Australian Professional League brings on new marketing, data and commercial leaders

Recently formed rightsholder for A-League, W-League and Y-League says latest executives will help realise its fan engagement and commercial growth ambitions

The Australian Professional League (APL) has brought on a new marketing and data chief as one in a trio of executive-level appointments aimed at realising its aggressive growth plans.

Rob Nolan has joined the sporting entertainment business to oversee the marketing and data functions and is tasked with helping APL transform how it engages with fans on a one-to-one basis. He comes with more than 20 years’ experience working for the likes of Kayo Sports, News Corp and Asia-based entertainment streaming provider, iflix. He’s also built his data credentials with companies such as Digital Alchemy, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone and O2 in the UK.

Alongside Nolan, APL has confirmed Ryan Sandilands as its first commercial director, tasked with lifting the group’s commercial and operations game. He’s worked for a number of sports and entertainment businesses including Cirque du Soleil, Women’s Tennis Association, City Football Group and AEG.

The third recruit is Stacey Knox, who also joins APL’s marketing team to spearhead a marketing operations overhaul and support the direct-to-consumer strategy being pursued. She’s worked in marketing roles with Coca-Cola Company, News Limited and Inchape.

APL is a recently formed entity with exclusive rights to the A-League, Westfield W-League and Y-League. It also has exclusive rights to the IP associated with the E-League brand. These sporting codes were unbundled from Football Australia last December.

APL chief commercial officer, Ant Hearne, said the appointments were another step further towards becoming a dominant sporting entertainment company. The latest recruits follow the recent appointment of Hearne, as well as Danny Townsend as managing director, leagues commissioner, Greg O’Rourke, strategy and digital director, Michael Tange, and deputy commissioner, Tracey Scott.

“This team is here to innovate and supercharge the commercial and marketing capabilities of the APL as we realise our reinvention as a leading football entertainment company,” Hearne said. “We’re seeing the most entertaining football on the pitch and it’s our job to take that directly to fans with a world-class fan experience and content offering.”

APL also this month struck a significant foundation partnership with McDonald’s Australia aimed at strengthening grassroots participation in football. Under the arrangement, McDonald’s becomes the QSR and coffee partner to the A-League, Westfield W-League and the E-League.

The company will also be working with nine clubs including three new relationships with Brisbane Roar FC, Macarthur FC and Western United FC.

A key element in the program is the half-time ‘Macca’s Half-Time Heroes’ activation, which will see a series of side games played during half-time and will be supported by ticket and prize giveaways. At the time, McDonald’s marketing manager, Amanda Nakad, said football’s “terrific atmosphere” and inclusive environment were key reasons for partnering.

It is estimated about 2 million people play football in Australia.

“Working together, we’re hope to help further connect fans and players to the sport they love, ultimately getting more people playing, watching and supporting the great game of football,” Nakad said.

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