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Blue-collar Power's touch of je ne sais quoi

Port's Brad Ebert squeezes into a Renault at the MCG - ${keywords}
Port's Brad Ebert squeezes into a Renault at the MCG

PORT Adelaide didn't announce a new sponsorship deal on Tuesday, so much as it trumpeted a re-birth of sorts. 

In unfamiliar territory, headed by a TV star and backed by bright flags, loud music and racing cars, the Power unveiled a new three-year partnership with international car giant Renault.

This was not the Port Adelaide we have come to know; the club who chose its nickname because its home base was near a power station, where many of its loyal blue-collar fans worked.

Port has been a club known for its tribalism.

Its supporters are Port Adelaide people. They enjoy an 'us against them' mentality with the rest of Adelaide. 

Elsewhere in Australia, it gets little attention – especially recently, when it has languished near the bottom of the ladder.

But that was BK (Before 'Kochie').

Kochie, the Sunrise presenter and economics expert also known as David Koch, took on the role of Port Adelaide chairman in October.

His charter: to make the Power - $4.1 million in debt and reliant on AFL handouts - to stay afloat and relevant beyond the small confines of postcode 5015.

So there he was on Tuesday, on football's biggest stage, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where the Power have played only three times in the past three seasons.

He was there to announce the club had taken its first step towards regaining its "swagger", and to make sure everyone knew about it.

It was done in Koch's showbiz style.

"We're a national brand," he declared, after emerging from one of the sponsor's products, which he had driven around the MCG boundary line, flanked by club coach Ken Hinkley and captain Travis Boak, and with a suitably uplifting tune setting the mood.

The new sponsor, Koch said, was not the only international company considering getting on board; club CEO Keith Thomas was late to the launch because he was busy wooing another potential partner.

"It's about getting out there in the marketplace, getting out of South Australia," Koch said. 

"The more people you talk to, the easier it becomes."

Amid the triumph, there was perspective. Port would never be Manchester United or Real Madrid in size, Koch said, and nor was being 'biggest' the aim. 

What he wants is for the Power to be the best.

That way, it wouldn't need to spend the most on its football department; through innovation, a good culture and quality coaching, it would compete and win anyway.

"Often you get to the stage where there's almost a law of diminishing returns," Koch said. 

"We do our high altitude training at Mt Lofty. 

"Is it really worth the extra to go around the world?"

He said for Port to be truly nationally relevant, it had to present a compelling on-field product.

That wasn't about wins and losses, but about the brand of football Hinkley's team would play.

"I would love Port Adelaide to play a style of footy that has people in Melbourne and Sydney and Brisbane saying, 'I like the way they play their footy', and almost have us as their second team, because they like the way we do things," Koch said.

But in introducing the new Port Adelaide, Koch hadn't completely thrown out the old.

"We still love to be hated," he said.

"We don't mind that."

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs