Fan-generated content is just the ticket for the AFL

​Aussie Rules is aiming for authenticity in its latest marketing campaign by using fan generated content

Aussie Rules is aiming for authenticity in its latest marketing campaign by using fan generated content.

Ahead of 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Season opener on March 19, the AFL released 'Believe', its season Launch campaign featuring fan-generated content. 

Produced in-house by AFL Media in collaboration with Riot, the campaign centres around the premise of belief, leveraging the league’s previous 'Don’t Believe in Never' positioning. 

For the first time, the campaign has also been tailored to market, with bespoke television commercials produced for Queensland and NSW, to ensure an audience-led approach to engage with different markets and different segments. TVCs, iconic on-field moments, and supporter content have been combined to create a series of different moments.

AFL head of marketing, Heath Walker, told CMO while fan-generated content is not commonly used across campaigns as it can be difficult to tailor the story, with more people receiving more messages from brands and media than ever before, it is critical cut-through messages are relevant, entertaining and emotional. 

“Sport, and more specifically Australian Rules Football, is the perfect recipe for these elements and allowing the stories to be told by user generated content ensures authenticity,” he explained.  

“The beauty of Australian Rules Football is the passion people from all over Australia have for the game. As our indigenous game, there is a sense of social connection from kids finding their first sporting heroes to those that have endured their teams wins and losses for years. The campaign celebrates this from the fans point of view, whilst also highlighting the social benefits and inclusion for new audiences.”

The campaign comes on the back of a lot of marketing effort in segmentation and data, in the hopes of attracting new audiences while retaining loyalty. 

“Having recently undertaken audience segmentation, it was important the campaign reached the identified new audiences, while delivering on the elements our core audience segments expect,” Walker told CMO.

“Utilising the critical elements of relevance, entertainment and emotion, we evolved the brand position to ‘Believe’ for this year’s campaign. For ‘experience seekers’, ‘social connectors’ and ‘newcomers’ this meant highlighting social inclusion and celebrating the excitement of the game. 

“For the more avid segments, we delivered key moments from 2019 that defined the season and included all teams across the 60-second video for relevance."

The AFL has also created additional videos for geographical relevance, with specific content for the NSW and Queensland markets, and a separate version for VIC, SA, WA and Tasmania.

"This was the first time we have done this, knowing that the relationship with the league is via a club, a critical piece to any communication; no matter the segment,” Walker continued.

What's more, with this campaign, marketing has made a conscious attempt to balance the mix. Given AFL is consumed on television, this is an important part of the campaign. However, the translation of the branded videos on social looks natural given the user-generated content. This has been complemented with bespoke team-based videos highlighting key players from each club, which have been used across digital platforms and also promoted on the league’s and club’s owned channels.

“There is a great balance between traditional ATL channels and digital channels. We are also starting to develop our direct marketing channels through customer relations and audience experiences," Walker said. "This aims to generate engagement on our media platforms due to the stories we can tell and the experiences we can deliver through participation.”

Success will be measured at both a macro level and through direct attribution metrics. Although attendance, viewership and traffic are core measurements, the engagement of new audiences and starting a new relationship with growth audiences is very important to the AFL. 

“Starting a person’s journey in becoming a lifetime fan is true success,” Walker said. “There are a few major components to the strategy as we develop an audience-first approach to our marketing. We need to focus on the right structure, on the team and play to our strengths. The team has been set up to align to key audiences rather than purely products to ensure greater understanding of the customer. Continually developing the team, their skills, knowledge and opportunities is critical to delivering world-class campaigns.

“Working collaboratively with the clubs to maximise the benefits of having a vertically integrated business, from decision making down to the customer experience, allowing for a more direct relationships is crucial.

“Understand our audiences, the latest segmentation of our audiences will assist this both existing and targeted, allowing us to engage existing fans and grow with new audiences."

Finally, it's about creating audience pathways, Walker said. "Customer journeys are being mapped to ensure that as we move from capture to communicate to convert, we deliver the right communication to the right person at the right time.”    

The Believe Season Launch campaign will run across TV, digital, social, out-of-home, press and at matches throughout the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership season.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.   

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