Fresh ideas to market rugby league

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    The NRL has taken the step of announcing a ‘Magic Round’ weekend of footy in Brisbane in Round 10 next year.

    With that in mind I thought now is the right time to debut as a writer on this column. I have some long held opinions on how rugby league can be a better spectacle, but for now here are my thoughts on some of what I think would be good ideas in selling and marketing the game.

    1. Back to the future
    I don’t know if I’m showing my age or not, but can someone drag out of retirement the person or persons responsible for the 1990s Winfield Cup marketing campaign with Tina Turner and Jimmy Barnes. It was simply the best piece of marketing I can think of.

    This is what launched the game to new heights and led to an explosion of popularity in the former union stronghold of New Zealand It also led to four bids clambering to join the competition and ultimately being admitted. Okay, well, Tina is 78 years old, but get Barnes back and team him up with Jessica Mauboy. Surely that’s a winner!

    2. Anzac Test
    Where has this fixture gone? This game has been treated like the unwanted child of rugby league, pushed around the calendar from pillar to post. This needs to be brought back with no equivocation. There is a game between Australia and New Zealand in October. It may be a trans-Tasman fixture. but this is not an Anzac test. This needs to be played on or around the Anzac weekend.

    Please let’s not say that weekend is for Anzac round for the clubs. The 16 NRL clubs will be playing the regular season regardless. People will attend or not attend those games regardless, but surely nothing could be better than test match footy.

    The NRL says it is committed to growing the international game – well, let them put our money where their mouth is. I think the game should be played on Anzac Day and have the option to add an end-of-season match with each nation hosting a home game and alternating which nation hosts.

    Kieran Foran New Zealand Kiwis Rugby League Anzac Test 2017

    (Image: NRL)

    3. Nines
    In the same vein as a return of the Anzac fixture, you could have a return of the nines tournament, but you would need to broaden the appeal of it as a spectacle. Make it a preseason weekend or a preseason mid-week knockout competition. You would have all the NRL clubs participating along with Intrust Super Cup teams from both sides of the border. Also invite Pacific nations and domestic teams from across the Tasman.

    I think it would potentially draw greater interest than merely fielding the same 16 NRL teams and if held across a weekend or two and generate more opportunity for a greater range of supporters to go to, watch and enjoy rugby league – and surely more supporters means more bums on seats and cash in the NRL coffers.

    Auckland Nines captains

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    4. Partnership games or rounds
    There is or has been a Marvel, an Indigenous, a women of league and a heritage round. So what exactly am I proposing to throw into the mix? This is one game that would be played to headline this initiative: Souths versus Manly.

    So what makes this even vaguely interesting or marketable? These two teams are rivals, but what if you added an extra layer of rivalry and spice to it? Here’s the twist: South Sydney will wear the red and black strip of the Bears and the game will be played at North Sydney Oval.

    And what about this as another idea: the Roosters can play the Sharks but with the twist that the two opposing sides will be in Wyong and Newton traditional strips and played at Henson Park or Morry Breen Oval?

    These are just two examples of what could be done. Why do it? There can be no doubt that the clubs in the NRL have a higher profile and therefore more resources, but they also maintain their profile at the expense of the clubs they have feeder arrangements with. The likes of North Sydney and Newton are foundation clubs which, as Steve Mascord wrote in his piece, “have bankable IP in Australian rugby league and seem held back from leveraging it by the NRL behemoth and the chaotic structures in which they operate”.

    Along with Wyong, which has a history dating back to 1910, here is an opportunity to give these clubs some of the reward for the hard graft they do without the glory behind the scenes. This is the chance to directly give back to lower tiers. And what other examples can be developed and what other lower tier and grassroots clubs could stand to benefit from any other similar arrangement?

    Well, there it is: just a few ideas I’ve come up with. What would you change? What would you add? There is no doubt there’s a whole world of ideas out there; it is surely a measure of bringing them out into the open.

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    The Crowd Says (10)

    • Roar Guru

      June 19th 2018 @ 9:21am
      Nat said | June 19th 2018 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      I like the idea of introducing some ISP clubs into the 9s tourament as their are some young fellas who kill that type of fixtures but may not have the overall attributes for top grade recognition. Further it would be good for those old/foundation clubs like Newtown, Bears, Valleys or Redcliffe to get recognition. Although due to the dwindling crowds in NZ maybe taking it tour around Aus as a showcase event. You may not have seen the ANAC day game between Saints/Roosters this year. It falls in line with the Show holiday and they sold out the stadium so it’s fine to leave as is.

      It’s funny, everyone bangs on about hating Manly but why do Souths have so many rivalries? Kidding, I know why!

      Wholey agree on the marketing too. I seen the ads targeting kids at the start of the year (which IMO was poor) but the NRL do seem to be either A, resting on it’s morals. B, Unwilling to highlight the hits/tries for fear of what the socce mums might think. However, if you look at the ‘Simply the best’ commercials, it was Tina singing, the players training and laughing, the crowds cheering with a small part of the game. Every successful ad campaign focuses less on the product but the feeling it gives. (thinks Qantas kids, Jetstar on the beach in Bali and Toyota jumping, every tampon commercial made). There’s your formula right there.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 19th 2018 @ 4:21pm
        KiwiBear said | June 19th 2018 @ 4:21pm | ! Report

        Thanks for your feedback Nat.
        I had thought of bringing in the ISP teams and you are right young players in those teams might otherwise go unnoticed but when they are on a big stage could have a blinder. Who knows who is watching it could be enough to get the interest of an NRL club. Also as you point out there are clubs in Brisbane that get forgotten about, I imagine with all the media attention on the Broncos, What a chance it would be to have some of the spotlight focused on them.
        Finally I didn’t mean take the nines on the road but have teams from across the board converge on Auckland or another centre if they were to move the nines at another host City!

    • Roar Rookie

      June 19th 2018 @ 11:51am
      At work said | June 19th 2018 @ 11:51am | ! Report

      1. 2. & 3. I like, great ideas.
      4. I’m against, seems silly to move away from your brand. I already HATE most of the token rounds which are purely designed to sell more jerseys.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 19th 2018 @ 4:38pm
        KiwiBear said | June 19th 2018 @ 4:38pm | ! Report

        Thanks for your feedback At Work.
        The point I was getting at was that the NRL clubs can work to shine some of the light on their partner/feeder clubs.
        What is a brand and does it not get diluted somewhat by having some unrecognizable Marvel design on the jersey that, in a majority of cases, has no real semblance of being a clubs traditional colours. I had in mind that the supporters of these clubs would have the jerseys anyway. It wouldn’t be about selling more jerseys necessarily but having those clubs share a little of the glory that they lack. Imagine 5000 Roosters fans turning up in Wyong for that game. Even if 20% of those people went and ordered something from the Wyong merchandise page that club benefits and that community benefits by having cash registers ring from visitors.

    • Roar Guru

      June 19th 2018 @ 1:17pm
      Riley Pettigrew said | June 19th 2018 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

      Really nice to read some of your ideas KiwiBear, you make some valid points.

      1. Tina Turner’s anthems are synonymous with rugby league and are part of what makes our games so unique. I would love to see the father-daughter combo of Jimmy and Mahalia Barnes team up to belt out ‘Simply the Best’.

      2. While I would much prefer the Anzac test as opposed to Dragons vs Roosters and Storm vs Warriors, I don’t think the NRL will change it as they don’t have much reason to. In fact, I think they should expand the current Anzac Day festivities to include the Kokoda Cup in Port Moresby between Panthers and Titans. This could be going a little bit too far but how about Australia vs New Zealand armed forces or Army vs Navy? Test matches should be reserved for June and post-season.

      3. Yes, yes, yes! I dislike Auckland Nines but there is a place for the format. The NRL take a break in June for Origin (Wed/Sun/Wed). The first two weekends are dedicated to Nines, the last two for test matches (Pacific/women’s/U20s).

      How does it work? The NRL is split into four groups who play in different cities on Thu/Fri/Sat/Sun – Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Wellington. The following Saturday, the top two from each take part in the Finals in Brisbane.

      12 NSW Cup teams + 4 country rep teams (Wagga/Mudgee/Tamworth/Orange). 14 QCup teams + NRL WA + NRL NT rep teams (Toowoomba/Cairns/Mackay/Darwin). Top team from each group in both divisions descend on Coffs Harbour for the finals.

      4. No thanks. I’d support a Souths game at North Sydney Oval or a Manly vs Norths pre-season game, but the Bears aren’t the same as the Incredible Hulk. The Eels wouldn’t wear a Bulldogs jersey, the Roosters wouldn’t wear cardinal and myrtle, so why would Souths wear a Bears jersey. There’s no need to cheapen history.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 19th 2018 @ 5:01pm
        KiwiBear said | June 19th 2018 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the feedback Riley.
        2.Take next year as an example 25th April falls on a Thursday. Replace the NRL game with an ANZAC test then Friday to Sunday run the club games.
        3.I had in mind not duplicating the NSW teams that already field an NRL side so you would have North Sydney, Newton, Wyong and Steelers. The Queensland ISP clubs along with Samoa Tonga Fiji and Cook Islands. Then 2 clubs each from the Auckland and Wellington RL competions.
        4. I’m not suggesting all clubs would suddenly abandon their traditional colours. The Eels and Bulldogs as the example you use have nothing to do with each other that’s just nonsense! Why would Souths wear a bears jersey you ask? Well they use the Bears as a de facto reserve grade and for Jersey Flegg so they are wearing the red and black. Why can’t, as a once off, the first grade wear that jersey and acknowledge their partner club? It wouldn’t be cheapening history merely acknowledging it.

    • June 19th 2018 @ 3:50pm
      Wayne Turner said | June 19th 2018 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

      Great article. Here’s some of my idea’s NOT mentioned:-

      *Like the NBA All-Star Weekend showcase. Have something similar yearly,on a day for the NRL. Events could include: A goal kicking competition. Fastest Man In the NRL competition. Field goal compeition.NRL touch footing comp,3 on 3 NRL comp – smaller field,shorter game, Etc… Imagine seeing a goal kicking competition featuring the likes of; Cameron Smith,JT,Adam Reynolds,Gareth Widdop.And the “Fastest Man In The NRL” with the likes of; Josh Addo-Carr,James Roberts,Billy Slater,and Matt Dufty.

      *All NRL Jersey’s worn by players,featuring their surname clearly on the back. Then have jersey’s for sale exactly like this for fans,only at $100 max with their favourite player’s number and surname on back. Would also be easier for new fans to the game to get to know players,and easier for when games are being called.

      *New NRL player awards,with sponsors attached to them egs: “Best Buy” Of The Year sponsored by “Best Buy Australia web site”. “Super Sub” Of The Year by “Subway” Etc,etc….. Attracted more sponsor $$$’s,and some new interesting awards.

      *A half hour NRL show the Monday night after each round. Similar in style to NBA Action. Egs: With Tries of the round. Plays of the round. Tackles of the round. Profile of an NRL player. Etc,etc… An NRL show with all highlights,and less of talking head shows full of opinionated ex-players,such as the boring 100% opinionated League.I’m sick of all the shows with opinionated ex-player bores. MORE NRL highlights,less talk.

      *NRL games at better times egs: Start Origin games at 7pm. 8pm + is too late for people that work early next morning and NOT family friendly.Especially when the biff has been banned. Plus, cut out the talk head bore fest for an hour + before games. Scrap the 6pm Friday night game – Too early,crap crowds and ratings. Either move it to a Sunday or starting at 7pm Friday night.

      *Standard price for tickets across all grounds. A reasonable price too.

      *A Rugby League podcast by fans for fans. Promoted by the NRL.

      Etc,etc….

    • June 20th 2018 @ 9:03am
      Marty said | June 20th 2018 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      I like the idea of expanding the Nines concept – but not as a pre-season thing. It should be in place of the Touch competition. It could rival Rugby 7s.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 22nd 2018 @ 11:47am
      James Ditchfield said | June 22nd 2018 @ 11:47am | ! Report

      Interesting article here mate, and you presented some intriguing ideas. The problem is, the NRL has so many issues on its plate – mainly of its own doing – that they don’t know where to start. They just have to implement some kind of direction and stick with it. They tried the Nines, and discontinued it for a number of factors, so they shouldn’t even entertain the idea again (I personally was a fan though). In terms of marketing campaigns, I definitely agree with the idea of going ‘back to the future’ as it were. It’s difficult to highlight one particular player to focus on in terms of promoting the game, and this #TalkTheGameUp just reeks of ignorance because it gives the idea that the problems of the game don’t matter, and are offset by the positives. False. ‘That’s My Team’ was one of the most successful campaigns in the game’s history, and the NRL is in dire need of that kind of publicity again. Focus on the traditional values and attributes which make the game of rugby league great (and no, a stupid hashtag on social media doesn’t accomplish this), instead of trying to introduce specific ideas like ‘Magic Rounds’ and one off partnerships; undoubtedly they have a place in the game, and should still play a part in the season, but they’re band-aid solutions as far as fixing the litany of problems faced by the game.

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