Clubland is back in business after chaotic Covid years

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After a torrid couple of years due to rolling disruptions it’s great to see that clubland is back in business with social media post publishing outputs on par with Pre-Covid 2019 performance while the all-important audience engagement metric is also now within striking distance.

TL;DR 2022 Social Media Clubland Summary

  • The AFL has the largest number of socially active clubs at 1,820 followed by cricket (1,609) and Football (1,330).
  • Total Facebook audiences across the sector are up 10% from 2021 to an impressive 24.2M.
  • The sport with the highest average audience is Ice Skating (clubs often double-up as facilities) at 6,248 followed by Motorcycling (3,858) and Muay Thai (3,680).
  • 2.3M Facebook posts were published in 2022 with AFL clubs accounting for 350,000 (this has doubled since 2015) followed by Football (250,000) and NRL (181,000) clubs.
  • 50.5M Facebook reactions, comments and shares were generated in 2022 by clubs with the AFL contributing 11.4M followed by Football (5.6M) and the NRL (4.8M).
  • Motorsport clubs averaged 51 engagements per post in 2022 followed by Windsurfing (36) and Motorcycling (33) clubs.
  • Social media profiles of 17,500 clubs from 70 sports were analysed by Shunt in compiling this report.

Chain Reaction

One of the biggest takeaways from Covid is the reliance that clubland has on a regular events calendar in order to generate content. When this was disrupted or in some cases entire seasons cancelled a feedback loop kicked into gear that we’d never seen before that went something like this……

Step 1: In the absence of an events calendar clubs had nothing to talk about,

Step 2: If they have nothing to talk about then audiences have nothing to engage with,

Step 3: If audiences have nothing to engage with then they start to drift with potential knock-on implications for participation…..

Social Media as a Utility

This Covid chain reaction confirmed what we had long suspected – that social media has now become an integral part of the delivery of grassroots sport. So much so that we now view it as a key sector “utility” similar to gas, electricity or telecommunications.

Canary in the Coalmine

Social media is not only useful in better understanding how clubland was impacted by Covid and how it serves as an essential “utility” for the delivery of sport. In fulfilling these roles it also acts as a proxy for the overall health of the sector.

Back on track!

2022 was the first full year since 2019 that Covid lockdowns have not been a disruptive influence on grassroots sports. So what can social media data tell us about how sport has responded?  

Regular events calendar = Post publishing recovery

Notes: Post publishing is up 59% from 2015-22
 
The total number of posts published by grassroots clubs last year came in at 2.3M putting the sector within striking distance of the 2019 tally (110,000 less). After a rough couple of years this key indicator of club output has already recovered the ground it lost through Covid – a remarkable achievement.
 
Springboard for new highs
Notes: Facebook reactions, comments and shares are up 171% from 2015-22
 
While the post publishing hit in the first year of Covid (2020) was bad with a 18% fall from the previous year, the impact on audience engagement (Facebook reactions, comments and shares) was much worse at 29%.
 
It was this metric in particular that was of concern as it suggested the audience drift away from clubland had been significant. That’s why it’s so pleasing to see how well this has recovered in 2022 down less than 5% (2.4M engagements) from the 2019 high.  
 
Both the post publishing and audience engagement results for 2022 represent the ideal springboard for clubland to set new highs this year as clubs continue to engage their local communities.
 
Quality before quantity suggests growing sophistication
Notes: Average engagements per post are up 70% from 2015-22
 
Average engagements per post is a useful metric to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of published content. The aim is too not post to little that reactions, comments or shares are potentially missed while also not posting too often that audiences are “spammed” and turn-off.
 
As can be seen here average engagements per post in 2022 have by chance recorded exactly the same result as the previous 2019 peak.
 
After years of struggling to find something to talk about, good quality content is now front and centre for clubs effectively outperforming the rate at which posts are published. Suggesting growing maturity and sophistication in how clubs are managing their socials.
 
Relief and cause for optimism
The team at Shunt were really interested to see how clubland would respond after two challenging years. It’s both a huge relief and source of optimism to see that the overall health of the sectors critical grassroots has bounced back as strongly as it has.
 
Roll on 23!

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