Executive Creative Director

in Sport

April 4, 2016

It’s that time of year again when the country’s two biggest football codes go head-to-marketing-head, promoting their new season of on-field action. Yes, it’s NRL vs AFL in an advertising battle played out on screens large and small across the nation.

At stake is bragging rights and the title of Australia’s dominant football code, as judged by an array of stats-driven metrics including live crowds, broadcast viewers, sponsorship dollars, media coverage, club membership numbers and fan passion indices.

While all those numbers will play out via blockbuster clashes in the coming months, the battle can also be judged on a purely subjective creative basis, which is what I’m going to do now.

As coincidence would have it (or due to the modern market-research driven world we live in), both codes have opted for a ‘fan first strategy’ in their advertising campaigns. The NRL got the first punch in by launching in late Feb, but so they should: their season kicks off a full three weeks before the AFL.


The NRL has finally made the call to ditch their traditional ‘celebrity + famous song + game highlights montage’ formula that has dominated the past umpteen seasons, moving to a strategy that highlights the benefits of seeing the game live: ‘Be there when history happens’. Which is pretty smart.

Why? Well, since Tina Turner belted out ‘Simply the Best’, the game has evolved into an almost perfect TV sport, with some of the most compelling live broadcast coverage going around. NRL blokes are big, the arena relatively small, and the fast and furious linear tackling action confined to a perfect widescreen format. It is entertaining; that’s a given. Broadcasters have made League coverage so compellingly good that it’s gonna take a lot to get the punters away from their 60-inch plasmas, off their comfy couch and into often poorly equipped stadiums. It’s not an easy sell on entertainment alone.

NRL: Be There When History Happens