Surf lifesaving in the Olympics? This broker says it’s no pipe dream News23 Jun 2024

Shaw and Partners co-chief executive Earl Evans is behind a major push to make competitive surf lifesaving part of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games, injecting millions of dollars into supporting surf sports competitions and athletes.


Mr Evans’ wealth management firm spends about 1 per cent of annual turnover – or $2.5 million – on supporting sports where its funding can supercharge growth, a decision he says has nothing to do with economic outcomes.


The firm has invested more than $5 million in surf sports over the past five years. Last Friday, Shaw and Partners replaced Nutri-Grain as the naming rights holder of Australia’s Iron Series, the competition administered by Surf Life Saving Australia.


The three-year deal comes with a $400,000 annual prize and includes a dramatic format change from a points-based competition to an elimination-style event. Mr Evans said the investment is part of a bigger plan to get surf lifesaving on the agenda for Brisbane 2032.

“I don’t think it’s a pipe dream,” he told The Australian Financial Review. “There’s a strong push for it. We will make sure that we put all our forces behind it – connections from Shaw and Partners Financial Services and through Race One Surfcraft [a surf equipment supplier that Mr Evans owns].


“You never take anything for granted but because it’s in Australia … I think there’s a really, strong chance. To date, the feedback has been very positive, but there’s a lot of work to be done.”


The International Olympic Committee spends a lot of time evaluating sports for inclusion in future tournaments. It’s a plan focused largely on economic sustainability, but also includes introducing new sports to excite younger generations.


To date, those have included skateboarding, breaking (breakdancing), and cricket, which will appear for the first time in Los Angeles in 2028. In April, the International Life Saving Federation and Surf Life Saving Australia aimed to bring the sport onto the world stage by 2032.


Australia’s Iron Series combines swimming, board paddling, ski paddling, and running into one race. It was developed in the 1960s by Valentine Trainer and was a major driver of television ratings in the early 1990s when it was named the Uncle Toby’s Super Series.


Mr Evans’ firm was behind the creation of the mixed Taplin relay – a mixed gender race that combines swimmers, paddleboarders and skiers – for the Shaw and Partners Summer of Surf series. There is a good chance, he said, this format may suit the Olympics.


“We really do like to sort of mix it up disrupt things and change things,” he said.


Not for the medals

Mr Evans, a diehard Manly Sea Eagles fan and kayaker, said choosing a sport or a team to back isn’t about finding winners.


“We don’t have a marketing department. We do stuff that we think resonates with our staff,” he said. “It’s less about exposure, it’s about taking something and saying, ‘How do you build and grow it?’


“It’s not about the people who get the medals. It’s about the hundreds of thousands of people that go to the gym on the weekend or turn up to a masters event or just participate and get involved.”


Shaw and Partners signed its first sponsorship in 2015 with Bondi Surf Club. It has since sponsored the NRL’s Manly Sea Eagles and the Easts and ACT Brumbies rugby clubs, as well as racing driver Will Brown and Iron Series champions Georgia Miller and Lana Rodgers.

At one point, Shaw and Partners was also a sponsor of women’s basketball team Adelaide Lightning. Mr Evans said the selection is based not just on his interests, but what employees think is worth backing.


“We do a lot of interviewing and asking questions right around the country,” he said.

“It’s got to be sustainable. If we can’t afford to do something and sustain it for a period of time we will not to do it. There are some things we’d love to do, but they’re just financially out of our reach.”


The broker doesn’t track its return on investment.


“We don’t sit there and go – how many eyeballs are on this? Not interested. What’s important to us is getting a group of 20 disadvantaged kids and taking them into the football sheds after a game.


“Financial health and physical health are the two most important things in peoples’ lives. It’s really created the fabric of the firm.”

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