With Brisbane named the IOC’s preferred partner to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2032, the opportunity for Australia to nominate a new sport is a very real possibility.
Gemba’s Global Insights program indicates that there are only four sports (outside of our indigenous AFL) that Aussies are more passionate about than other Olympics heavy hitting nations – Cricket, Rugby League, Netball and Rugby Union.
If the Olympics are hosted in Brisbane in 2032, this provides a unique opportunity to nominate a sport that is unlikely to be heroed by other countries. But which is our strongest foot to put forward?
Rugby League and Union purists have been making a case for many years to expand beyond the current 7’s offering but it is hard to see how another Rugby format would be reflective of the IOC’s desire to innovate. Locally both sports also skew male and older, a stark contrast to the shifts in audience the IOC is looking for.
Cricket would provide us an opportunity to put a spotlight on what Gemba’s insights identify as the country’s most marketable men’s and women’s representative teams, a great addition to what we can assume will be an already impressive line-up of athletes. (Not to mention, we would have a great chance of taking home some jewelry.) But while locally Cricket has both passion and reach on its side, you only have to look at the current international schedule to see the appetite to compete isn’t there for most countries.
There are also rumours that the sport is already due for a Games comeback in 2028, and there are more regular opportunities for our teams to compete against the best in the world.
For me – its Netball’s time.
As a fan, a female and a marketer I would love to see the Diamonds have this chance. Netball’s fan base skews younger than most of the top sports in Australia; it’s dominated by women at the elite level which would contribute to the gender diversity of the games; and for at least all of my life Australia has been arguably the best in the world.
Netball is already a highlight of the Commonwealth Games, and this could be just the catalyst the sport needs to grow into non-Commonwealth countries.
Sure, its reach here is nowhere near Cricket or Rugby League but with 930k people tuning in for the Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final in 2020, there is definitely an audience for the big games.
And while there is an argument that the sport (like Rugby and Cricket) isn’t global enough, passion is higher in India than Australia and there is a market in other powerhouse nations like Brazil and China, so there is still a large international audience available.
If we pick our focus early, we can spend the best part of the next 10 years building our case.
So what’s next? We need to take a leaf out of synchronised swimming’s book and lean into and not away from the female focus of the game. We need to continue to improve the employment standards to keep the best elite talent in the sport and maintain our chance of gold in 2032. And we need to invest our time and money converting the hundreds of thousands of child participants into fans, to strengthen the game’s youth audience.
If we do these things well, we could make a real case for Netball and the Diamonds could be the stars of the 2032 Olympics.
Laura Wrigley is a Senior Marketing Consultant at Gemba.