Who’s more meta? 2023 AFL v NRL club analysis.

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While NRL clubs collectively have the edge when it comes to their Meta fanbase over the AFL, the latter are publishing more posts and getting higher engagements 9-months into 2023 with plenty of interesting things bubbling away beneath the surface as our latest research report highlights.

6-Pack Takeaway

  1. NRL clubs have the edge when it comes to Meta fans. Is State of Origin the key driver here or is something else at play?
  2. Publishing outputs are higher on both Meta platforms for AFL clubs when compared to NRL peers. There’s not a huge amount in it but there appears to be slightly different strategies at play?
  3. Facebook fan growth for both has slowed to a crawl at a little over 1% while Instagram still has some life left in it yet, ripping along at more than 10% for 2023.
  4. It’s remarkable how in sync the AFL and NRL Meta editorial calendars are. It’s almost like a comms collective hive mind has evolved between the codes 35 clubs?!?!
  5. Higher collective publishing outputs by AFL clubs have translated to bigger engagement results than the NRL. We know from previous research that there is a close correlation between the two. Do NRL clubs just need to post more in order to catch-up to their AFL counterparts?
  6. Interesting to see the State of Origin impact on NRL club fan engagement with peaks being pushed to the middle of the season on Facebook rather than a traditional September finals high as is the case with the AFL.

Facebook Fan Growth

NRL clubs have done a better job of building their Facebook fanbase than the AFL, to the tune of close to 1 Million followers from fewer* teams.

AFL

  • 49,500 Facebook 2023 total fan growth (Jan-Sep)
  • 1.20% Increase in total fanbase (4.20M)

NRL

  • 90,500 Facebook 2023 total fan growth (Jan-Sep)
  • 1.80% Increase in total fanbase (5.15M)

NB. Facebook fan growth all AFL (18) and NRL (16) clubs, 2023. *Not inclusive of Dolphins (NRL).

Instagram Fan Growth

NRL clubs are also widening their lead on Instagram, with clubs up 399k fans in 2023 compared to the combined AFL increase of 314k.

AFL

  • 314,000 Instagram 2023 total fan growth (Jan-Sep)
  • 9.60% Increase in total fanbase (3.57M)

NRL

  • 399,000 Instagram 2023 total fan growth (Jan-Sep)
  • 12.00% Increase in total fanbase (3.73M)

NB. Instagram fan growth all AFL (18) and NRL (16) clubs, 2023. *Not inclusive of Dolphins (NRL).

Facebook post publishing

Average AFL club Facebook post publishing outputs comfortably outpaced NRL club peers.

AFL

  • 23,127 Total 2023 Facebook posts published (Jan-Sep)
  • 143/4.8 Average monthly/daily Facebook posts per team

NRL

  • 18,525 Total 2023 Facebook posts published (Jan-Sep)
  • 121/4.0 Average monthly/daily Facebook posts per team

AFL and NRL club editorial calendars are closely synced with very little daylight between them when comparing monthly post allocations.

AFL

  • August Peak 2023 Facebook publishing (Jan-Sep)
  • 3,441/14.88% August publishing total/percentage of total posts

NRL

  • August Peak 2023 Facebook publishing (Jan-Sep)
  • 2,691/14.53% August publishing total/percentage of total posts

Instagram Post Publishing

Average AFL club Instagram post publishing outputs also outpace NRL club peers.

AFL

  • 16,170 Total 2023 Instagram posts published (Jan-Sep)
  • 100/3.3 Average monthly/daily Instagram posts per team

NRL

  • 12,924 Total 2023 Instagram posts published (Jan-Sep)
  • 84/2.8 Average monthly/daily Instagram posts per team

AFL clubs go harder in April (+1.34%) on Instagram than the NRL who in turn crank-up outputs during September finals more than their peers (+2.68%).

AFL

  • August Peak 2023 Instagram publishing (Jan-Sep)
  • 2,462/15.23% August publishing total/percentage of total posts

NRL

  • August Peak 2023 Instagram publishing (Jan-Sep)
  • 1,832/14.18% August publishing total/percentage of total posts

Facebook Fan Engagement

AFL clubs higher publishing outputs translate to better fan engagement outcomes than their NRL counterparts.

AFL

  • 33.3M Total 2023 Facebook fan engagement (Jan-Sep)
  • 206K/6.9K Average monthly/daily Facebook engagement per team

NRL

  • 27.5M Total 2023 Facebook fan engagement (Jan-Sep)
  • 179K/6.0K Average monthly/daily Facebook engagement per team

State of Origin pushes peak fan engagement for NRL clubs to mid-season while AFL has its moment during the traditional September finals month.

AFL

  • September Peak 2023 Facebook fan engagement (Jan-Sep)
  • 6.0M/17.94% September engagement total/percentage of total posts

NRL

  • July Peak 2023 Facebook fan engagement (Jan-Sep)
  • 3.8M/13.84% July engagement total/percentage of total posts

Instagram Fan Engagement

AFL clubs 25% margin for Instagram post publishing translates to a 35% higher result for engagement over NRL clubs.

AFL

  • 92.0M Total 2023 Instagram fan engagement (Jan-Sep)
  • 568K/19.0K Average monthly/daily Instagram engagement per team

NRL

  • 68.4M Total 2023 Instagram fan engagement (Jan-Sep)

447K/14.9K Average monthly/daily Instagram engagement per team

AFL club Instagram audiences are most engaged in August in the build-up to the finals while for NRL fans it’s all about the September premiership race.

AFL

  • August Peak 2023 Instagram fan engagement (Jan-Sep)
  • 15.0M/16.25% August publishing total/percentage of total posts

NRL

  • September Peak 2023 Instagram fan engagement (Jan-Sep)
  • 10.2M/14.95% September publishing total/percentage of total posts

Report fine-print:

  • Analysis of AFL (18) and NRL (17) club Meta accounts.
  • No AFLW or NRLW profiles included in this report.
  • NRL fan totals exclude Dolphins.
  • NRL posts publishing and engagement inclusive of Dolphins. 
  • Sample period January 1 to September 30, 2023 (9-months)
  • Monthly/daily average calculation based on a 30-day month.
  • Percentage graph reflects proportion of the total generated in a given month.

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