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Yoshi campaign has ‘done wonders’ for football as A-League TV rights talks continue

Negotiations are continuing over the next A-League media rights deal as Football Federation Australia (FFA) claimed its campaign to encourage kids to support a club has been a social media hit.

FFA head of marketing, digital and fan engagement, Rob Squillacioti, said the campaign has generated half-a-million engagements on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram since it launched earlier this month, while activity on the FFA Twitter handle has seen a near seven-fold increase.

After two rounds of the A-League, Squillacioti said the campaign’s three metrics of success – increased crowds, TV audiences and club memberships – were all up by 33%, 44% and 6%, respectively.

The BMF-created campaign ‘You’ve gotta have a team’ has seen a 10-year-old boy, Yoshi, visit all 10 A-League clubs as he hunts for a club to support. His decision is expected to be announced shortly.

The objective is to motivate young footballing families not just to play the sport but to actively follow a club.

Squillacioti told Mumbrella Yoshi’s journey, which is detailed on a campaign website, has “done wonders for us and activated the football community”.

Yet despite improved TV ratings – helped by the Sydney and Melbourne derbies in the opening two rounds of the season  – the FFA remains disappointed that SBS is broadcasting its live Friday night game on its secondary channel, SBS2.FFA logo

Squillacioti said it is a decision for SBS as to which channel it broadcasts the game but acknowledged that viewing figures are higher on the main channel.

“There were bigger numbers on SBS and it is important for us to have the bigger reach, but ultimately it is a decision SBS have made,” he said. “They are our partners and that is important, but we would loved to have stayed on SBS One.”

The FFA is desperately keen to attract the interest of the free-to-air network as it negotiates the next rights deal that will kick off from next season.

Football’s governing body is hoping to double the $160m, four-year deal is struck previously.

“There is lots of interest from many different media companies,” Squillacioti said.

Growing crowds and higher TV audiences will be key to helping to push up the price and, while early days, the season has started well, with the Sydney and Melbourne derbies helping to drive up attendances and TV audiences.

“That gets us off to a good start and maintaining that is now something we want to do,” he said.

Speaking about the campaign, Squillacioti said: “Our job, ultimately, is to broaden the appeal of the game, so we made a deliberate shift in target audience this year and moved to target young Australian families.

“Yoshi’s story is told through the lens of a child, which appeals to mum and dads and also to kids. We want to fuel the passion and unlock the passion.”

The strategy to target young families followed research which found that while 2.18m people play football, less than half support an A-League team.

“Lots of mums and dads stand along the sidelines on a Saturday but there enough A-League jerseys on show? No. And that is our job, to grow interest in the clubs.”

Squillacioti said the A-League’s limited history – it’s only in its 12th season – worked against it when other sporting codes such as the AFL and NRL have been around for more than a century.Socceroos Tim Cahill, Mumbrella

But the past five years have seen steady growth, helped in part by strong fan bases at Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne City, the A-League’s two newest clubs..

“Our research tells us that Australians, on average, have four sports and we see ourselves as being in that four. Part of our job is to make sure the A-League is part of that,”  Squillacioti said. “We are the most played team sport in the country. Football has the natural advantage of being safe, and being easy to play. You can be four or 84 and you can play the game.”

He said the arrival of Australian former English Premier League star Tim Cahill would help raise the profile of the sport.

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