Marketing an AFL club

Ben Jenkins is the marketing manager at Richmond Football Club. He came along to the dm Forum on 21 February to talk about the highs and lows of marketing an AFL club.

He said that while it might be a long time between premierships, Richmond Football Club (the brand) has a lot going for it.

“Richmond’s brand icons have been steadfast since 1885: the jumper has always been yellow and black with the ‘tiger’ part of the club logo; the home ground has always been at Punt Road; the song hasn’t changed; and the fans have always been passionate,” said Ben.

But even Ben admits 2016 was extremely disappointing for the Tigers.

“While the football department might take it ‘one week at a time,’ the marketing department does anything but,” he said.

“Like most clubs, we have passionate and loyal fans. But they demand success. When we can’t deliver that success on the field, we need to enrich and improve their lives in other ways.”

Ben’s strategy is to understand members through “fandom segmentation: the passive fan, the casual attendee and the one-eyed fanatic, for example”.

“We target our communications and use the quality content we have at our disposal. We also capitalise on our great partnerships and relationships for the benefit of members.”

Membership numbers can bear the brunt of a shocker season. “When things are bad, it feels like nothing can appease the fans. But through our communications we must constantly create passion and hope,” he said.

Ben says that while he has to “protect and foster the brand,” the Club has the challenge of “trying to get the product to live up to the marketing promise.”

“We have no control over the team performance or the opposition. We can’t determine the fixture, the weather, transport to and from the game, or player behaviour off the field,” he said.

“Players are one of our most important promotional tools – but many of them are just kids. No matter what the plan, we have to be reactive,” he said.

Right now during the off-season, the Club is trying to reflect the change that’s occurring since season 2016.

They’re holding fire on their membership acquisition campaign. But when it launches Ben says it will create “energy and excitement and reinvigorate members for season 2017.”

“We’ve got some big names coming to Richmond and we want to be strong and bold for the fans,” he said.

Will 2017 be the year the Tigers “eat ‘em alive”?