State of Origin for sale after death of an icon
The naming rights for Australian sport's biggest event is finally for sale - but it will come at a massive cost.
NRL management has begun a global search to offer multinational corporations a once-in-a-decade chance to sponsor Australia's showpiece series - State of Origin.
The shock collapse of General Motors has meant Holden will no longer own naming rights for the three-game Origin series after this year.
It is the first time in eight years the Origin sponsorship rights are available.
The Daily Telegraph understands the asking price to be Origin's signage right holder would be up to $20 million.
State of Origin is Australia's most watched sporting event and is the country's biggest sporting brand.
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Origin's naming rights will attract around $4 million a year with the NRL to consider offers spanning two to five years. A five-year contract would be worth $20 million.
Privately aware the iconic Australian car brand was likely to be axed after this year, the NRL had already begun chasing a replacement sponsor. Holden's deal with State of Origin for 2020 will be honoured before the company shuts down.
"State of Origin is the biggest sporting brand in the country," said NRL chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo.
"No matter your metric there is no greater exposure than our Origin series and this is a rare opportunity to begin a new partnership.
"More than three million people watched the series opener last year, more than any other program in Australia.
"Now more than ever before Origin is a national brand. We took the series to Perth for the first time last year and broke the attendance record and this year the series will open in Adelaide for the first time before going back to Melbourne next year.
"Multiple governments are talking to us about wanting to host an Origin match outside of Sydney in Melbourne beyond 2021 and that's exciting for our game.
"It is rare for an opportunity like this to arise, so many of our partnerships are long term. This is an attractive proposition to automotive brands because there is a significant fleet vehicle component to our business."
Holden's deal with the NRL was due to expire after this year's series. NRL management has known for some time the company would cease all sporting sponsorship deals beyond 2020.
The game's governing body has started preliminary talks with several major, international companies and interest has, as expected, been intense.
This year's State of Origin series will be sponsored by a company that essentially doesn't exist.
And adding to the confusion will be the decision to cut 600 Holden employees by the end of June - right in the middle of the series.
The Origin series attracted a combined live television audience of 8.9 million last year and provided three of the top four most watched programs in Australia. All three games were sold out.
"Holden have been outstanding partners for a very long time and we thank them for their enduring relationship. We take our responsibility to deliver a return on investment very seriously and you can see by the longevity of this partnership that we delivered that to Holden," Abdo said.
General Motors said Holden would be "retired" throughout Australia and New Zealand by 2021.