Grassroots tennis deftly negotiates tumultuous 2020 on social media


Grassroots tennis in Australia deftly negotiated the many trials and tribulations of 2020 from a social media perspective when compared to a bundle of 30 sports and 8,000 clubs recently analysed by Shunt to be well-positioned for a strong return of serve this year.

A five-year Shunt analysis (2015-19) of tennis clubs and centres nationally has highlighted that the number of posts published were up 79%, while audience engagement climbed a whopping 215% helping drive the performance of posts (an engagement to productivity ratio) to a 76% uplift.

Lockdowns impact on productivity limited


Strong, year-on-year increases in the number of posts published has been the order of the day for tennis clubs and centres as productivity improved by 16% in 2016 then 20% (2017) and 10% (2018). Comfortably breaking through the 20,000 post barrier in 2019, the sport was on-track for even greater things in 2020 until Covid came along.

Tennis clubs and centres nationally have managed the disruptions associated with Covid well as content publishing dipped (only) 12.65% below 2019 levels. This is a positive result when considering the industry average impact across 8,000 clubs analysed by Shunt was -21%.

Tennis engagement easily outperforms average

While the internal productivity systems and processes across tennis clubs and centres steadily improved resulting in consistent output increases the outlook for audience engagement (total Facebook reactions, comments and shares) was even better.

2016 engagement levels were up 31% on the previous year, with 2017 returning a 35% boost and 2018 a 27% uplift.

As with all other sports Shunt has assessed to date these results couldn’t be sustained through 2020 with total reactions, comments and shares dropping from a 2019 high of almost 220,000 to 166,000 last year – representing a 24% fall. Once again though, tennis clubs easily beat the industry trend with the Shunt average coming in at a concerning 35%.

Performance levels holding-steady

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 are.

When engagement growth far exceeds increasing productivity levels the net result is continual improvement in tennis club and centre post performance from 2015 to ‘19.

With the average number of engagements per post rising from 5.45 (2015) to 9.58 (2019) it suggests the sports clubland have become more efficient in how they manage their time on social media.

A sure sign that tennis is getting a handle on its social media presence and the delicate interplay between informing and engaging audiences.

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 tennis nationally was on track for another strong year. As lockdowns first came into effect during March both productivity and engagement slid as it did for the 30 other sports that Shunt has analysed to date.

Testament to the resilience of tennis clubs and centres they took the hit on the chin, reorganised themselves and then came out firing with core Facebook social media metrics quickly stabilising and then holding steady throughout the year.

Tennis settles into ‘new normal’

Tennis clubs and centres around the country typically kick-off the year on a high note due to the buzz surrounding the Australian Open as was the case in 2020. This is reflected in the productivity results with 2,631 (January), 2,050 (February) and 2,050 (March) before Covid made its presence felt.

Content publishing halved to just 1,190 by April as lockdowns bit but this marked the beginning of a period of stabilisation, with each successive month recording similar results despite the turmoil of Covid swirling around various part of the country as the industry raced to adapt to a ‘new normal’.

By August, sufficient systems and processes were in place to allow clubs and centres to actually ramp-up their productivity topping out at 1,748 posts for the month before tapering down into the Christmas holidays.   

Despite everything tennis achieved, 2019 productivity levels couldn’t be bettered with the final tally coming-in at just over 20,000. The fact that total productivity across grassroots clubland is only 12.6% short of the previous year is testament to just how well the sport adapted to the disruptive impact of Covid, setting up tennis perfectly for a strong season in 2021.

2020 Engagement remains resilient

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 tennis organisations productivity and engagement profiles.

All the effort the sport put into stabilising its productivity work rate after the first round of lockdowns translated into similar outcomes on the engagement side of the ledger. As the number of posts published increased from August so too did the number of Facebook reactions, comments and shares.

This suggests grassroots tennis fans are both receptive and highly responsive to the content club and centres post. The takeaway here is that perhaps the fastest way for the sport to get back within striking distance of the 220,000 marker it achieved in 2019 is simply to post more often in conjunction with something approximating a regular season? 

The collective comeback by tennis clubs and centres wasn’t enough to better the exceptional results of 2019 with total reactions, comments and shares as at the end of the year standing at 165,949 equivalent to a drop of 24%. This in itself represents a massive achievement considering the turbulent year Australian sport has endured.   

Strathfield an audience all-star

As at the end of December 2020 the Strathfield Sports Club in NSW had the largest fan following amongst the 300 plus clubs and centres analysed by Shunt at 2,823.

Rounding out the top three were two Victorian clubs and centres that were fairly evenly matched amongst a select group with an audience in excess of 2,000. The runner-up was the Bendigo Tennis Centre on 2,385 closely followed by the Warrnambool Lawn Tennis Club (2,057).

North Beach breaks 500 plus barrier

Some states were less impacted by lockdown restrictions than others, which may explain in part why two WA and one Queensland club landed the top three slots for productivity. Grassroots clubs are heavily reliant on events and tournaments to drive content with both markets emerging relatively unscathed from the worst effects of Covid.

Nonetheless, producing more than a post a day is worth celebrating with or without the challenges faced by sport through 2020 so a big thumbs-up to the North Beach Tennis Club (1.48 average posts per day), the Beenleigh Tennis Centre (1.32 per day) and Sorrento Tennis (1.17 per day).  

Beenleigh is the king of content

Beenleigh Tennis Centre epitomises the Shunt golden rule of social media that the more content you publish the more engagement you are likely to receive. Having finished second for productivity the club then led the way for total reactions, comments and shares on Facebook with 5,756 last year.

It was a battle between two New South Wales clubs for the minor placings with Total Tennis Mount Hutton nabbing bragging rights over the Forster Tennis Club.

Chandler a performance powerhouse

Shunt’s performance metric is all about striking the right balance between content quality and quantity with the Chandler Tennis Centre the clear national leader from 2020 at an average engagements per post of 40.22.

Next up was the Warrnambool Indoor Tennis Centre (30.42) followed by the Castle Hill Tennis Academy (28.16).

Research notes;

306 Tennis clubs and centres nationally with a Facebook page were analysed as part of this report. Results are for Facebook only. Annual data from January 2015 to December 2020 inclusive. 2020 results from January 1st to December 31st inclusive.

Uncertain as to what 2021 has in store?
You’re not the only one! Throughout 2020, Shunt 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



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