It’s been noticeable over the last few years that Winmau have stepped up the independent marketing of their premium board products.
After withdrawing from the supply/sponsorship of the BDO they have moved to a more direct model. This, in combination with the signing of MVG, has seen them seriously raise their game.
The brand’s latest promotional piece traces the evolution/history of the Blade over the years:
It’s hard to argue with much of that, (OK,OK, so the language is a bit flowery, but hey it’s their baby). With Unicorn having taken a bit of a PR beating, and other brands yet to really gain traction in the UK, it seems certain that these efforts will keep Winmau in the lead, with regard to ‘the darts space’, for a while yet.
During 2019 word reached my ear that Winmau were making a major move in the ‘transfer market’. This came as somewhat of a relief as they had seemed in danger of becoming a shadow of their former selves. Upon discovering it was MVG, who was joining, the potential seemed obvious.
Winmau’s greatest asset was their board manufacture and reputation. Their player roster seemed a little stale and unexciting, times were about to change. It seemed to me that the tie up with the biggest name in professional darts opened doors to a style of sponsorship more like that of Eric Bristow, with Harrows, many years ago. Multiple products bearing Winmau and MVG logo’s and a much deeper tie-in across Winmau’s range of ‘your darts space’ items.
The following mini article appeared at winmau.com yesterday and gives some clue to how the long term operation may work:
Michael van Gerwen Talks Blade
13 March, 2020 Without the dartboard there is no darts, and this is the most essential part that affects the game whether it’s on TV, at your local pub or at home.
So, we asked World no.1 Michael van Gerwen about his earliest memories of Winmau dartboards, his experiences and the Blade in particular.
Michael said “As a youngster coming through the system in the Netherlands, then the Netherlands Darts Federation, I was just surrounded by Winmau boards all the time. There were other dartboards but we didn’t seem to notice them as much as every major event we played on was a Winmau board”
Michael’s career blossomed from the age of 14-15 as he began to take the game more seriously. It was not long afterwards that Michael thrust himself into the spotlight at the 2006 Winmau World Masters, becoming the youngest ever winner and claiming his first ever major title, played on a Winmau Blade 3.
“Yeah my first ever major was won on a Winmau Blade 3, although at the time you didn’t notice what version of the dartboard you played on,” said Michael “You just knew that if it was a Winmau dartboard there was that feeling of reliability and quality, like a great car such as a BMW or Ferrari.”
“Everyone who played knew Winmau and the brand name was so strong and synonymous with the game, so to fast forward 15 years and to have signed with such an iconic brand really is amazing.”
Winmau’s Blade journey has taken shape over 25 years and the company has invested heavily in the research and development of the Blade concept, which has delivered some huge benefits to the game of darts.
With the current evolution of the Blade, the dartboard has got to a point where dart-on-dart bounce-outs far out-weigh rejections from the dartboard.
Michael has now seen first-hand the production process which Winmau work to and said “Having been and witnessed how much effort, skill and obsession goes into creating such a fantastic board, it really is fascinating.”
“This obsession to be the best is probably one of the biggest factors that makes myself and Winmau a perfect match, I have an almost identical desire and drive to produce the best in my game”
Michael’s journey with Winmau began at the start of this year and Mighty Mike has hit the ground running, lifting the UK Open title last weekend in dominant fashion.
This is just the beginning of Michael’s story with his new Winmau darts and we are very much looking forward being part of the journey as he continues to hunt down major trophies at the top of World darts.
It seems obvious that Micheal’s deal will include a certain amount of cross pollination and it would not surprise if there were not many other original promotion methods used to tell a story in a more complete and varied way. You Tube, social media and many other assets will be leveraged to spread the word about the “World Best” combination.
The MVG / Winmau relationship may prove a model for marque signings in the future. Although darts often sees itself as following golf, in its development, it often mirrors tennis in many ways. It does not take much to recall how Bjorn Borg broke the mold with sponsorship deals and packages with Fila & Donnay and how this was elevated by Adidas with Ivan Lendl and then Nike with Andre Agassi. Darts is now a global game and, much like 1970’s/80s tennis, its stars will be rewarded at a higher rate. It will be for major darts (and other companies) to learn how to extract maximum value in exchange for their increased investment.
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