The Australian Football League (AFL) has launched the first online insights community for a major football code as it seeks to bring regular customer research into its game plan.
The fan community, known as AFL Fan Focus, was developed in partnership with insight community technologies firm Vision Critical. The digital platform will allow the AFL to hear from its fans regularly, in an online community, with the sharing of ideas and experiences through interactive surveys and topical discussions enabling the AFL to understand the issues facing its audience.
Selected fans, currently numbering 1000, have the opportunity to regularly provide their opinion and the AFL will respond to the thoughts, discussing match day experience, ticketing, what it means to be a member and the advertising of the brand.
“AFL Fan Focus will provide the AFL with the opportunity to engage fans in meaningful conversations and thereby help it to make the right decisions about what fans really want from the AFL experience,” says Vision Critical managing director Australia and New Zealand, Peter Harris.
The AFL will pioneer the trend in 2013 with Shaun Welch, AFL consumer strategy manager, explaining that the future of the AFL is in the hands of its core supporters, not just the AFL administration. “We know that our AFL fans are passionate about football and are a valuable source of ideas and inspiration. That’s why we have set up this dedicated platform of supporters to help us shape the AFL experience in future,” he says.
Australia’s major sporting codes are in danger of losing millions of dollars in sponsorship as the sporting community reels from widespread doping allegations.
The AFL, NRL, Cricket Australia and Football Federation of Australia have all been embroiled in controversy around recreational and performance-enhancing drugs, as well as links to organised crime and match fixing, following the release of a damning report from the Australian Crime Commission (ACC).
Naming rights NRL sponsor and major AFL supporter Telstra confirmed it would act swiftly to distance itself from the sports if wrongdoing was proven. The telco reportedly signed a $150 million, five-year, naming-rights deal for the NRL last year.
Its CEO, David Thodey, said he would examine the allegations prior to making a decision on the future of its sponsorship deals, in a statement released to the press.
“Our brand image is tied up with those who we sponsor, so if there is untoward behaviour that we don’t agree with, we would make our position very clear. We will always do that,” Thodey says.
“I understand stories come and go but we will need to look at the detail and make our decision.”
Other sports implicated in the wide-reaching report, which did not publicly name how many or which clubs were allegedly involved, include Cricket Australia, which counts CommBank as a principal sponsor, and Football Federation of Australia, its league sponsored by Hyundai.
The ACC report claims substances were supplied by organised crime figures who have formed partnerships with the codes, doctors and anti-ageing clinic have prescribed new, hard to detect performance-enhancing substances and clubs have been involved in match fixing.
Toyota Australia, the naming-rights sponsor for the AFL, said it supported the co-ordinated response to the allegations, The Australian reports.
“The positive aspect is that these issues are being tackled jointly by the national sporting bodies, the federal government, the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority,” a Toyota spokesman said.
The global governing body for the internet (ICANN) released details of applications lodged for top-level domain (TLD) names, revealing who applied, who didn’t and who’s competing for the same generic words.
ICANN received 1930 applications as part of its program to expand the Internet’s address system, which will allow brands to own a .brand internet address. 230 entities applied for more than one TLD, giving rise to 751 applications combined and boosting the potential number of TLDs to 1409 from the first round of applications.
Many of the world’s largest brands applied, but many were notably absent. McDonalds, Apple, Microsoft, Nike and Google applied, while Coke, Adidas, Facebook, Twitter and eBay did not. Google was responsible for the most applications, lodging claim for 101 names, far more than nearest rivals Amazon, which lodged for 76, and Microsoft, with 11.
The applications process will see some interesting stand-offs between major brands in the near future when they go head-to-head for the same generic words. Google and Microsoft will face off over the rights to .docs and .live, while .app, .inc, .home, .art, .shop, .blog, .book, .movie and .music, among others, are all subject to multiple applications.
ARI Registry Services, which conducted this analysis of the applications, lodged 106 of the 303 applications submitted for the Asia Pacific region, including applications for Australian players iiNet, the AFL, .Melbourne and .Sydney.
Andrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, which helps brands apply for the new TLDs, says the brands that applied are some of the most innovative and savvy, and “represent some of the largest and most prominent brands, governments and entrepreneurs in the world.”
Other Australian entities to apply include AMP, ANZ, Australia Post, Bond University, Australian Cancer Research Foundation, Commonwealth Bank (.CBA, .netbank and .CommBank), Open Universities Australia, CPA, iSelect (.compare, .select and .iSelect), La Trobe University, Monash University, NAB (.NAB and .uBank), Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, SBS, Seek, Seven West Media, TAB, Tennis Australia, Webjet, Woodside Petroleum and Telstra (.yellowpages).
Gamification, or the use of gaming dynamics to influence user behaviour, is gathering steam as a marketing tool for engaging consumers and delivering messages. It’s been praised for its ability to help brands engaged with consumers on a deeper level and step the consumer through to purchase intent. While it is still a discipline in its infancy, pioneering brands are turning their attention to it as an alternative to advertising to get their messages out. Going deeper, the technique shows the potential to redefine the customer-product relationship and involve consumers in experiences that help them develop stronger relationships with brands.
Marketing presents this Top10 looking at gamification executions, primarily from Australia but also including a few stand out examples from around the world. Game on.
10. Fruit Ninja Kinect, Neuroscience Research Australia
A version of Fruit Ninja, where players smash virtual fruit, is being used by Neuroscience Research Australia to assist the elderly in recovering from medical problems, staying fit and even preventing devastating falls. As part of the research body’s iStoppFalls program, which also uses other video games to the same effect, a slowed down version of the game is available on Xbox Kinect, allowing the elderly to play along with their grandchildren.
9. Fallen Angels, Lynx
Lynx involved commuters in an interactive augmented reality game in a subway in London in March 2011. Passengers were lured towards patches on the floor of the open concourse, which activated by sending a virtual angel to earth when someone stepped onto them. Participants could then watch themselves interact with the virtual angel on the a big screen overlooking the concourse.
If you can’t see the videos below, please refresh this page.
8. Coinland, Commonwealth Bank
Designed for children aged five to 10 years, Coinland is a virtual world where children can learn about the benefits of earning, saving and investing money by undertaking a series of tasks, designed to help them develop financial literacy skills. Players create an avatar which represents them as they explore and interact in Coinland, as they complete tasks or jobs to earn and save coins. Players can then choose to save their coins by depositing them in the bank, or spend their coins on games and rewards. Children can play alongside their friends by adding other users to their buddy lists.
7. Dream Team, AFL
AFL’s Dream Team game is open to anyone to join for free, select a team of 30 players, and then receive point based on the performance of those players in order to go into the running for a prize pool. Participation rates in the game are high, and the AFL generates content around the game including a Dream Team show and news updates on player performance. Teams must be selected in a realistic manner, within the salary cap restrictions. Players also compete in public or private mini-leagues against friends to go into the running for the grand prize of a Toyota FJ Cruiser.
6. Nike+, Nike
Nike has essentially taken a lone sports in running and other training pursuits, and made them social with its suite of Nike+ applications. For example, the Nike+ tag running app, links running directly with social gaming, pitting users who have downloaded the app against each other in a game of tag. Nike’s gaming strategy makes it easier for people to get motivated to exercise, by using gaming mechanics such as rewards and trophies in return for challenges met, incorporating the social element of competing against friends.
5. Re-Mission, HopeLab
Re-Mission is a video game developed by HopeLab specifically for adolescents and young adults with cancer. Players of the game pilot a nanobot named Roxxi as she travels through the bodies of fictional cancer patients destroying cancer cells, battling bacterial infections, and managing side effects associated with cancer and cancer treatment. Messages delivered through this game hit home, to the point that kids involved in the game were more likely to take their tablets and had better recovery rates than those that didn’t.
4. Sparx, New Zealand Ministry of Health and University of Auckland
SPARX is a self-help computer program for young people with symptoms of depression. A 3D fantasy game, it was was developed by adolescent depression specialists from the University of Auckland, to engage youth in a self-learning depression management program. Players learn cognitive behavioural therapy techniques for dealing with symptoms of depression by travelling through different stages of the role-playing game geared at addressing different aspects of the illness. Results from the trial of the game found it to be more effective than medication and as effective as face-to-face treatment.
3. Investorville, Commonwealth Bank
Combining actual market data with innovative technology, Investorville is an online simulator that lets users try their hand at property investing without risking their own equity. It’s an engaging way for the bank to deliver complex messages around investing and whet the appetite of consumers thinking of taking on an investment property. The site has had over 100,000 visitors and of those 23,000 have taken the time to register and enter their details into the game, resulting in 630 loans. The game also supported the position of being technology leaders that CBA is gunning for, and resulted in significant PR for the business with editorial coverage in 88 pieces reaching an audience of 6.6 million.
2. Taste Invaders, Moove/Masters/Big M
Created by RedLever, interactive augmented reality game Taste Invaders enabled event goers to participate in a game where they watched a screen that showed themselves with virtual milk cartons falling around them which they needed to catch in a butterfly net. The experience developed for Lions’ milk brands Moove, Masters and Big M’s, visited three states alongside giant sculptural ‘Mphones’, which added to the visual spectacle and entertained the crowd with music.
The buzz factor of augmented reality appeared to capture the attention of the milk’s brands’ target audience, integrated new technology with simple, fun gameplay.
1. Jay-Z: Decoded, Random House Publishing Group (RHPG)
For the launch of Jay-Z’s memoir Decoded, RHPG launched using a unique social game that attracted public interest and incentive. Engaging the curiosity of customers, pre-released pages of the memoir were printed on various surfaces and hidden around the world – from food wrappers to the silk lining of a Gucci jacket. Conducted as a partnership with Bing and headed by New York ad agency Droga5, the campaign aimed to get an audience not known for reading books interested in doing so. Over 300 pages in 600 placements in 15 locations worldwide were hidden, for players to find, assemble and decode the book together online before its release date.
Update: Since this blog was first published, Polis has stepped down as EnergyWatch’s CEO. Furthermore, the company’s collaborators are distancing themselves from EnergyWatch. I can only imagine what damage could have been prevented had Polis and EnergyWatch been quicker with their damage control.
As a public relations adviser and Asian, I’ve been intrigued by the latest AFL scandal involving Melbourne FC, its (now dumped) sponsor, EnergyWatch and EnergyWatch’s (former) CEO, Ben Polis.
If you haven’t caught up on the PR disaster, read the article in The Age for background on his Facebook posts on Asians, Indigenous people and the Prime Minister. (Maybe he has a beef against redheads too.) Melbourne FC has called Polis’ rants disgraceful and abhorrent.
EnergyWatch sponsored Melbourne FC to the tune of two million dollars a year. Melbourne FC took a very brave stance and a hit to its balance sheet by terminating the sponsorship agreement.
Would the (real and potential) brand damage to the club, arising out of its relationship with EnergyWatch, be worth two million dollars? Was there a way that Melbourne FC could have had its cake and eaten it too? I’ve been playing around with different scenarios.
Let’s say Melbourne FC had decided to keep the money. Could it have found an alternative way to send a strong signal to the community that it disapproves of Polis’ racist comments? Perhaps, but only with EnergyWatch’s full cooperation.
If EnergyWatch had been nimble enough with its issues management, Melbourne FC could have had an alternative.
It’s too late now for EnergyWatch to repair its relationship with Melbourne FC. But it should still be doing everything it can to salvage its corporate reputation. Critics have been all-a-twitter over #benpolis, accusing him of everything from being racist to suffering from small man syndrome. The photo on Aussie newspaper websites of Polis standing at least a foot shorter than his date at a Brownlow Medal event doesn’t help.
Here’s my advice to Polis and EnergyWatch: take a cue from the newspapers. Have a sense of humour. But, because he’s in the wrong, Polis needs to obviously show humility as well as be humorous.
Perhaps Polis can post a comment on Facebook, poking fun at his own shortcomings (pun intended). Also, he needs to give a heartfelt apology – on camera if he can muster the courage. He can also buy good will by mentioning that EnergyWatch is donating a vast sum towards an Indigenous community charity.
What about Polis’ comment on Asians?
Full disclosure: I’ve already cheekily invited Polis to a safe and fun drag race in Melbourne, off the back of his comment that Asian girls, “Add no value to society apart from insurance premiums ’cause they can’t drive”.
In addition, I’d be happy to accept his donation of a safe car. I already have a Merc, so in the spirit of diversity, I’d take a Volvo.
What do you think? What advice would you have given to Polis, EnergyWatch and Melbourne FC? Did the club choose wisely, dumping its major sponsor in the face of public backlash? Or could it have worked out an alternative solution?
The Australian Football League (AFL) has announced it will apply for a top level internet domain name in a move to boost its online presence.
The AFL will fork out an application fee of US$185,000 and annual fees of US$25,000 in a bid to win the rights for its website and those of its affiliates to end in .afl, giving the game a branded online presence through sites such as Geelong.afl or Lions.afl.
General manager of strategy and marketing at the AFL, Andrew Catterall, says the .afl asset will make it easier for fans to access trusted online content endorsed by the AFL brand.
“We think .afl could be a key asset to support our major strategies around national expansion, fan development, strengthening the AFL clubs, supporting community participation and growing our presence in digital media,” Catterall says.
The generic top level domains (gTLD) program is coordinated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the global governing body for internet addresses. In what will be one of the biggest changes to the internet in its history, the shake-up will see domain names move beyond the increasingly saturated .com space to a large number of brand and generic domains.
According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, businesses are divided over the value of the gTLDs.
The Herald reports that Woolworths, Telstra and Qantas have expressed doubt over the new scheme. Qantas reportedly told the Herald last year that its Qantas.com address enjoyed enough brand recognition to not warrant a change.
Melbourne IT and ARI Registry Services have been selected to assist with the AFL’s application.
The earliest date that applicants could discover if they’ve been successful will be late 2012 and the first new gTLDs are expected to go live on the Internet in 2013.
The Australian Football League’s (AFL) huge broadcast rights deals have been proven worthy, with the league streaking ahead of competitors as Australia’s choice of sporting code to watch on television.
In a study released by Roy Morgan Research, Football, in almost all its forms was found to be the big winner.
AFL remains the code with the highest total number of viewers with 36.6% of Australians (estimated at 6.6 million) who will watch games “always” or “occasionally.”
The NRL State of Origin, a short showcase series between Queensland and New South Wales representative players, was the second most watched sporting series, with an impressive showing of loyal viewers, with around 3.6 million Australians ‘almost always’ tuning in.
The Super 14 and A-League have also found a solid audience on pay TV with 8.2% (estimated at 1.5 million) watching Super 14 and 7.8% (estimated at 1.4 million) watching A-League, although their audience is less loyal with a higher ratio of ‘occasional’ viewers at 5.0% and 5.1% respectively.
“Sport has always been a key program area for both FTA and pay TV, with the major football codes delivering the large audiences and marketing synergies that advertisers want,” Roy Morgan Research’s media director Michael Duncan said.
“With the telecast rights for AFL and NRL both up for negotiation soon, all television operators will undoubtedly compete vigorously for these valuable rights.
Duncan tells Marketing magazine the sample size was made up of close to 19 000 respondents aged 14 and over, and data came from face-to-face interviews and surveying.
Controversy has erupted after a Hooters restaurant on the Gold Coast announced it would be sponsoring an under-16s AFL club.
The restaurant chain, famous for featuring scantily-clad waitresses, has defended the decision, with Mermaid Beach restaurant owner Morney Schledusch calling the criticism surrounding the issue ridiculous.
He also indicated that the deal was a way in which the chain could challenge stereotypes that have risen up around the US-based Hooters brand.
“We are a local family restaurant and we want to sponsor the local community,” Schledusch told The Brisbane Times.
Woman’s rights advocate Melinda Tankard Reist has pointed to the sponsorship as another example of a sporting code encouraging the “dangerous objectification of women among young footballers”.
The Broadbeach Cats teams coach Neil Boston has also defended the sponsorship, saying it has made no impact on the young players who are just interested in playing football.
“It’s another way to make it cheaper for parents to have their kids playing at Broadbeach,” explained Boston.
Coinciding with the build up to the AFL Premiership, the AFL Players Association (AFLPA) has added to an anti-violence campaign entitled ‘Just Think’. This installment was the initiative of AFLPA general manager, Matt Finnis. Prime minister Kevin Rudd launched the campaign at the MCG.
Developed by Wilson Everard and produced by SMR on a five day time-frame, the campaign features eight AFL team captains encouraging Australians to think before engaging in alcohol-fuelled violence. The captains ask rhetorical questions about how much someone could enjoy the AFL Premiership if they were violently attacked.
‘Just Think’ originated in 2007 with Tom Harley and the Geelong Advertiser.
Hosts Eddie McGuire, Luke Darcy, Tony Moclair and Mieke Buchan debuted their new show with guests Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and John Brumby. Interviewees were Nick Maxwell, captain of Collingwood Football Club, and Rodney Eade, Western Bulldogs’ coach.
Alongside interviews, the show will regularly feature ‘Eddie-torials’. In his inaugural Eddie-torial, McGuire discussed solutions to Melbourne’s prominent inner-city violence.
“We want people to know it’s not about pushing agendas, it’s not about me or Collingwood or Channel Nine, it’s about the Triple M listeners. If you have an issue, you can come to us,” explained McGuire.
“We want to talk to the key people in town, not necessarily prosecuting them but we want answers and solutions.
Mediaweek described the launch as possibly the best radio show launch across the past 10 years.
The AFL and Telstra have trumped global powerhouses like the NBA, NFL, EPL and UEFA to win an inaugural Ultimate Sports Websites Award 2009.
The award for Best Website Style for a Federation or League Site was published by global marketers SportBusiness, to pay homage to the increasingly important role an effective online presence plays in sport and commerce, ranging from attracting and engaging fans to delivering profile for sponsors and revenue generation.
AFL.com.au was the only Australian site to win an award, which were based on the SportBusiness report ‘Ultimate Sports Websites: Creating a Winning Online Proposition for Sport’, which provides a how to guide to creating a successful and profitable sports website.
The list of winners in the six categories – Content, Community, Style, Monetisation, Partnership Activation and Attracting New Fans – reads like a who’s who with NBA.com, Superbowl.com, US Masters, Chelsea FC, Manchester United, Euro 2008 and the London 2012 Olympics all recognised, with Chelsea FC’s site earning the top gong.
AFL scored top marks in the style category, said judge Rachael Church-Sanders.
Although the site contains a huge amount of content including fan services and third party advertising, its navigation is clear and uncluttered. The AFL also gained credit for monetising its data and new media rights.
Chris Taylor, director of commercial affairs, Telstra Media, said the award acknowledges BigPond’s expertise in digital sport in Australia.
Were very pleased that an independent panel has selected the AFL website as winner of best website style for a federation or league. Our aim has always been to deliver a compelling online site and to extend the reach of the AFL through our innovation in delivering content both online and on Telstra Next G mobile phones, Taylor said.
C4Digital, who designs the site, welcomed the accolade with director of Sport, Paul Andreacchio saying:
We are chuffed to win because one of the great challenges of AFL’s design was to showcase the huge breadth and depth of content without overwhelming the fan. So to be acknowledged for achieving that balance is very gratifying.
Viocorp has extended its operations by opening a Melbourne office.
The move follows the acquisition of several new Victorian clients including Aviva. The company already held significant interests in Victoria, working with BUPA, CGU, Film Victoria and Essendon AFL among others.
“Victoria based clients have been of increasing importance to our business, and with recent wins such as Aviva, our growth into Melbourne is a natural step,” said Nick Bolton, general manager of Viocorp.
“Despite the current economic challenges, we’re continuing to experience high levels of interest in both Viostream and VioTV, so our new presence will enable us to manage existing accounts better and meet with clients regularly face-to-face. We decided it was important to provide local support.”
Dean Lupton, Aviva’s ecommerce manager, explained the companys selection saying online video was a huge growth area and would enable Aviva to communicate with its audiences more personally.
“By taking this step, we will be able to offer a full range of sales and support services for Viostream, Vio TV and production work out of our Melbourne operation, and, in doing so, we can also look to target new business and build the Viocorp team, Bolton continued.
Viocorp is an online video specialist and developers of Viostream and VioTV.