Several staff members, including sports scientist Stephen Dank, lost their jobs, while former CEO Ian Robson resigned.

The case is expected to go before the Federal Court again next month.

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