February means footy and netball kick off a brand new era

February 2017 will see Suncorp Super Netball and the NAB AFL Women’s competition kick off. Have administrators got these new competitions right? Will people tune in? Are television deals what they should be? Will fans turn up to the venues? It will be an intriguing ride in 2017. Here is a little bit of what to expect.

Suncorp Super Netball
The name is a bit of a mouthful and surely it needs the word ‘competition’ after it, but Australia’s new national netball championship gets underway on February 18 when the Giants play the Swifts. The opening weekend is made up of rivalry games with other matches featuring Victoria’s Magpies and Vixens and Queensland’s Lightning and Firebirds going at it. The Adelaide Thunderbirds also do battle with the West Coast Fever.

Played over fourteen rounds, there is a lot of talent skewed towards the newly established teams. The Collingwood Magpies are heavy favourites to take out the title with six of their likely starting seven having represented Australia at some stage. It will be interesting to see how the established clubs fan bases deal with the opening few years given their teams are most likely going to be less competitive, particularly in the Adelaide and Perth markets. Then again though, this is elite sport and anything could happen.

Fans can watch the game on free to air television, which sounds good in theory, but only two of four games every weekend are available and they are on delay on 9Gem on a Saturday night. To me if Channel Nine were really serious about this game, they would have scheduled it on their main channel and shown all games live. What does Nine usually screen on a Saturday night? A movie perhaps. Surely netball deserves some time on a major channel. You do not see the cricket hidden away on 9Gem, so why treat netball any differently? The remaining two games of every round can be watched through the Netball Live app or through Telstra TV, which will impact slightly on the ability to access the game for some, especially initially.

In terms of marketing, 9Gem have launched a campaign that has been running over the last month or so and Suncorp Super Netball have also recently launched their own advertisement, with the tagline “All on the line.” A series of marketing videos tailored specifically to every team featuring a well-known player have also been released.

Adelaide Thunderbirds player Erin Bell in a commercial produced by Suncorp Super Netball.

Suncorp Super Netball’s marketing campaign for the inaugural season.

There was a large amount of media attention upon the launch of the competition, but it has not really made too many headlines since. Going head to head with the NAB AFL Women’s League is going to make it tough initially, given how well the AFL are at marketing and keeping their sport in the news. The new netball competition is going to have to be clever in terms of offering a point of difference and to ensure that mainstream media give it some attention.

On a whole there is a stack load of talent in Suncorp Super Netball and if given the right attention and time, it has the potential to be a very successful brand and to reach the same heights of the ANZ Championship in terms of quality of competition. Gut feel though tells me that patience might be required before this one really takes off, given the current sporting landscape and television world.

NAB AFL Women’s  
I still think that the NAB AFL Women’s competition is a couple of years too early and that the AFL would have been better off waiting until they could ensure that there was enough talent to fulfil a full-scale league. However it is here now and every decision the AFL have made since the announcement of the League has been pretty positive and reassuring, in a sense that nobody is getting too far ahead of themselves.

Eight teams, made up of Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will take to the field from Friday February 3. The competition opens with a blockbuster clash between traditional rivals Collingwood and Carlton. The AFL have been clever about this one, originally scheduling the game at Olympic Park, but a large demand for tickets has seen it moved to Ikon Park. This was no doubt a premeditated move, but it is clever marketing.

Speaking of marketing, here is the campaign the AFL are using to gauge some excitement around the competition. A remake of a 1990’s AFL campaign which automatically puts the new League on the same scale as the existing one.

NAB AFL Women’s advertising campaign. 

Every game will be shown live, in high-definition on Fox Footy, with at least one game a week and the Grand Final to be shown on free to air television through Channel Seven. There will be limited secondary channel hiding away from Seven, who have shown that they are more than willing to treat sport with the respect it deserves, regardless of the gender or potential ratings. Fox Footy will also do an excellent job with respected broadcasters Neroli Meadows, Kelli Underwood, Tanya Armstrong and Adam Papalia all on board for the broadcast.

Fans can for the most part head to a NAB AFL Women’s game at no cost, apart from the double headers with the JLT Community Series. This is a great way to introduce people to the sport and to give them a good game day experience that will have them wanting more and to eventually sign up for a membership.

To their credit, not wanting to miss a slice of the action, Channel Nine have introduced a weekly Sunday night show dedicated to the NAB AFL Women’s competition. No word on whether they will actually do one for Suncorp Super Netball though, which is odd given that is the league that they have the rights for.

The NAB AFL Women’s League will gain a lot of attention in year one from every corner of the nation. The challenge will be in years to come when that intrigue factor diminishes somewhat and to determine whether the current level of talent can be sustained across an eighteen team competition, which would be the eventual aim. In terms of 2017 though, it will be quite successful and will rate well both in terms of attendance and on television.

Very rarely do we see new sporting competitions launched in Australia. To have two within a couple of weeks of each other is unprecedented. No doubt each sport will have teething issues and each sport will have areas that will exceed beyond expectations. The ratings and attendance at venues will be an intriguing sub plot. As we have seen with the Big Bash League, television networks now play a huge role in how successful a sporting product is. It is at the point now where sports administrators are less concerned with how many people turn up to the ground and more worried about how the sport is rating on television. I expect a similar theme will follow across these two sports.

The NAB AFL Women’s competition will most likely drastically out-rate Suncorp Super Netball given the respective television deals and as a result see the NAB AFL Women’s League given a huge leg up as the competitions head into year two.

What will you be watching come February? Suncorp Super Netball, NAB AFL Women’s or both? Are you limited to being able to watch given the new television deals?

Shoot us a tweet @liamthompson1 and let me know your thoughts.

Bring on February!

Picture – Mumbrella


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