One of Australian sport’s most recognised major sponsorships is coming to an end, with OAK’s reign as principal partner of the Penrith Panthers to conclude at the end of the year.
OAK has been splashed across the front of Penrith’s jersey since the 2012 NRL season in a deal struck by former Panthers General Manager, Phil Gould.
The partnership became one of the strongest in Australian sport with Penrith’s rise to Premiership success taking the OAK brand to unprecedented heights.
OAK will remain as a sponsor next year and will still be featured on the jersey but will not be the club’s principal partner.
The Weekender can reveal a new major sponsor has been sourced and will be announced in the upcoming off-season.
It will mark the most significant change to the look of Penrith’s playing strip in years.
“Across the past 12 seasons, the Panthers partnership with OAK has thrived on shared values of teamwork, innovation, delivering high-quality performances, and a deep commitment to our community,” said Panthers Rugby League CEO Matt Cameron.
“We have enjoyed a rewarding relationship, including sharing in the success of the Panthers back-to-back NRL premierships over the past two seasons,” Cameron added.
“The Panthers organisation are extremely thankful for the unwavering support of Lactalis Australia, and are grateful to have OAK Plus remain as a major partner with the club next season.”
While Penrith was going through lean times when OAK first came on board, the deal immediately became a huge talking point after the NRL demanded the Panthers stop using an OAK fridge as part of its backdrop for post-match press conferences, a request Gould consistently declined.
The club even went as far as hiring “security guards” to protect the fridge in a stunt that earned the Panthers and the OAK brand back page headlines.
The OAK fridge even went on tour – joining players at signing appearances and major press conferences.
When Anthony Griffin was announced as Penrith’s head coach ahead of the 2016 season, the OAK fridge as well as cartons of milk adorned the stage.
Back in 2015, OAK took the unprecedented step of removing its logo from Penrith’s iconic ANZAC Round jersey as a sign of respect for veterans.
Lactalis Australia’s General Manager Marketing, Angela Burr, said the OAK brand would continue to be part of the Panthers moving forward.
“We are the club’s principal partner for the 2023 season, with the OAK Plus logo on the front of the Panthers jersey for a 12th consecutive year. Our partnership with Penrith is one we are very proud of,” she said.
“The success has been built upon shared values based on teamwork, innovation, high quality performances and a shared focus and support of community in NSW
“Entering our 13th year of sponsorship in 2024, we will continue to explore how we can embed innovation and high performance at the core of our partnership.
“OAK Plus with its 30g of dairy protein continues to power the Panthers players to success, aiding muscle recovery both after training and games. Our involvement with the Panthers includes not just branding, but importantly the work we do together in the community, which we look forward to further developing in 2024.”
It is not known exactly where the OAK logo will feature on the club’s playing strip next year. The brand’s revised deal was finalised last year but the new-look playing strip is yet to be publicly revealed.
OAK’s involvement with Penrith has gone well beyond a traditional sponsorship, with the brand supporting the club’s community programs including Panthers on the Prowl and various clinics.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.