If there’s one event on the Australian sporting calendar that brings together Australians all over the world, it’s the Australian Football League (AFL) Grand Final.
I realised this last Saturday – Grand Final Day — sitting amongst hundreds of other Australians who had all managed to find themselves in the one Australian Bar in all of Singapore. Unlike Melbourne Cup Day, AFL Grand Final day brings together Australians from every state, every city, male and female, young and old. Dads brought their kids along in ‘Hawks’ scarves and ‘Freo’ hats, women in their twenties came still dressed in their netball and hockey uniforms, fresh from the sports field — all united in being Australian on “that one day in September”.
What was most surprising to me was how much of that experience was captured online. People around me were live-tweeting their responses to the sporting action, posting photos of themselves and their surrounds on Instagram, and debating who would win with their friends all over the world via Facebook. Through social media, friends in different nations were united in one live experience. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation even ran an entire news page dedicated to capturing the photos and videos of the match as they were posted on social media.
The AFL is one organisation that has successfully captured the power of social media for their own brand promotion. In Australia, the most checked-in location in the nation is the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). To capitalise on this, the MCG has completed one of the largest wifi projects in the world, supplying free signals to 100,000 fans through millions of tonnes of concrete.
The AFL itself runs a social media web page, with Facebook and Twitter feeds for all 18 AFL clubs, Twitter feeds for nine separate football-related subjects and 20 football journalists, as well as a dedicated “AFL TV” Video Center. In recognition of the large number of overseas-based football fans, the AFL also runs a live and on-demand international streaming service, where footy fans can watch the finals action on their tablet, laptop or smartphone for a small fee.
These efforts are paying off: There AFL‘s official Twitter feed now has over 180,000 followers, whilst the MCG has more than 120,000 Likes on Facebook — ironically, more fans than could physically fit inside the MCG. Even before the AFL Grand Final, there were already more than 3.7 million AFL related tweets in 2013, an increase of 185% on 2012. Tyson Densley, AFL’s Social Media Manager, said: “Footy never stops, and we love delivering the latest news to fans.”
And it seems the fans love lapping it up.
Jayde Lovell is vice-president, Digital, Southeast Asia, at Weber Shandwick
Picture: AFL Media