NRL calls on fans to ‘Let’s make history happen’ in season launch campaign

by Simon Canning  / Mumbrella

The NRL is sticking with the history theme for the second year running, urging fans to get to the game and “Let’s make history happen” in a campaign that has seen the code use behavioural scientists in an effort to get the message right.

The NRL is continuing with the History theme in 2017.

The campaign, which launches tomorrow after the official season launch today, will focus on drawing fans to the game to get the full experience of the code and will target the youth market in particular.

Peter Jarmain, general manager, marketing and brand, told Mumbrella the historic Grand Final win by Cronulla last year had set up the NRL perfectly to continue to tap into the history theme.

Jarmain said the decision to launch with a teaser a week ago featuring  people leaving their porch lights on was a link to Cronulla’s historic win last year – a win that validated the history campaign and allowed the NRL to use it as a link to the new season.

“It nicely sets us up for this year,” he said.

Archibald/Williams founder Bram Williams said the strategy sought to capitalise on the on-field action, but also highlight emerging players.

“We wanted to wrap that up with this unequalled sense of community and spirit around all different people, but younger people as well,” Williams said.

The campaign has also been developed to show off the diversity of the people who follow the sport and its inclusiveness.

The NRL has seen a 16% increase year-on-year for memberships and the gap the campaign now aims to address is bringing a younger audience to the NRL and to games.

“I think one audience that we need to sharpen our focus on is youth, and that applies to males and females,” Jarmain said.

“You will see some of those cues come out quite strongly. It’s not to say we want to walk away from our core audience, that is extremely important and they always will be but we do need to make sure Australian youth are engaged with our product.”

The campaign will also draw in the three highlight rounds of the year, the ANZAC round, indigenous round and the women’s round, while State of Origin will be marketed separately.

Jarmain said the campaign would come into its own as the finals approached.

“This is a great campaign for the finals, when you think about history defining moments,” he said.

Executive creative director Matt Gilmour said after last year’s History Happens campaign the new work was designed to be more inclusive of fans.

“It’s blurring that line a little more between the fans, members and players. It’s making fans and members feel like they have a role. It’s a call to action but it’s also a really inclusive way of talking.”

The new campaign has a heavy social media element, with the work evolving from putting fans “in the moment” last year to urging them to “share the moment” this year.

“We are not making up any new behaviour, this is behaviour that exists and this is how people hear about what you are up to,” Gilmour said.

The NRL has also put the campaign through  a heavy research process, including using behavioural scientists who have assessed the communications.

“It’s just looking at things like cognitive fluency, whether the message take out is clear, whether it leaves a positive feeling at the end,” Jarmain said.

The launch of the campaign comes ahead of the NRL taking an in depth look at its brand health, with Jarmain launching a project which will benchmark where the brand sits in coming months .

“We are just getting a base and going through a process of resetting our brand metrics … and then setting some KPIs around that.”

The new campaign will roll out on free to air and subscription TV and will be supported by a social media component

Andy Reynolds