This is an unpopular topic so I almost don’t want to broach it… but I will (and I’m prepared for the backlash so bring it on).
This month, we watched the Super Bowl (at least, you all did – I was stuck at my old job training my replacement so I had to settle for updating the NFL website whenever she was writing notes or in the bathroom). And after the game a NUMBER of people, both that I know personally and who are total strangers, commented on the half-time show and how US sporting experiences compare to Australian sporting experiences. While many of the comments contained expletives, I will use the nicest one here. They called it “humbling.”
As I have said before, Australian sports can never be and should never be American sports. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for innovation.
Look at the Big Bash League. This league is the talk of the town at the moment because they’ve done something spectacular: created a new league and established a solid following in only a few years. That’s big news (although I’m personally not as impressed as some people, but that’s a story for another day…). And if you ask me (I know you didn’t, but you’re reading my blog so here it comes anyway) part if the reason they’re so successful is because of how innovative (and American-inspired) they are. Flame throwers? Motorcycles? Crazy images on screen? AWESOME. And something you’d see at an American sporting event. Why does this work? Mainly, because of kids. Sure, you can teach a kid to eventually love sitting around for 5 days watching a very slow game. But you never have to teach a kid to love fire- they already LOVE fire. And by the time the fire novelty has worn off, they’re old enough to like the game. BANG. You just created a fan.
In my opinion, (which, again, you didn’t ask for but you are going to get) kids are where it’s at – kids and women. Most grown men already have a preferred team or sport so while you may be able to get them to try yours out and eventually convert to being your fan… it’s easier and has more benefit to create a new fan and kids and women present the best opportunities.
The Super Bowl and all this talk about the BBL made me think about something: Australian sports may be resistant to the idea of Americanizing their sporting events but the organization that does it first… is going to DOMINATE.
I think mainly of the NRL when I think of this. The AFL has more fans – that’s a fact – so the NRL could really benefit from doing something like this. If the NRL starts to up the ante with game day experiences – ones that women and children will want to go to – it could easily become a more popular sport and even steal wishy-washy fans away from the AFL.
Obviously there’s cost and risk involved which, I assume, is why lots of clubs and leagues won’t go for it. Maybe, for them, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. And if no one, ever, tries to create a better game day experience other than the BBL… then maybe your club is safe. But do you really want to take the chance?
I don’t know about you… but I’d much rather be the innovator than trying to play catch-up to keep fans.
PS – A post two weeks in a row?! WHAT?! I guess I missed the blog more than I thought…