3 December 2019

Emotionally connecting fans to sport: Raiders and the Brumbies are on the right track

| Tim Gavel
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Passionate Raiders fans

There’s more to connecting with fans than just winning. Photo: Jennifer Andrew.

Most people know that there is more to gaining emotional support from fans of sport than simply winning. Sure, winning helps, but if other factors aren’t taken care of, winning in the minds of supporters can appear hollow.

We have seen it in the past in Canberra. There was a disconnect between fans and the Raiders during the Super League war, while the Brumbies, at times, have struggled to attract a crowd. Remember when the Cheetahs played the Brumbies in the 2013 semi-final?

The release of the 2019 True North Research BenchMark Report shows just how far the teams have progressed since then.

True North looked at the emotional connection fans have with their sporting teams via a list of core values: respect, enjoyment, trust, pride and bond.

Significant to the survey’s output is that for fans it wasn’t so much about winning, it was more about the team’s ability to connect with supporters.

Of NRL teams, the Raiders jumped to fourth place in terms of emotional connection with fans, which is no mean feat when you consider the size of the city. The Melbourne Storm came out on top among the NRL clubs, followed by Souths, North Queensland then the Raiders.

The Raiders’ connection with fans has taken a lot of hard work, including Ricky Stuart’s committed and sincere engagement with the supporter base, the Viking Clap, coupled with the team’s on-field success.

As an indication that winning isn’t everything, the Raiders were rated ahead of the premiership winners, the Sydney Roosters.

The club’s engagement with the media has also stepped up to a new level. For the first time the club held a pre-season media open session where the club outlined its plans for the 2020 season. These things are usually kept in-house, away from the media.

The Brumbies are ranked second among Australian Super Rugby teams, behind the Queensland Reds, in terms of emotional connection.

The Brumbies, who finished one game away from the Grand Final, have made no secret of their desire to re-engage with their supporter base.

This year they held an open forum to discuss the results of a fan survey. This generated many suggestions from fans, including players spending time with supporters after games.

What has been demonstrated is a conviction from both teams to put their supporters at the front-and-centre of everything they do. After all, without fans, there would be no team.

It is what has driven Canberra’s women’s sporting teams for many years because they have less corporate sponsorship dollars bankrolling their clubs. They are highly dependant on crowd attendance for survival and because of this, they really know how to respond to those people who are willing to support them, win or lose.

Original Article published by Tim Gavel on The RiotACT.

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