AFL barely breaks a sweat as Covid skips west

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Western Australia was one of the more fortunate states when it came to the length and breadth of Covid lockdowns which has enabled grassroots sports to make a quick recovery and go on to big things as is the case for local AFL clubs and leagues. Already producing 22,000 Facebook posts per annum with 600,000 plus engagements, the 2020 results illustrate a quick dip followed by a stellar season finish.  

A five-year Shunt analysis (2015-19) of AFL clubs and associations in WA has shown that the number of posts published by clubs is up 57%, audience engagement has climbed 201% and the performance of posts (an engagement to productivity ratio) has also improved by 91%.

Easing-back

The 173 AFL clubs and associations analysed in WA published an additional 1,110 posts in 2016 then upped their productivity by 2,300 in 2017. Not content with this they went even further in 2018 to a whopping 3,500 posts. Last year the sports grassroots took things a little easier, ‘only’ lifting their workrate by a total last seen back in ’16.   

Doubled then ‘doubled’ again

Seen here is the engagement profile for Shunt monitored AFL club and associations in WA with the total number of reactions, comments and doubling from 2015 to 2017. Clearly not content with this impressive feat the sport went about adding another 200,000 to this tally over the following two years topping out at more than 600,000 by year’s end (2019).

Relentless efficiency drive

The real test of how healthy and robust a sports social media presence is the performance of posts published. This simple ratio that divides total engagement by the number of posts is a key indicator of how efficient and effective they really are.

When engagement growth exceeds increasing productivity levels the net result is a steady improvement. AFL clubs went very close to doubling their social media post performance in the years surveyed as the average rose from 14.56 in 2015 to 27.82 in 2019 representing a 91.11% improvement.  

This suggests that the AFL out West just keep getting better and better at striking the right balance between post quantity and quality as its content management becomes increasingly sophisticated and refined.

Then along came Covid…..

Shunt has recently published industry-wide research examining the impact Covid-19 and associated lockdowns have had on the sector.

The 2020 Q1 productivity and engagement profiles indicate the AFL in WA was on track for another big year just as the footy season was about to get underway. What followed in April was the briefest dip in productivity and almost no change in engagement as the state (and sport) skipped through short and light lockdowns with minimal disruption.

This set the AFL up to quickly re-fire and carry-on towards a huge end of season result that any sport would be envious of.

Barely a blip

It’s amazing to look at the graph above and see just how little the AFL was impacted in Western Australia compared to almost all of the other 20 sport Shunt has analysed to date.

Coming off a very hot summer, productivity numbers steadily climbed to a pre-Covid peak in March with much off the content in the latter half of the month likely informing participants of the introduction of national lockdowns and the associated consequences.

Having effectively locked Covid out of the state there was a barely a blip in productivity in April before the state and sport started to reopen and stay open (internally at least) for the remainder of the year.

By June, the number of posts were close to March levels and then productivity took off as the season get fully underway topping 2,716 posts in August before the September finals and a closing-out of the season with its corresponding dip in content activity.

Despite the limited effect lockdowns had on AFL clubs and associations in WA there were still repercussion’s with total posts published well down on last year’s results at 15,738 versus 22,043. With just one month to go before years end it’s likely that the tally will cruise past the 2016 total (15,116) leaving the 2017 result (17,381) a tougher ask.

What lockdown?

One of the truisms of social media is that if you don’t publish you won’t get an audience response. Equally, the more you post, typically the higher the engagement as is the case here when comparing WA AFL clubs productivity and engagement profiles.

In what is an almost mirror image, engagement tracks productivity through 2020 with a spike in March as audiences digested the news that their sport was being shut down suggesting that footy fans are both receptive and responsive to content clubs post.

What Shunt didn’t see coming is the smallest of engagement dips from April to June that are unlike any other sport studied to date. Coupled with the steep climb to July that kept on going through to the September finals.

In the context of the impact lockdowns have had on the rest of the country these are some truly remarkable results.

Reflecting on how the current 414,921 total reactions, comments and shares shapes-up against previous years it would appear to be a near impossible task for the 2020 result to better 613,164 from 2019. Once again, although the sport has skimmed through Covid with limited outwards signs of being impacted the best that can probably be mustered is a result close to 2018 numbers (501,628).

Great North(ern) by Southwest

Great to see the Southwest Football League has well and truly blown through the 4,000+ audience marker with a bunch of leagues and clubs giving chase having racked-up in excess of 3,000 fans. This group was led by the Great Northern Football League (3,562) followed by the first club – the Cervantes Tiger Sharks (3,506). Audience data as at December 2020.

Eaton productivity booming

The magic marker for any club or association with serious productivity aspirations is to average a post a day. In the case of AFL WA clubs no fewer than eight organisations achieved not just this feat along with a couple who went even further with two per day on average in 2019.

Best of this bunch was the Eaton Boomers who pumped-out posts at an impressive 2.05 times per day, followed by Peel Football and Netball League (2.03 per day) then the Busselton Football-Club (1.45 per day).

Looking to 2020, as at the end of November Peel Football and Netball League is currently leading the way (445) with Railways Football & Sporting Club Albany second (369) and Busselton Football-Club third (342).

Engagement on rails

The Railways Football & Sporting Club Albany well and truly have their Facebook reactions, comments and shares on ‘rails’ with a stellar 18,917 result for 2019.

A little further back from this tally is the South Bunbury Football Club (17,616) followed by the Eaton Boomers who prove that a high productivity focus translates into strong audience engagement. A lesson here perhaps for all AFL clubs and leagues in WA?

For 2020 to date (upto November) there are not many changes at the top. Currently leading the way on 12,729 engagements is the Southwest Football League, followed by the Railways club in Albany (12,305) and South Bunbury in third (11,877).

Educated performance

In the battle for bragging rights as to which WA AFL club or league is the most efficient and effective from a social media perspective there is a clear winner – Curtin Uni Wesley Football Club who averaged an impressive 79.20 engagements for each and every post they published.

A little further back was the Boxwood Hill Football Club who cracked more than 60 engagements per post while the Wickham Wolves led four clubs in the 50+ bracket.

Research notes;

173 (52 metro and 121 country) AFL clubs and associations from Western Australia only  with a Facebook page were analysed as part of this report. Results are for Facebook only. Annual data from January 2015 to December 2019 inclusive. 2020 results from January to November inclusive. 

Uncertain as to what 2021 has in store?
You’re not the only one! Throughout this year, Shunt has doubled-down on its work with our state and national sports clients to proactively expand their situational awareness. If you also want your ‘socials’ to deliver actionable insights that ensure you don’t just survive, but thrive then let’s chat. Get in touch at info@shunt.com.au

 

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