How sports marketing can be a game changer
Melbourne is the sporting capital of Australia—and, many would argue, even the world. Annually, the city hosts global attention-grabbing events like The Australian Open Tennis, the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix, and ‘the race that stops a nation,’ the Melbourne Cup.
It is also home to the Australian Football League, largely unknown outside of Australia, but revered in the land down under—and in Victoria in particular. It is the most popular football code in the country in terms of game attendance and membership—and generally, in Melbourne, if you’re talking about footy and it’s not AFL, you’re going to have to speak up.
But, that is not the case this Wednesday night. At the beloved ’G (or the ‘Melbourne Cricket Ground’ shortened to the ‘MCG’ shortened to one letter because Aussie are succinct), a rival footy code is taking centre stage—and it will prove a prime example of how great marketing can be used to turn an otherwise mostly-unwanted product into the hottest ticket in town.
Rugby League is largely a code supported by the northern states of New South Wales and Queensland. The club competition has expanded to include a Victorian team—the Melbourne Storm—that has done an incredible job of both survival and progress in what is basically a one-horse town.
But the State of Origin concept, an annual three-game series between the two traditional states of the sport, has been marketed as ‘The Greatest Battle on Earth,’ and it will draw in a huge crowd as it has done on several occasions in Melbourne before.
And with that kind of chutzpah, it’s hard for even the most ardent opponent of the sport not to show a little interest.
It is a simple concept that hits on the core principles of marketing. Rugby League has looked at its product, analysed the audience it is trying to attract, and portrayed that product in a way that is going to appeal.
It has been able to sell its product as a spectacle—because audiences love one of those.
The original concept of State of Origin was the ‘mate vs mate’ philosophy, pitting the best of the best against each other, even those who are normally teammates in the day-to-day competition. This evokes an innate tribalism that lives in all of us to some degree—and then the narrative pretty much writes itself.
And that’s one of the core components of marketing: story. A good story can sell anything. The whole thing transcends the game itself to be more about the grandeur of the event.
“…with that kind of chutzpah, it’s hard for even the most ardent opponent of the sport not to show a little interest.”
People want a story they can relate to, support, and root for. State of Origin provides that, and come Wednesday night, there will be a full-house at the home of a rival code—not to mention millions more watching on TV—screaming for either the blue of New South Wales or the maroon of Queensland.
The weirdest part of it all? Most of them won’t even be able to tell you why they’re interested. They probably won’t really understand the rules of the game, or really have any idea what’s actually going on. But, they’ll still be watching. They’ll still be engrossed.
And how does this happen? How does a person who is utterly uninterested in something most of the time suddenly get drawn in?
It’s all in the marketing.
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