Today I take a look at how to increase NRL fan engagement on social media, using case study examples of the Parramatta Eels and Canberra Raiders.
Firstly, lets review the key social media metrics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for each of the NRL teams, as well as their membership numbers.
Facebook Stats @ Apr 12,2014
|Team|| # Facebook Likes|
|# Talking about on FB|
|% Engagement levels|
|South Sydney Rabbitohs||228.3||26.1||11.4|
|St George Dragons||110.6||6.3||5.7|
|Manly Sea Eagles||123.2||12.5||10.1|
|Gold Coast Titans||145.1||14.3||9.9|
|North Qld Cowboys||98.6||5.1||5.2|
Key Points to Note
- The Eels have the highest engagement levels (#people talking about this/ # of Facebook Likes) at 19.0% on Facebook, significantly higher than any other club. Average engagement levels across all clubs is around 9 – 11%.
- The Broncos have by far the highest number of Facebook Likes at 407,795 but so far haven’t converted these into higher engagement levels.
- The Raiders and Cowboys have the lowest engagement levels at 4.7% and 5.2% respectively.
Membership & Social Media Stats @ Apr 12,2014
|Team||Membership Levels |
@ Mar 7, 2014
| # Twitter Followers|
|# Instagram Followers
|South Sydney Rabbitohs||27,543||42.2||17.9|
|St George Dragons||15,615||23.1||10.2|
|Manly Sea Eagles||10,123||27.8||12.3|
|Gold Coast Titans||7,409||23.3||9.4|
|North Qld Cowboys||10,536||20.9||6.5
Key Points to Note
- Membership levels. The Rabbitohs and Broncos are the only two teams with membership above 20,000 having 27,543 and 22,165 members respectively. These two teams are most notable for their offering membership of the club to family pets. The West Tigers, Warriors, Sharks and Raiders each have membership levels of less than 7,000.
- Twitter.The Storm and Warriors have the most Twitter followers at 48k and 45.1k followers respectively. The Raiders 18.5k, Sharks at 17.1k and Panthers at 15.4k have the least.
- Instagram. The Bulldogs have the most Instagram followers at 23k, followed by the Roosters at 21.3k. The Canberra Raiders and Penrith Panthers have the least number of followers with 5.5k and 6.0k respectively.
Aside from a more positive start to the 2014 season, there hasn’t been anything especially dramatic at the club on or off the field since their previous coach Ricky Stuart resigned in 2013, to stimulate increased fan engagement relative to other clubs.
What are Parramatta doing well on Facebook to achieve the higher engagement levels?. Here is a summary of their April 2014 activity.
- Promoting the next home game as the main hero image on the Facebook page.
- Weekly Q & A’s with fans being given the opportunity to ask questions directly to the coaching staff and players, using the #blueandgold hashtag.
- Fans voting for the man of the match after each game, using the #toastatooheys hashtag.
- Giving as many games as possible a unique promotional theme and even better if it’s for a charity or worthy cause, again using unique hashtags.
- Upcoming May 12 game – Eels vs Sharks , the Johnny Mannah Cup to remember John Mannah #celebratejohnny
- Apr 21 game – Eels vs Tigers, to benefit NSW farmers, # forthefarmers
- Having open auditions for the “Junior Sweet P’s” cheer squad.
- Holding regular open training sessions to meet and greet supporters and sign autographs.
- Having an Eels store at the Sydney Royal Easter show with the opportunity to meet players.
- Meet and greet with the players at a community event in Church St mall with kids facepainting and entertainment.
- Holding kids clinics in the April school holidays.
- Member only signing sessions at the away game in Brisbane.
Whilst the Parramatta Eels have the highest fan engagement levels on Facebook, to date it hasn’t translated to having correspondingly high membership numbers.
This could be partly a result of the very poor on the field performance by the team over the past of couple of seasons. With a brighter start to the 2014 NRL season, the club will look to convert their high fan engagement levels to paying memberships. The cost for seat only Parramatta memberships to all games seems reasonable in comparison to other clubs and doesn’t appear to be deterrent in taking up membership.
In contrast, the Canberra Raiders have relatively low fan engagement levels, low numbers of Facebook Likes, Twitter followers as well as low levels of membership.
As this article indicates, there are a number of challenges faced by the Canberra club that no doubt contribute to these engagement levels and membership numbers.
- Whilst the club has been very successful historically winning premierships, Canberra is not a traditional NRL heartland club and has a relatively transient population who come and go from other parts of Australia to live and work.
- Unlike in other cities, the temperature for games played at night during winter in Canberra at GIO stadium can drop to near freezing levels. Canberra’s home ground is awaiting funds/approval for redevelopment to give fans a more comfortable viewing experience at home games.
- Ticket prices in Canberra have traditionally been very expensive. Whilst membership prices have been reduced for 2014, they are still relatively expensive compared to other clubs. Specifically up to $660 for undercover reserved seating at all home games, compared to $435 for the Broncos and as low as $280 for South Sydney.
- As a smaller market, Canberra does not get the same number of free to air games on Ch 9 on Friday night/ Sunday afternoon that other clubs get, reducing their potential audience exposure and appeal to sponsors.
- On the field, Canberra had a tumultuous 2013, resulting in the sacking of their coach David Furner and two of their best players in Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson.
- In 2014, they continue to be prone to occasionally losing games by a large margin. Last weekend, they lost to Manly by 54 – 18, after being down 42 – 4 at half time. This could contribute to a perception by outsiders and fans of the players as lacking in resolve and fight.
Here is a summary of the activity on the Canberra Raiders Facebook page in April 2014.
- Promoting club memberships as the hero image on the Facebook home page.
- From the Stands. A weekly column written by a Raiders member for other members.
- Thursday Trivia.
- Set of Six. A Canberra player asks answers six questions put to him by fans on the Facebook page.
- Raffle to win State of Origin tickets.
- Blog from VitalStrength on Improving tackling skills in the gym.
- Meet the players after the home game against Newcastle Knights.
- Players visit to member in hospital.
- Club 82 function at home game with the opportunity to meet Aust cricket star and membership ambassador Brad Haddin.
Recommendations for all clubs to increase fan engagement
- Make membership packages as flexible as possible for local, interstate and even international fans for however many games they can attend/not attend. Consider opening up memberships to family pets as the Broncos and Rabbitohs have done. Can a special pets area in stadiums for members pets be too far away?…. Canberra could offer a special membership for fans who have moved out of Canberra, reflective of the transient nature of people who live and work there.
- Further celebrate the history, heritage and achievements of the club. Parramatta have named their membership packages after some of the great players past and present: Kenny, Sterling, Cayless and Hayne promoting a sense of community and family. Canberra memberships on the Raiders website come across as very corporate with little reference or association with some of their past or present great players such as Meninga, Clyde and Daley et al. Fans want to feel they are joining a community, not a corporation.
- Increase the number of player appearances at community events, shopping centres, training at both home and away games to engage with fans and the wider community.
- Leverage sponsors social media networks and activities.
- Give as many games as possible a unique theme, celebrating or honoring past team or individual player achievements, even better associate it with a charity or worthy cause.
- Promote it via unique hashtags aggressively across the social media channels.
- Solicit more fan produced content and feedback for social media channels. Less conventional news reporting and more stories/opportunities for engagement.
- Have a clearer social media strategy for each channel. Don’t just replicate the same content across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Give fans an incentive to follow each of them.
- Content strategy. Do some research amongst your members and followers as to what content they would like to see on each social media channel.
- Analytics. Which posts and stories get the greatest amount of engagement on each channel?
- Lastly, winning. Being successful on the field will always help.
by Konrad Markham
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