Aussie Rules Football

Part
01
of four
Part
01

Aussie Rules Football: Marketing and Advertising Strategy

With several media platforms, the Australian Football League (AFL) and its women's league (AFLW) launched several campaigns such as Don't Believe In Never, GenW, Dare To Create, and I'd Like To See That. The league also has several programs that contribute to its marketing efforts, such as AFL Player Appearance Program, The Consumer Product Program, and AusKick Program.

MARKETING MEDIA PLATFORM

AFL Websites & Social Media

AFL Live Mobile Application

  • The league partnered with Telstra for its digital network, including its mobile application that keeps fans up to date with the latest news, replays, trades, and transfers in AFL. The AFL Live app includes a match radio, scores, timeline, statistics, video highlights, shows, and player profiles.

AFL Record

  • AFL Record is the league's official printed publication.
  • From season 2019 onward, Crocmedia, the independent sports media syndicator which acquired the AFL Publications business from an agreement, will "produce all weekly match-day magazine content, including the AFL match-day Record, AFLW publications, the AFL Season Guide, JLT Community Series, International Rules Series, along with the AFL Finals and Toyota AFL Grand Final edition."

Photography

MARKETING CAMPAIGN

Don't Believe In Never

GenW

Dare To Create

I'd Like To See That

  • AFL's chief executive Gillon McLachlan was thrilled about how the players were making their marks, empowering women, and being role models for the younger generation of athletes. He shared his thought about the campaign, “The campaign reflects the change and revolution in our game.”
  • The 'I'd Like To See That' campaign, led by the Australian international actor Chris Hemsworth, generated significant national interest, earning more than 40,000 social media engagements.

MARKETING PROGRAM

AFL Player Appearance Program

The Consumer Products Program

  • The Consumer Products Program is AFL's program to evolve and expand its merchandise store with products that include a range of club-branded tees, caps, and hoodies.
  • AFL’s largest individual licensee is the PlayCorp Group of Companies.

AusKick Program

  • AFL’s AusKick is a program for attracting children to the game. The program focuses on children with plans that will "center around a consistent offering for schools, new digital products, and a broader scope utilizing AFL club initiatives, such as marketing and membership."

STRATEGY AND MARKETING SPEND

  • In 2018, the consolidated expenses of AFL in strategy and marketing amounted to over AUD 34.52 million, AUD 2.53 million more than the previous year.
  • Broadcasting and AFL media expenses amounted to almost AUD 22 million in 2018.

ADDITIONAL INSIGHTS


Part
02
of four
Part
02

Aussie Rules Football: Revenue Model and Sponsorship Revenues

The revenue model of the Australian Football League (AFL) is composed of broadcasting and AFL media (50%), commercial operations (35%), football operations (1%), game development (2%), contra-advertising (2%), and others (10%). Sponsorship or partnership revenue is categorized under AFL's commercial operations' revenue. Toyota Motor Corporation Australia is AFL's premier partner with a partnership value of AUD 18.5 million annually until 2023.

REVENUE MODEL

Football In General

  • According to an article by a system analyst specializing in sports data, the typical revenue model in football is composed of match day (25%), broadcasting (35%), and commercial (40%), with digital as a fourth revenue stream boosting the others.

Australian Football League

  • The AFL's financial report shows a different distribution of revenue shares.
  • Broadcasting and AFL media shared 50% of the league's 2018 total revenue, equivalent to AUD 391.32 million. No further breakdown was provided under the segment, but AFL's major broadcasting partners Seven Network and Foxtel. The AFL's website provides a detailed list of domestic and international broadcast partners.
  • Commercial operations shared 35% or AUD 272.773 million of AFL's 2018 total revenue. In its annual report, commercial operations include sub-segments such as corporate partnership, AFL Record sales, and consumer products or merchandise.
  • In the AFL's financial report for 2018, the league listed revenue streams such as football operations amounting to AUD 6.477 million (or 1% of total revenue), game development at AUD 15.325 million (2%), contra-advertising at AUD 16 million (2%), and 10% or AUD 76.698 million of total revenue came from uncategorized sources.

Football Club: Western Bulldogs

CORPORATE PARTNERS

Toyota Motor Corporation Australia

Carlton and United Breweries

Coca-Cola

National Australia Bank

Gatorade

Virgin Australia

Part
03
of four
Part
03

Aussie Rules Football: Challenges

Racism, alienation of loyal fans, the gambling industry, a heavy reliance on contra deals, and penetrating the Chinese marketing are some of the challenges faced by the Australian Football League, an association that has become synonymous with the Aussie Rules Football.

Racism

  • Many have observed that the Australian Football League (AFL) is not effectively dealing with racism, trolls, and the aggressive behavior of some of its fans, which led to an image crisis. A recent documentary about the final years of Adam Goodes’ career highlighted how the AFL failed to respond to the racist treatment towards the athlete.
  • Heritier Lumumba, a former Melbourne player, points out that the AFL doesn’t know how to address racism, stating that “their response to my concerns further speaks to a culture of incompetence.” Lumumba's experience with the AFL led him to believe that nobody in the organization knows an effective way of dealing with such issues, saying that his concerns about racism were often dismissed.
  • He further adds that “the AFL’s silence and dismissal of this issue is to the detriment of progress being made, not only for those in the game coming after me, but all victims of racism who would look to a major institution like the AFL to show leadership on such a matter.”
  • Lumumba’s feelings are shared by others, like Des Headland, who said that watching Goodes’ documentary brought back memories of racist remarks he’d experienced himself. Tanya Hosch, who is now the AFL’s general manager of inclusion and social policy, also said the AFL had taken too long to respond to the booing.
  • The AFL recently apologized to Adam Goodes for its failure. In the statement, they said that the documentary brought to light a story of “the personal and institutional experience of racism." They go on to say that "Australia’s history of dispossession and disempowerment of First Nation’s people have left its mark, and that racism, on and off the field, continues to have a traumatic and damaging impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players and communities.”
  • Recent AFL actions to prevent these issues have been criticized as reactionary and arbitrary. The appointment of Behavioral Awareness Officers, who patrol the crows for unruly fans, only led to confusion and resentment among fans. This frustration from fans dominated the conversation about football and the league is backing down
  • One journalist points out that it feels like the AFL created its own PR crisis and failed to provide leadership, narrative, and articulation to handle this important issue. This has been a common challenge for the AFL regarding its marketing efforts.

The AFL may be alienating its fans

  • While attempting to tackle fan violence and abuse issues, the AFL alienated some of its fans. "Telling fans how to behave is often counterproductive. Many fans resent being told how to behave, so when told to behave in a certain way, they do the exact opposite," according to German Eeman.
  • Loyal fans are expressing their dissatisfaction with the league, especially with the way the AFL is trying to provide a suitable match day experience for a broader audience. One ESPN article claims that “fans -- and in fact cheersquads -- are the lifeblood of this game, and alienating them while more pressing issues such as drunken violence and racism are still so prominent is a bizarre move which was met with an appropriate reaction from the broader football community.”
  • A recent event, where a fan was removed from a match after yelling at an umpire, forced AFL CEO McLachlan to apologize to fans "who go along to the football to have a day out [and] feel that they haven’t been able to do that. The event dominated discussions about the specific event in the news, taking away from the game spotlight.
  • Some theorize that the lack of leadership is a major problem the AFL needs to address to attract a larger and more diverse audience while avoiding losses among its core base.

Gambling industry association

  • The league's association with the gambling industry also presents a constant topic of debate, especially when there are professional players with gambling addictions.
  • The AFL fought accusations of hypocrisy, regarding its role as a “good corporate citizen” because of its association with the gambling industry. The decision to impose a record penalty of suspension for 10 games and a $20,000 fine on Collingwood star Jaidyn Stephenson for placing bets was received with criticism over the league’s role when it comes to gambling addictions.
  • The coverage of the game in the media is dominated by gambling advertising. In fact, sport psychologists and former players have expressed their concerns about the prevalence of gambling advertising and possible consequences, especially for the players who are among the most vulnerable social groups towards falling to gambling addiction.
  • Dr Gainsbury, an addiction expert at the University of Sydney, believes that the AFL should take action, noting that “when they have gambling partners, when they have these close associations and alliances in terms of advertising, it gives the impression that betting is appreciated, positively supported and something that's appropriate to do in relation to sport."
  • Several former players, including David Schwarz and Brent Guerra, have spoken out about their gambling addictions. Easton Wood, a member of the board of the AFL Player’s Association, has expressed his concerns with gambling advertising being out of control, with his position being backed by Western Bulldogs' president Peter Gordon. There are also concerns about the impact this could have on children who follow the sport.

Heavy reliance on contra deals

  • Concerning TV advertisement, one of the challenges the AFL faces is the heavy reliance on contra deals, as explained by Julian Dunne, an AFL marketer. According to him, the AFL hasn't had to spend a lot on media because they "have contra details with broadcast partners and other partners", which has allowed them to channel "more money into media and prominently into digital.
  • These deals generated conflicts when the Sydney Swans and GWS Giants "expressed their frustration at the AFL's underwhelming efforts in promoting and marketing the game in NSW and Queensland". The AFL "cut Sydney's marketing budget by one-third" in 2017, from A$1.5M to A$500,000 ($377,450), due to the new broadcast rights deal, which boasts less marketing "contra,'' and the "extra advertising money siphoned to the AFL Women's."

China

  • The AFL is currently making efforts to enter the Chinese market, including organizing matches in the country as well as opening an office in China. One of the main challenges in this new market comes in the form of limited digital broadcasting.
  • In a recent interview, McLachlan declared that the audience in a recent match in China was a “bit disappointing” and that catering to such a market needs to be different.
  • The AFL also faces competition from giants like the NFL and NBA in their efforts to conquer the Chinese market. In fact, the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently declared that China is a priority market for the NFL.
  • China doesn’t have a big sports culture, which means that most of the Chinese people have never heard of the AFL. This fact alone presents a challenge to the Australian sport marketing efforts, along with the cultural differences and digital landscape.





Part
04
of four
Part
04

Australian Football Industry: Challenges

The Australian football industry, as a whole, faces challenges, such as the decline of youth sports participation, leading to fewer athletes in the future, and rising cases of concussions among retired athletes, threatening the leagues with class actions. The Australian Football League (AFL) and its women's league (AFLW), in particular, are challenged with player dissatisfaction about the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), with the lady players demanding more games per season.

Dissatisfaction on the Collective Bargaining Agreement

Fewer Future Athletes

Concussion Class Action

Sources
Sources

From Part 03