How Your AFL Team Is Using Facebook Ads
Updated: Jul 1
Recently, I have devoted much of my time to the study of sports marketing and branding.
It comes as no surprise that the world-leaders in this area are multi-billion-dollar franchises like the Dallas Cowboys, Manchester United and the New York Yankees. These clubs can afford to splash out on the very best in marketing departments.
But what about here in Australia? What efforts are AFL club marketing departments making to connect with their supporters? What messages are they sending and on what platforms? While most AFL clubs have room for improvement in the digital space, I was pleased to find that all 18 clubs have a Facebook pixel tracking code embedded on their official website.
This means that AFL club marketers can target advertisements to supporters who have visited their website, previous shop customers and many other opportunities. So, marketing on Facebook is clearly an objective for the clubs, so the next step was to discover the why.
Every Facebook advertising campaign must have a purpose, it is no different for a professional sports club. It is February, so most clubs are directing their advertising spend to driving membership and merchandise sales for the upcoming season. A handful of clubs are promoting season launch tickets and general promotion of the AFL Women’s season, which is currently in-season.
Adelaide are using a Nintendo Switch to drive sales for the Crows Women’s Team Junior Membership. The Crows are also running campaigns driving membership for the 2019 AFL season and a job offer at the club.
Brisbane appear to be going all out with their Facebook strategy in February. The Lions are running multiple membership campaigns focusing on video, experimenting with different content but keeping the copywriting the same. The Lions may be split-testing the video campaigns and building audiences to retarget to in future campaigns. The club also has two advertisements promoting an upcoming AFL Women’s game, with traffic being directed to the club website. With the Facebook pixel installed on the site, the Lions have many retargeting options to people who engaged with these ads.
Carlton are the club that seem the most invested into Facebook advertising this month. The Blues have multiple campaign objectives and are testing with a variety of ad types and creative. The club is promoting Valentine’s Day merchandise specials at the club shop, a membership upgrade and the Carlton College of Sport.
Collingwood appear similarly invested and have multiple video campaigns driving membership sales and a function after a pre-season game in Perth.
Essendon are using carousel ads and have used similar creative while experimenting - most likely split-testing - with the message.
Fremantle are running membership ads, only changing minor aspects of the copy and using star player Nat Fyfe has the main promotional factor.
Gold Coast are promoting a video of new recruit Corey Ellis visiting Mackay ahead of the pre-season series – but nothing about membership or merchandise.
Greater Western Sydney have put a focus on its AFLW side by promoting membership sales and the upcoming game. Interestingly, like fellow expansion club Gold Coast, the Giants are also not running any campaigns to drive membership for the AFL team.
Hawthorn are promoting a corporate partnership with United Petroleum and have other campaigns directed to merchandising and a premium function at the Hawks’ first game in Adelaide this year.
Melbourne are promoting a program it facilitated in partnership with Chisholm Sports Academy, but nothing regarding membership of merchandise.
North Melbourne created advertisements driving membership, sales to a season lunch and another membership recruitment drive themed towards Valentine’s Day.
Port Adelaide also ran a stock-standard season launch, membership campaign advertising duo.
Richmond have no Facebook campaigns regarding membership, merchandise or season launches, but they are running a campaign aimed towards driving ticket sales to a corporate event on the Gold Coast later in the year.
Sydney are running a campaign for a corporate package deal and a membership special.
West Coast have a campaign for its upcoming season launch.
Strangely, Geelong, St Kilda and Western Bulldogs are not running any advertisements on Facebook.