The NRL’s chief digital officer Rebekah Horne joined B&T’s Ministry of Sports Marketing speaker line-up on Tuesday, to divulge some winning secrets on how the NRL has accrued a cumulative 10 million + fan base on social media.
“We have a larger audience following than any other global sport,” Horne said.
“And they’re incredibly passionate and incredibly engaged.”
The NRL launched ‘Mission Control’, their real-time publishing project, in 2013 to up the ante on fan engagement.
“People get quite engaged through Mission Control and we were able to harness that and drive our reach further,” Horne said.
“We have built a significant capability in this real time publishing model.
“We literally have a room with eight or 10 screens, just watching for conversations coming up so we can respond with a piece of content or engage fans in conversation to get as close to them as possible.
“We’re creating unique content that brings them as close to the game and their heroes as they can get,” Horne added.
“We’re also getting fans in behind-the-scenes for money-can’t-buy access, while players create a lot of content themselves too.
“There’s a real sense that the community has access and is able to interact through this model.”
Horne said the NRL digital team was constantly working to create memes, films, imagery and video content to keep fans engaged on a multitude of levels.
“We want to give fans the ability to be engaged through a touchpoint when their team isn’t necessarily playing,” she said.
“We’re moving to a world where we create a lot more video content, particularly for mobile devices in shorter forms, adding that some of the best content comes from game day updates, injury reports, and match highlights.
“The real time publishing model is really important for live sport. Five or 10 seconds is too late in a lot of instances.
“We’re big on user generated content, particularly around Origin and finals where fans go overboard. So we surface those at grounds and encourage people to engage with us in some way, then surface that on the big screen.
“It’s not about giving fans what already exists but pushing boundaries and trying to integrate broader platforms with what we do.”
Horne cited examples like the State of Origin Trivia Bot on Facebook messenger that challenged fans on their NRL knowledge, while Instabilia allowed players to bid on pieces of game memorabilia through social media.
“A product-led thing rather than sponsor-led thing is always a better decision for fans,” Horne added.
“The other thing we try to do is use lifestyle images, like Wives and Girlfriends fashion, to broaden out the appeal of a sport from that might be perceived as a male-dominated interest.
“It’s all about getting content into the hands of fans as quickly as possible.”