Sponsored cars get Melville revving

Research Motors have become one of the driving forces behind Melville’s 2019 football season with a substantial new sponsorship deal.

The Ruakura campus-based company, owned by Darby and Brooke Macdonald, has supplied a brand new Hyundai Kona each to Melville co-coaches and academy directors Michael Mayne and Sam Wilkinson.

Michael Mayne has always had an eye for a good motor.

The Macdonald brothers also run an associate vehicle business, Ruakura Fleet Management (RFM), out of their Ruakura Research Centre base.

The highly regarded compact 2.0 Litre SUVs, which retail for over $32,000 each, will give Mayne and Wilkinson transportation certainty in their 7-days-a-week Melville Academy and northern league coaching commitments.

Melville coaches Michael Mayne, left, and Sam Wilkinson, right, with Darby and Brooke Macdonald of Research Motors.

And it will also boost their community profile, with the cars highly distinctive in their own right, presented in a bright and bold Melville United livery designed by Hamilton branding company Black Pear.

Melville chairman Wytse Bouma called it “one of the most significant sponsorships in the club’s history” with the support package including vehicle maintenance and some fuel card usage.

Brooke and Darby have always been mad about football, and both have enjoyed strong links with Melville United.

After they left school both brothers played for the now-defunct Ruakura club. Brooke then left Hamilton and joined the Air Force, while Darby – now 47 – threw in his lot with Melville Old Boys.

Brooke went on to play Air Force football and also had one season with Melville upon his return.

These days they both have children playing football – Brooke’s daughter Iona plays at U10s level, and Darby’s son Lucas is in the Melville academy.

However even given such links, Brooke – with a professional background in military policy analysis, and a degree in politics and history – is not usually one to go chasing unicorns.

Brooke, left, and Darby Macdonald at Research Motors.

“But we’ve watched Sam and Mayney develop a system which is changing the whole concept of Melville to become a focused professional outfit,” Brooke said.

“We really like their philosophy and what they are trying to achieve.

“So Darby and I sat down and said, ‘right, how can we help this? How can we help them now when they have a bit more pressure on their shoulders because of their promotion to the northern premier league. What can we do, using the resources we have?

“The easiest way to contribute was by providing vehicles and offering van hire sponsorship as well.”

Darby Macdonald outside Research Motors at Ruakura.

It helps that RFM has always had a strong relationship with Ingham Hyundai and its dealer principal Euan Means. RFM makes a lot of purchases for its 200-strong vehicle fleet from Ingham Hyundai, which was happy to assist with two new Konas.

“We know their product is good, and they look good,” Brooke said. “We wanted something that would stand out.”

Melville could do a lot worse than seek to mirror the successful growth and development of Research Motors, which has flourished from embryonic beginnings to now employ 21 people, as well as running an associated rental fleet of 15 Hi-Ace vans and 70 lease cars.

Darby and Brooke’s dad, Scott, worked as one of two government-employed mechanics at the old 2-bay mechanical workshop at Ruakura Research Centre from 1972 onwards.

In 1995 the government moved to privatise all non-science activities, but still needed mechanics on site because they had a whole fleet of cars to look after.

So on a Friday in July 1996 Scott was made redundant, and on the Monday he opened the same workshop as Research Motors, in conjunction with young Darby who had just completed his mechanical apprenticeship at Terry Booth Toyota.

Research Motors founder Scott Macdonald, left, with Darby Macdonald in one of the new mechanical bays.

At the time Brooke was serving in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, where he was later commissioned as an operations officer.

Scott and Darby grew the business to six technicians, steadily cannibalising nearby buildings to expand to five bays.

Then in 2006 Brooke and Darby bought the business from Scott.

Recently-married Brooke did not fancy a new posting in Wellington at a time when he was thinking of starting a family, so he resigned his commission and teamed up with Darby to take over what was now a 10-person business at Research Motors.

At the start of 2007 they saw a gap in the market to service the Ruakura campus – which today houses everything from the Chiefs rugby franchise to a daycare centre, and incorporates the neighbouring Innovation Park across the railway tracks – with a rental and vehicle lease business.

It helped that Research Motors forged a historic strong bond with Waikato Women’s Refuge in 1998, when they had a broken-down van and were trying to extract a family from an unsavoury situation in Fairfield.

Darby went and fixed their van and started a relationship which today sees RFM lease the expanded agency 20 vehicles (while also assisting them with fundraising projects).

Sam, Michael and the Macdonald whanau at Gower Park.

Meanwhile through his Air Force links Brooke secured a deal with Hamilton airline pilot training company CTC Aviation which now sees them lease 20 vehicles.

“We’ve reached out to other businesses and increased our rental fleet incrementally as demand required. From one old 12-seater van held together with duct tape and screws, we’ve gone to 15 Hi Aces.

“It’s not marketing as such, just word-of-mouth and being service-orientated. We are very community-orientated here.”

Brooke said Research Motors was not expecting a financial return as such from its investment in Melville.

“We are looking at the long term growth of Melville United, and of Sam and Michael as coaches, and the systems they are developing.

“If we can contribute to that, and grow Melville football club – and football in general – we are happy to wear what costs may be accrued to do that.

“We want to help. We are in a position to contribute to the club that is changing the dynamic.

“Nobody else is doing the sort of work Sam and Michael are doing. They are thinking outside the box, and maintaining incredible energy in doing so. We are really impressed by their motivation.”

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