Grassroots football in South Australia were right in the firing line of a rough 2020 but collectively beat the average social media losses highlighted by Shunt’s industry analysis of 8,000 clubs from 30 sports. Helped by limited lockdowns and an ability to resume play after a relatively short hiatus clubs extracted the most from the opportunities given.
A five-year Shunt analysis (2015-19) of football clubs in South Australia has highlighted that the number of posts published were up 77%, audience engagement climbed a whopping 187% while the performance of posts (an engagement to productivity ratio) has also improved by 67%.
Productivity relatively unscathed
Strong, year-on-year increases in the number of posts published has been the order of the day for football clubs across South Australia as productivity improved by 24% in 2016 then 16% (2017) and 13% (2018) respectively. Breaking through the 20,000 post barrier in 2019, the sport was on-track for even greater things in 2020 until Covid came along.
Overall football in South Australia did well with content published dipping 6% below 2018 levels and a relatively small 13.5% reduction in 2019. Considering the industry average across 8,000 clubs analysed by Shunt was a drop of 21%, football in South Australia is well positioned to bounce back strongly in 2021.
2020 could have been much, much worse
While the internal productivity systems and processes across South Australian football 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 44% on the previous year, with 2017 returning a 27% boost and 2018 a 33% uplift.
As with every other sport Shunt has assessed to date these results simply couldn’t be sustained through 2020 with total reactions, comments and shares dropping from a 2019 high of over a half a million to just under 400,000 last year – representing a 24% drop. Once again though, football clubs beat the industry trend with the Shunt average coming in at a whopping 35%.
Trade-off limits performance losses
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 South Australian football club post performance from 2015 to ‘19.
With the average number of engagements per post increasing from 15.76 (2015) to 25.05 (2019) it suggests the sports clubland have become more and more efficient in how they manage their time on social media. Even in 2020, a smaller reduction in productivity than engagement has limited the impact Covid-19 lockdowns have had on this key metric.
A sure sign of a sport that has a handle on its social media 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.
As was the case with football in New South Wales, the 2020 Q1 productivity and engagement profiles indicate South Australia was on track for another strong year as the winter season was getting underway. As lockdowns came into effect both productivity and engagement crashed as it did for most of the 30 other sports that Shunt has analysed to date.
Testament to the resilience of South Australian football clubs they took the hit on the chin, reorganised themselves and then came out firing as soon as lockdowns were lifted with core Facebook social media metrics highlighting a spirited recovery that saw core metrics move well past pre-Covid levels by July.
As per most sports Shunt has analysed to date, the productivity profile of football clubs in South Australia was building nicely from 1,034 published posts in January to 1,615 by March just as the regular winter season was kicking into gear. Then Covid hit.
Content publishing plummeted to just 752 by April as lockdowns bit but this marked the beginning of a dramatic turnaround, with each month recording a steady climb in outputs culminating in an August result that exceeded the best pre-Covid result by over 800 posts.
Despite everything the sport achieved in 2020 productivity outputs are down on previous years with the final tally standing at 17,723. This means football will beat 2017 totals (16,617/+6.66% ) but fall short of the 2018 result (20,485).
The fact that total productivity across grassroots clubland is only 13.48% short on 2019 is testament to just how well the sport has adapted to the disruptive impact of Covid, setting up football in South Australia for a strong comeback in 2021.
Where productivity goes, engagement (sort of) follows
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 South Australian football organisations productivity and engagement profiles.
All the effort the sport put into finishing the disrupted season on a high with a massive ramp-up of productivity from April onwards was repaid with interest by Facebook fans. This is reflected in a low of 15,977 reactions, comments and shares (April) to a massive 50,840 in September.
What is interesting is the July to September ‘plateau’ of engagement that carried into October (43,282) while productivity started to dip as the delayed season came to a close. As posts published kept dropping, engagement levels benefitted from another plateau between November and December.
This suggests grassroots football fans are both receptive and highly responsive to content club’s post. The takeaway here is that perhaps the fastest way for the sport to get back within striking distance of its half-million milestone it cracked in 2019 is simply to post more often?
The collective comeback by football clubs 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 397,849. This in itself represents a massive achievement considering the turbulent year that Australian sport has endured.
Vipers have plenty of bite
As at the end of December 2020 it was a comfortable win for the St Clair Oval based Viper Football Club as the only organisation across the state to have cracked the +10,000 audience milestone (Impressive!).
Next in line were a pair of clubs with audiences in excess of 5,000. The best of these was the Adelaide City Football Club (5,748) followed closely by the Adelaide University Soccer Club (5,544).
Modbury leads +500 trio
There were a trio of South Australian football clubs who published more than 500 posts through 2020. Best of this bunch was the Modbury Vista Soccer Club (average 1.54 posts per day), the North Eastern Metro Stars delivered 1.47 posts per day with Modbury Jets on 1.41 per day.
Adelaide an engaging city
Adelaide City FC epitomises the Shunt golden rule of social media that the more content you publish the more engagement you are likely to receive. Having finished in the top five for productivity (4th/472 posts) the club then led the way for total reactions, comments and shares on Facebook with 16,636 last year.
It was a closely run battle for the runner-up spot with Modbury Jets coming home just 236 engagements ahead of the Adelaide Comets.
Savoy a performance powerhouse
Shunt’s performance metric is all about striking the right balance between content quality and quantity with the Savoy Soccer Club nabbing bragging rights as the highest performing club in the state at an average engagements per post of 41.94.
Not far behind Savoy was the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Sports and Cultural Club (39.10) then the West Adelaide Soccer Club in what was a closely run race across the Top-10.
134 Football clubs from South Australia 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.