‘We didn’t want to see this as just an ad’: R\GA, BRING and A-Leagues on embedding sonic identity in culture

As many of Australia’s capital cities emerged out of some version of lockdown restrictions in the last months of December last year, the Australian Premier League (A-Leagues) saw an opportunity to embed itself in Australian culture with the launch of a new branded anthem and sonic identity.

“The game is crucial, but its what we put around the game,” said the A-League’s chief commercial officer, Ant Hearne at the BRING Artist X Brands Summit at the overseas passenger terminal on Thursday.

The challenge of creating a new brand anthem for the sports code was handed to R\GA in August 2021 following a competitive pitch, giving the agency 10 weeks to build the new anthem and campaign before the beginning of the 2021-2022 A-Leagues season. The new positioning came off the back of the A-League’s (formerly the APL) rebrand also led by R\GA.

Explaining the three key barriers to growth the campaign would need to overcome, managing director of R\GA Sydney, Victoria Curro, said: “The first was that there was a real lack of identity around A-Leagues in Australia, you couldn’t really describe it, there was no personality – it was kind of bland, it didn’t cut through. The second, in that absence of personality people kind of compared football  to the incomparable – to the EPL, to European football. That was a battle that we didn’t want to get into, that we knew we wouldn’t win. The third was the fact that there’s sport everywhere in Australia. There’s no shortage of sport if you want to go and watch it and everyone is competing for bums on seats.”

Victoria Curro, managing director, R\GA Sydney

In response to these challenges, R\GA did three key things. First, they created the new brand identity for the A-Leagues, second, they created their own stories around A-Leagues, and thirdly they made it greater than sport itself.

Driven by the A-Leagues commercial strategy of attracting and engaging a broader group of next generation football fans in Australia, the campaign and brand platform was designed to intersect with popular culture in an authentic way.

While creatives behind the campaign initially put forward an idea to involve 11 artists in the campaign, the agency worked with Universal Music creative consultancy BRING to connect with the right artists for the brand: Young Franco, Tkay Maidza and Nerve. The campaign that resulted was built on the new brand platform, ‘Here Comes the Future’, spearheaded by brand anthem Real Nice (Here Comes the Future (H.C.T.F)).

Since its launch in November, the Real Nice anthem has been featured heavily on alternative and commercial radio and Channel 10’s Home of Football, as well as making Spotify’s Hot Tracks list, Triple J’s top ten most played, and garnering more than 180k views on YouTube.

The panel was also join by Australian DJ and producer, and one of the artists behind the new track, Joey Da Rin de Barbera, better known as Young Franco.

Barbera was joined on the track by fellow Australian artists Tkay Maidza and Nerve, who also featured in the music video created for the anthem, which aired on the 20th of November 2021 during Ten’s coverage of a Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers match.

For Barbera, football had been a huge part of his life, having played since he was five years old.

“To get this opportunity, and to get hit up about this was fantastic,” said Barbera. “I kind of heard whispers about it, I think it like October you guys were having conversations about it, and I kind of already knew what I wanted to do with it.”

Speaking to the thought and purpose behind the songs production, BRING executive creative director James Griffiths said: “First and foremost, we needed a track that could work on radio, it could sit alongside any other great song out their on Triple J, and feel part of our ecosystem, feel very authentic to what the artists wanted to say.

“Getting that Triple J number one was just amazing, I mean that was such a big get. We knew then that we had created something really exciting and interesting and cultural and relevant.

“It really needed to have a life beyond just the track and really embed what ‘Here Come the Future’ means, in an audible sense.”

“Hopefully its got legs for years to come,” added Griffiths. “I know its been a great successful first season, but hopefully it can continues to evolve and live in different ways as the brand continues to explore its sonic identity.”

Ant Hearne, chief commercial officer, A-Leagues

Chief commercial officer for A-Leagues, Ant Hearne, explained the importance of authenticity when it came to creating a new, and enduring sonic identity for the A-Leagues brand.

“It needed to be authentic to football,” he said. “That was a really important part of it I think and when we were looking for options around the artists, we were really looking for people who had that genuine connection with football.”

Echoing Griffith’s, Hearne also noted the campaign was a long term investment into the brand, and was something they want to continue to iterate and evolve.

“We didn’t want to see this as just an ad. We didn’t want to see this as just a music video and a song. We wanted to see this as part of our brand, the sonic part of our brand. So we’ve tried to execute on that this season, but we’re only at the beginning.”

The first leg of the campaign culminated in the first ever live performance of the anthem during the pre-game and half-time entertainment at the A-League grand final game on the 28th of May at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

Adding to the sentiments shared by Griffiths and Hearne, Curro said there’s lots to come, especially given the interruptions of omicron had that hinder some of the agency’s plans for various campaign iterations.

In terms of what’s next, she said there is “a lot more to come” as the group continue to embed A-Leagues into culture, alluding to the fact that there will be lots of exciting things to come next season.


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