How AFL clubs are combatting external noise with social media
Blocking out external noise was the MO of anyone who fronted the media in a Richmond polo this week. It’s a phrase Richmond Coach Damien Hardwick used seven times during Thursday's nine-minute media conference.
Having missed the mark in 2016 — Hardwick and captain Trent Cotchin used 'external noise' to describe the media tirade that descended on the club following an 88-point loss to Greater Western Sydney.
The Age's Rohan Connolly put it best over the weekend when he described the current style of football broadcasts as "pseudo reality entertainment shows." Players, coaches and organisations can be criticised, lauded, hailed contenders and pretenders and back again within the span of four quarters. Football writers and commentators taking their opinions and commentary to extremes for the sake of ratings and readership.
Similarly when Collingwood came under fire earlier in the year, coach Nathan Buckley said there were too many people in the media trying to be the news, and that a win is never as good as it seems and a loss never as bad — this level-headed outlook wouldn't exactly see copies of the Herald Sun flying off the rack, would it?
Fans of Richmond, Essendon and Brisbane in particular have had their patience tested this season for entirely different reasons. Instead of allowing the narrative to be shaped for them in the press — clubs have turned to social media — using their voice to unite fans and build engagement with a flow on to ticket sales, memberships and potential sponsorships despite disappointing on field performances.
Here's a look at how these clubs have used social to combat external noise and keep the faith among their faithful during low points in the season.
A TURBULENT WEEK AT TIGERLAND
Influential voices like Kevin Bartlett often set the football agenda on Melbourne radio, and when the notoriously over-confident ex-Tiger took Richmond to task on Monday, it was enough to create a swell of debate, criticism and angst that few other clubs would have to endure.
“What fans would say on the weekend is they played without any passion whatsoever and it didn’t look like they were playing for the coach," an incensed Bartlett claimed.
“What fans won’t accept is a lack of genuine effort. By not having a go. Appearing disinterested. Refusing to chase or run hard. And devoid of confidence.”
Richmond's approach to its social activity was much in line with that of the entire club — to weather the storm and if anything, display unity by not reacting to the external noise.
Instead of entering damage control, the direction that the Tiger's social content took was to acknowledge, move on and turn its attention to positives in celebrating the milestone game of favourite son Dustin Martin.
As it turns out it was wise not the hit the panic button with Richmond claiming victory on Friday night — which should go a long way in quelling the negativity from media and fans.
BABY BOMBERS' SEASON OF PROMISE
With an end in sight to the supplement saga that has dogged the football club since 2011, the challenge for Essendon has been to keep their fan base engaged and full of optimism in the face of an entire season in limbo.
Essendon's social goal has been to show empathy towards fans and acknowledge how hard the period has been, while emphasising the future prospects of emerging young players.
BRISBANE LIONS FINDING HOPE FROM THE RUBBLE
Just two wins from 19 outings has seen everyone at the Lions from coach Justin Leppitsch to the captain and senior players come under increasing scrutiny for months on end. With disastrous on field performances — including 138-point and 94-point losses respectively in the past two weeks and as match attendances continue to decline - the club's social team has had to work overtime to keep fans interested.
This sleek and stirring hype video posted mid-way through the season was a deliberate point to the future for fans, giving them plenty to look forward to despite the current circumstances. The timing of the video was impeccable, posted the morning of a rare win against fellow cellar dwellers Essendon.
The announcement of the national womens competition licensees and subsequent marquee player signings provided plenty of feel-good content for fans to amerce themselves in at a time when the future of the football club was being heavily debated in the media.
The Lions made the conscious decision to show a human side to their social engagement, with a series of behind the scenes videos made in conjunction with major sponsor Hyundai. The videos reveal the work that goes into bringing content to fans and have received an overwhelmingly positive response from fans.
It has been a different take on fan engagement which has reinforced the sense of community among supporters and seems to be strengthening the relationship between the club and fans regardless of on field performance.
What do you look for from your club's social activity when things aren't going so well? Share in the comments below.