Track record and good fortune primes Athletics for rapid recovery


The Athletics season was winding-down just as Covid struck allowing grassroots clubs to finish on a social media high, backed-up by a record 700,000 Facebook engagements in 2019 and a net 142% gain since 2015. After a brief break they were straight back on the case steadily building key performance metric levels through the winter lockdowns.

A five-year Shunt analysis (2015-19) of athletics clubs has shown that the number of posts published is up 55%, while audience engagement has climbed 142% and the performance of posts (an engagement to productivity ratio) has also improved by 55%.

Productivity PB’s keep coming

Athletics clubs have consistently been building their productivity capabilities over the last five years with total Facebook posts published climbing from 23,223 in 2015 to over 36,000 last year representing a 55% (+12,860) uplift.

Engagement reaches new heights

Easily one of the most impressive statistics from the sports grassroots is its engagement profile (all Facebook reactions, comments and shares) with the 254 monitored clubs and associations delivering a five-year growth result of 142%.

Having steadily upped their Facebook post frequency game, content quality improvements have been even better with engagement growth significantly outstripping productivity gains.

More efficient performance

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 a continual improvement in athletics clubs post performance.

With the average number of engagements per post rising from 12.67 (2015) to 19.71 (2019) it suggests clubs and associations are becoming more and more effective in how they manage their time on social media.

A sure sign of a sport that has a handle on its digital communications and the impact it has on 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 the sport was on track for another big year, unfortunately as with the rest of the sector athletics was impacted by the implementation of nationwide lockdowns from April onwards.

Fortunately, with the sport out-of-season this has been kept to a minimum enabling athletics to take a short breather then start the process of quietly building towards the 2020/21 season while winter sports bore the full brunt of Covid restrictions.

Testament to the resilience of clubs and associations analysed was an impressive snapback that saw productivity levels land within striking distance of January totals by October.

Ideally positioned to bounce back

The productivity graph for athletics clubs and associations initially indicated there was a more than likely chance of another bumper year until Covid-19 hit our shores. This saw productivity fall from a 3,430 high to an eventual 1,487 low in June.

From thereon clubs staged an impressive recovery as the athletics grassroots adapted to the ‘new normal’. Monthly productivity results consistently improved right the way through to October with a 2,680 result well within reach of the January 2020 results with the athletics season looking to a later season start than last year.

Productivity for 2020 is well down on last year at 23,406 posts published as at October. With only two-months remaining for the year this suggests end of year totals won’t get close to the 2019 (36,000) result while the 2017 level looks to be within reach.  

Where productivity goes, audience engagement follows

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

In what is virtually a mirror image, engagement tracks productivity through 2020 with the exception of October where posts published continued to rise while engagement actually dips. This may well be a temporary blip, something Shunt will continue to monitor over the coming months.  

The takeaway here is that perhaps the best way for athletics clubs to continue to work their way out of the challenges presented by 2020 and return to the recent, aggressive engagement growth profile is simply to post more often? 

Despite the steady engagement uplift from athletics clubs they won’t be climbing the same heady heights as 2019 with total reactions, comments and shares as the end of October 2020 standing at 440,607.

Based on current form 2017 levels will be comfortably surpassed, but 2018 numbers will likely remain out of reach. Despite impressive previous form and some good fortune this is just another example of the disruption Covid has caused for sport this year.  

Knox knows how to build an audience

Know Grammar School are active members of the athletics community with Shunt monitoring the school’s social media accounts that includes all its activities hence the higher audience, engagement and performance levels when compared to their sport specific peers.

Looking a little further down the list TRAQ (Trail Running Association of Queensland) are also well-followed with more than 6,000 fans. In analysing 1,000’s of grassroots clubs from more than 20 sports this level of fandom is impressive. Rounding out the top three was the Sydney Striders.

Interesting to see the market split with Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland all claiming three places a piece in the Shunt Top-10. Great work by Darwin Runners and Walkers to break-up this bunch.

Tight at the top for publishing powerhouse honours

No less than three athletics clubs around the country published more than 500 posts last year in the battle for publishing powerhouse bragging rights. Taking top spot was Lalor Running club coming in at 1.56 posts per day followed by Palmerston Athletics (1.53 per day), then the Orange Runners Club (1.46 per day).  

Looking to 2020, as at the end of October Palmerston Athletics have already surpassed last year’s results with two months to go at 572. Alice Springs Athletics is a surprise entry at number two having also racked-up +500 posts published (525). A little further back in third is Ballarat YCW (461).   

Know Grammar also know how to engage

Knox Grammar are in an engagement league of their own with well over 50,000 reactions, comments and shares last year. A distant second is the Intraining Running & Triathlon club (17,427) followed by Rachel’s Runners (15,685).

There are a couple of hard-chargers a little further down the Top-10 worth keeping an eye on. In seventh, is The Running Company – Sunshine Coast who didn’t pop-up on the Shunt Facebook radar until 2017 then rapidly ramped-up engagement to 12,813 last year.

Another late bloomer is the Lalor Running Club whose account didn’t surface until a year later (2018) and landed with a thud at 8,247 engagements. The following year this had risen to 10,277 which was enough to make the Top-10 nationally.

In what is shaping-up as something of a repeat, Knox Grammar currently has 48,000 engagements as at the end of October putting it within reach or at least matching the school’s 2019 result. In second, is The Running Company – Ballarat at 14,815 which is already more than it achieved last year followed by Rachels’s Runners (13,969). 

Battle of the educators for best performer

It’s an all-educator top three for generating the best performing posts from last year. On top, once again is the Knox Grammar School who averaged an impressive 133.45 engagements per post. Next-up is The Scots College in Sydney who also are no slouches when it comes to engagement with a 84.33 result. Taking third spot is the University of Tasmania athletics club.

Research notes;

254 Athletics clubs from around Australia 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 October 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



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