Gavel / The games people play to get a crowd

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AS the Brumbies contemplate strategies to get people back to games at Canberra Stadium it might be worth casting an eye on the upcoming Soccer World Cup in Russia.

Tim Gavel.

The public stink between the Wallabies and the Brumbies in the lead-up to the game against the Sunwolves helped secure one of the biggest crowds of the season for the home side. The edict to rest three key Brumbies was a marketing masterstroke as the community rallied behind the decision to defy the Wallabies’ coach.

Marketing sporting events is not rocket science. To leave the comfort of home or pub and attend a live sports event possibly requires something more than simply the sport to entice fans. Nowadays, spectators are looking for an experience, preferably a good one that is memorable.

So the key to ensuring spectators at live sports’ events is to ensure a better experience than watching it at home on television.

The Raiders have done it over the past two seasons with the Viking Clap, which differentiates between watching it on television and going to the ground. It has now become a highlight of going to games at Canberra Stadium. It was adapted from the Viking chant- clap performed by supporters of the Iceland football team during their incredible run in Euro 2016.

In fact, copying from one team and using it for another is commonplace in sport. A number of football teams use “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as an anthem. The best-known and most rousing version occurs before Liverpool’s home games at Anfield. The original composition by Rodgers and Hammerstein for the musical “Carousel” became a hit for Gerry and the Pacemakers before it emerged into one of the greatest anthems for teams of all time.

The musical adaptation of the William Blake poem “Jerusalem” is given a run before and during many a sporting contest in the UK.

Many will tell you a passionate haka performed by the All Blacks can be just as emotional as the game itself.

The Port Adelaide Football Club has taken on board the INXS classic “Never Tear Us Apart” as its unofficial anthem sung before home games. I have also heard it at Newcastle Jets’ games as the team walks on to the field.

Speaking to many Brumbies’ fans there are a variety of reasons why some don’t go, while others wouldn’t miss a game.

For some it’s the inconvenience of going to games; others will say they don’t like the style of play when compared to the “golden” days. The music played at the ground during games annoys some but is enjoyed by others. It’s the cost of car parking and food that annoys others; the list goes on. I also think the constant talking down of rugby as a code doesn’t help.

There’s also the perception that Canberra Stadium is past its use-by date. At times you wonder whether people who were at one time happy to go to Canberra Stadium are now unsatisfied because they are constantly told it’s sub-standard.

For all the negatives, the game against the Sunwolves had a tremendous positive vibe generated by a week of publicity.

If I were the Brumbies, I would be keeping a close watch on the Football World Cup where many unique sporting engagement techniques will be put in place for the first time. I have seen this previously at events such as the Olympic Games where marketing comes to the fore to ensure there is a feeling that it is a major event, irrespective of the sport. The Australian Open tennis tournament is one occasion that turned tennis into an extravaganza.

There is another theory that passionate sporting fans will turn out in force if their team is winning and playing in a positive style. For the Brumbies, the key is combining both the football and the entertainment to ensure going to the games is a memorable, unique experience for all who turn up.

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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster

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