The news that clubs are planning to actually market the A-League this year is a welcome development for a competition that has wasted the last few seasons.
Actually doing something to advertise the A-League? Now there’s a novel idea!
This season should be all about looking forward and not back into the past, but it’s still hard not to wonder what exactly those in charge of running the A-League have been doing for the last few years.
Enjoying a few too many all-expenses-paid trips to the World Cup from the sound of things.
But with an independent A-League now charged with the task of rekindling some support, it will be interesting to see the sort of tactics they use.
Because one of the main differences with the A-League compared to other codes is that the demographic labelled as football fans tends to skew young.
A big reason competitions like the AFL and NRL have generated such money-spinning broadcast deals in recent years is because they’re predominantly watched by middle-aged blokes with high disposable incomes.
That’s all well and good if your folks are shelling out for a set-top box from Foxtel, but all the anecdotal evidence suggests young Aussies today are both time poor and actually poor and tend to consume all their content on tablets and phones.
So whatever advertising an independent A-League starts to come up with, it needs to be digitally savvy and conscious of today’s limited attention spans.
And it needs to tap into the idea that watching an A-League club go around is about much more than merely consuming a product.
That’s one thing football officials have got badly wrong for the past few years.
The sport is unique enough without pandering to mainstream Australia at the expense of the core supporter base, so now’s the time to try and reconnect with fans who’ve drifted away from the game for one reason or another.
And a campaign to remind fans that their support actually makes a difference – in the stands and on balance sheets – wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
During the week I was chatting with a colleague of mine who used to be a handy defender in the Brisbane Premier League.
He knows as much about football as anyone I’ve ever met, but when I asked if he was planning to attend any Brisbane Roar games this season, he told me he hadn’t been to an A-League game in years.
That’s not a knock on him. It’s just a reminder of how much work needs to be done to get the A-League back on track and fans through the gates once again.
And Channel Ten can play a role in halting the decline in TV viewers if, as expected, two A-League games end up on the free-to-air network this season.
If the criticism is that football has been locked away on pay TV, then doubling the amount of free-to-air content available can only be viewed as a good thing.
But if beggars can’t be choosers, then it probably behoves us to remember that the sort of coverage we’ve enjoyed on Fox Sports for years doesn’t come cheap.
Many of the critics who spend all day complaining about A-League coverage are also the first to admit they’d never dream of paying for it.
And maybe that’s a lesson for all of us heading into the new A-League season.
It’s all well and good to demand better free-to-air coverage and cheaper club memberships, but it will all come to nought if none of us ever put our hands in our pockets and actually support the competition.
Some actual marketing is the least an independent A-League can do.
But it’s up to us to make the most of it and help transform the competition into the best version of local football it can possibly be.