AFL is an amazing Australian phenomenon that’s at no risk of slowing down with last year’s GF hitting 10 year viewership records with over 6.5M viewers.
So ahead of the 2017 AFL Grand Final, we’ve taken our data for a spin with a study of over 3 million AFL fans based on years of public data we’ve analysed in our Customer Data Platform: who they are, where they live and the brands they love. (*See how we determine public interest below)
We’ve put this together because we love AFL but we wanted to call out that the AFL and some brands mentioned are clients of Lexer, however, this analysis was done independently using Lexer’s public data.
The results make a compelling case for sponsorship as a way of winning back ground against a major competitor, the value of playing a home game in another state and the potential that membership figures don’t necessarily correlate with public interest.
Does high membership correlate to high public interest?
We found Collingwood are the most dominant team for membership and public interest, West Coast are equal 5th in both, and the Suns are the least in both categories, however, every other team is up or down in no consistent pattern.
Clubs like Carlton, Bulldogs, North Melbourne, Lions and the GWS Giants with higher rankings of public interest than membership could look toward social as an opportunity to convert fans into members or leverage their digital audience for sponsorship opportunities.
There’s also an opportunity for clubs with traditionally high membership and lower rankings of public interest to get their members more engaged on social media, particularly for clubs like Hawthorn, Richmond and the Swans, who are ranked 2nd, 3rd and 6th for membership, but rank in the lower half in public interest.
Who are the top teams for each state?
Based on interest within people who live in each state, the Bulldogs are the top team with Victorians, followed by the Magpies, Bombers and Tigers.
Looking at states with a two team rivalry, Sydney remains a clear winner in NSW with over 2.5 x the public interest of the GWS Giants. Interestingly, the gap between another new team, the Suns and sunshine state stalwarts, the Lions is much smaller in Queensland with a 60/40 split: roughly the same ratio of Crows and Power fans in SA. Interest in West Coast and Freo is basically equal in the West, with West Coast winning out by a small margin of 2%, perhaps due to their Top 8 finish?
Our research finds playing a home game in another state clearly affects brand interest there, with, Hawthorn and the Crows the top team in the state they played these games in (TAS and NT respectively).
While North Melbourne recently started playing a home game in Tassie, Hawthorn have been aligned for much longer, it’s interesting that the Bulldogs sit at number 2, maybe it’s a result of their underdog win last year?
Gaming and activewear more popular with AFL fans with the average Aussie
Sports fitness and retail is the top category of interest for AFL fans, with major sponsors like Rebel Sport, 2XU among their favourite brands. As major sponsors of the AFL, Toyota, Coca Cola, Jim Beam, Gatorade and Bunnings are also the most popular in their category for AFL fans.
It’s interesting to see the categories that rise up the ranks for AFL fans compared to all Australians, with beer, ticketing retailers and energy drinks jumping 6 spots, skate brands up 4 and gaming retail and activewear up by 3.
AFL fans are much more likely to be interested in these categories than all Aussies which could lead to some interesting team/brand partnerships.
NAB and Woolies sponsorship closes gap with competitors
ANZ have the highest level of brand interest for Australians and AFL fans, but what’s interesting is how NAB move up in the ranks. Where they’re number 3 in public interest for Australians, they leapfrog Westpac to be number 2 for AFL fans, which could be testament to the success of their sponsorship and that super cute Mini legends campaign.
Woolworth’s sponsorship of the AFL has closed the interest gap between them and major competitor, Coles. With all Australians, Woolies trails Coles by two spots but with AFL fans they are only one position behind. Closing this gap could be a result of the AFL sponsorship and we think they might want to continue their sponsorship in 2018 to see what kind of further ground they can take.
Ford, VW could expand existing popularity
As well as having the greatest market share, Toyota is Australian’s most popular car brand, and the AFL fan’s favourite. It’s also the AFL’s premier partner.
Ford wins the Aussie car brand rivalry, with Holden failing to make the Top 5. There may be an opportunity here for Holden to extend their Collingwood partnership to the entire league to move into the top of the table.
Interestingly, VW leapfrogs Audi in brand interest for AFL fans, so there may also be an opportunity to gain more ground by expanding their sponsorship of the Sydney Swans too.
Alongside McDonalds, KFC are top of the public interest ladder within fast food
KFC takes the top spot, which could be a result of their sponsorship of NRL and Cricket which are both very popular with AFL fans.
BMW have the second highest auto interest with AFL fans, and are interestingly the only car brand in the top 5 who don’t have a sponsorship deal with either a code or a specific team. Perhaps they should consider aligning with the AFL to convert social fans and move up in market share (currently they’re ranked 13th in the Top 20).
Cats fans love pet care brands!
One of our favourite finds is Geelong Cats fans are twice as likely to be into Petcare brands than any other team, with Purina being their favourite brand. Surely a match made heaven?
NWA and Guy Sebastian would be the ultimate GF finals show
The Killers will definitely put on a killer show, but our data found Richmond and Crows supporters’ favourite artists are Guy Sebastian and NWA. They and Jessica Mauboy are also favourites with fans of all final 8 teams – imagine that mash-up performance?! (If NWA could still put on a show)
You might remember our last study found NWA are one of the most popular artist/group with Game of Thrones fans – clearly they have broad appeal!
**How do we calculate interest?
Lexer’s powerful Customer Data Platform is monitoring millions of mentions, engagements and other public signals in real-time, to determine direct interest in over 16,000 topics and brands. For more information on our methodology and how it could help garner genuine understanding of your audience, please reach out.