FWF-181018

Any week where the public gains access to Alan Jones’ mobile number is certainly a strange one in the news cycle. 

As the winter football codes reclined into their off-seasons and both houses of the Australian Parliament enjoyed a three week break to allow Scott Morrison to press some flesh and hoon around Bathurst, there was space for a sport to jump up and grab some attention. 

Cricket seemed an unlikely candidate for attention, with a new but not unexpected CEO and Australia sweating bullets in Dubai and Pakistan sure to press home its advantage in the oppressive conditions.

The summer of tennis is still a little distant as play moves through the Asian swing, and Australian rugby union might be the only code in the country feeling that the less said and written about it at the moment the better.

The time seemed ripe and just as the FFA was surely about to let rip with a torrent of slick and perfectly targeted media forays across television, internet and social media platforms, up stepped Jones.

He delivered an on-air tirade directed at Opera House chief executive Louise Herron during his 2GB morning broadcast last week, on 5 October. His gripe was simple. 

How dare Herron, charged with the care and concern of one of Australia’s most iconic and treasured buildings, express reluctance towards the structure being used as an enormous and effective billboard for the racing industry.

Jones obviously felt that the proposal to project the colours of the participating jockeys, barrier numbers and the Everest Trophy had merit. So much so, he demanded to know just who his interviewee thought she was; such temerity she possessed. 

Later that day, Herron was ordered by the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, to facilitate the projection. Thus, the A-League missed its window and slipped into exposure and marketing oblivion.

Almost seven days later, media attention is still held by an extravagant horse race that will line the pockets of some very lucky owners/connections - that hardly anyone had heard of until up stepped Jones - and the A-League season is now just eight days away.

One can’t help but feel football has missed a golden opportunity, with a set of sails just waiting for the A-League logo to be emblazoned across them. 

If Jones achieved anything, apart from sounding like a spoiled brat, it was highlighting the failure of the A-League marketing approach, in what is a small annual window where a real splash could be made.    

Whilst it may be easy to align with a common belief that the financial clout and size of the racing industry puts A-League marketing efforts in the shade, it is in fact a furphy. 

There is no obvious reason why the A-League logo could not have featured on the Opera House or somewhere just as ostentatious, as other sports and events have done so in the past. The reason it didn’t is most likely that it was not considered an option.

Surprising really, considering its previous use to endorse equality, pride and same sex marriage or the promotion of national sporting teams such as the Wallabies.

Indeed, that is the first adjustment in thinking required.

Whilst easy to cite the Everest as a symbolic representation of an industry going from strength to strength, it is not necessarily the case. Media monitoring company Isentia, found that Australia’s horse racing industry is in fact amidst a disturbing crisis of perception. 

During the 2016 Spring Racing Carnival, 47.5 per cent of social media content was considered to have an unfavourable tone, with only 28.7 per cent favourable. Across various platforms, there were 248,000 mentions of horse racing having a direct link with animal cruelty.

In addition, the demographics must be concerning for the entire industry, with the highest rate of those interactions emanating from 18-24 year old users.  

Data from Roy Morgan Research supported these figures with a 39 per cent drop in the Melbourne Cup audience over the last decade. Now, only 22 per cent of Australians identify as occasional Melbourne Cup watchers, a figure down from 34 per cent in 2006.

Yet the Everest is still the talk of the town, albeit mostly for the bullish aggression of a shock jock and his subsequent apology.

The A-League is a wonderful product, with average crowds in Australia of over 11,200 and playing talent worth somewhere near $30 million. 

Why is it that the racing industry, in something of a decline, can still create the perception of glitz, glamour and opulence and one of the fastest growing sports in the land struggles to find a head line?

The simple answer involves the A-League looking within and acknowledging its tendency to undersell its product. 

Once the powers at be overcome that obstacle and seize marketing opportunities when they arise, all they then have to do is work out how to get Alan Jones angry about it.


Categories: Opinion | A-League

a-league, a-league marketing, alan jones

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