With a good start to the Wallabies comeback under coach Dave Rennie, residents of the Rugby Australia corridors have a lot of work to do in carving up a campaign and piquing the interest of what appears to be a resurrected and interested Wallabies community.
Interest, however, isn’t good enough. Audiences taking action is what is needed to increase engagement numbers.
While the team in the paddock recalibrate themselves and work on their Game 2 errors, we know the Bledisloe competition is still alive with two games to go. Australia need to win both games to take home the silverware. We are still in the running, this time doing battle in our own territory.
- Rennie threatens selection changes after Bledisloe belting The Wrap: Player welfare no concern as All Blacks take it up a notch in Auckland Caleb Clarke’s performance to the Wallabies’ defensive wobbles: Four talking points from Bledisloe 2 VOTE: Wallabies Bledisloe 2 DIY player ratings vs New Zealand All Blacks produce second-half blitz to claim dominant Bledisloe 2 win
We’re all believing Rennie, win or lose, will continue to take us through an era of refreshing team leadership, bringing the troops more tightly together, challenging the team, taking them places they have never been before.
While Rennie does that, let’s talk fandom and engagement. This piece is a critical analysis on engagement. I am by no means an expert, but I know enough about engaging audiences to be able to provide basic insight of the work that needs to be done further via increasing our audience engagement through simple strategies that will go a long way.
The writing is on the wall. A pivot is needed. Content is king, and if the engagement formula isn’t achieved quickly, Australian audiences will be left with no sense of ownership or direction under the ‘our team, our journey’, banner rhetoric.
RA will need to capture our attention via capitalising from moment to moment. An engagement that invokes strategic audience action at various points of their campaign. What we need is an experiential journey – seamless with great impact.
I will touch on digital and face-to-face community engagement, as this is where RA has not had much success in previous months. This aims to capture diverse audiences in a meaningful, authentic way. Unlike their rugby league counterparts, engagement has been somewhat linear over the years when it comes to tapping into the strength of diversity within their audience demographics.
For example, Rugby Australia, have often left out a critical part of Sydney that is much needed to fill up stadiums at major rugby events. I am addressing the elephant in the room, an existing bone of contention: that is, the Greater Western Sydney and Western Sydney regions. I will expound on this in my next few articles in highlighting the need for further engagement. This area is where our friends in rugby league have managed to capitalise in terms of sustainable and meaningful connection.
Let’s take a look at the digital platform figures (captured on 18 October 2020) and make comparisons between the two rival teams on three key platforms of engagement: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
From the table above we can see that RA has a lot of work to do. A quick browse of their content in the last two weeks demonstrates there has not been maximum fan engagement. On average it barely scratches the surface, and I would be interested to find out how many tickets have been sold for Australian games since announcement.
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Keeping this article short, there are some suggestions for Rugby Australia:
segmented campaigns that are savvy, innovative and unique away from past traditional campaigning strategies; regular posting during team camp with narratives – the Wallabies are your greatest asset, so tell their individual stories, create a family storytelling framework and bring the team closer to your audience. Consider online conversations in the style of the NFL and football leagues prior to game day; integrate footage of team humour – the highs and lows of team dynamics and how they overcome their daily challenges – to connect your audience; knowing your audience means recognising that Australian audiences love a good underdog story, so to increase engagement numbers telling visual stories is gold; and integrate cultural activities by recognising the acknowledgement of country. We know this has already begun with cross-cultural activities such as singing. The All Blacks success in this area is due to their acknowledgment of Indigenous land and its peoples. There is power in doing this, and Rennie understands the culture and spirituality spectrum fully well.
As I said, I am not declaring myself an expert. However, like 20 million-plus people in Australia, I want to see in our lifetime a Bledisloe victory. We are waiting for the onslaught engagement campaign to support our team. We all want the Wallabies to succeed, also knowing that a pivot change is needed to bring us closer together as a wider diverse Australian family.