Like every sport around the world, the Australian Football League (AFL) and its clubs have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Empty stadiums have made it more difficult to connect to fans, with a community engagement model reliant on stadium activations, school visits and corporate luncheons.
A Sport Tech Win in Amongst the Gloom
Sensing what was looming and knowing their established Train Like a Bomber (TLAB) program was ready to scale, the Essendon Football Club took the sport tech leap in the middle of the disruption of the first COVID wave to fast track the release of TLAB via their newly minted learning portal – The Flight Deck.
“The Flight Deck and TLAB allowed us to continue our momentum in the community space by connecting to existing partner schools and engage with new ones. In the middle of a very challenging time for sport and especially community teams, we were able to launch a modern initiative and generate new revenue streams.”Bernard Shepherd, Head of VFL & Community
“We saw the opportunities to scale fan engagement through technology before the pandemic hit and this will be an important strategic pillar for the club going forward. We are eager to build on the success of TLAB and engage with our members and new fans in innovative and purposeful ways into the future through The Flight Deck” said Playbk Co-founder, Jon Shepherd.
Harnessing Brands & Sport Tech
Professional sporting teams for decades have relied on the star power of their player’s brands to sell memberships, fill stadiums and generate revenue. The realities of social media and a pulsating desire for fans to get ‘behind the scenes’ access sees professional sport reaching a new horizon when it considers how to engage fans, generate revenue and drive the content narrative.
Add to this the knowledge and brands of staff from within the club and it creates an exciting ecosystem which teams can harness to deliver innovative engagement opportunities for fans. For example, TLAB sought the wisdom of staff from strength and conditioning, coaching, nutrition, former players and CEO Xavier Campbell to help curate learning experiences for the 15 – 16 year age group.
Clubs can now consider any physical education student, mums and dads with an interest in nutrition, a sports science graduate and an emerging corporate leader as ‘fans’ to which they can create engaging and meaningful content. This new world approach harnesses not just the players brands but the collective wisdom across the organisation, solving problems for a diverse audience, growing fan avidity and generating revenue in the process.
TLAB Just the Sport Tech Beginning
Jess Newman, General Manager of Strategic Operations and Community is poised to oversee the growth of The Flight Deck in the coming years. “As a large organisation, we have the ability to efficiently onboard new staff or contractors and then look outwardly to the role we can play in schools, not for profit and corporates by telling the stories of our staff and players – all through one centralised sport tech stack.”
“We are truly excited about what comes next with The Flight Deck. COVID-19 has disrupted so many areas of our business and re-affirmed the need for us to consider innovative ways of scaling community engagement. TLAB is really just the beginning for us.”Jess Newman, General Manager of Strategic Operations and Community
“We are truly excited about what comes next with The Flight Deck. COVID-19 has disrupted so many areas of our business and re-affirmed the need for us to consider innovative ways of scaling community engagement. TLAB is really just the beginning for us.”
So, what’s next? Newman notes the impact that COVID has had on the mental health of students through remote learning and adults through lockdowns, home schooling and job losses.
“As a club we want to support the wellbeing of our fans and members, and it is likely this is the next step in content creation for The Flight Deck. The collaborative approach we take with the Playbk team allows us to reach a wider audience and have a greater impact. We are very much looking forward to a future that continues to help us reach these goals.”
The Bombers are breaking new ground when it comes to fusing sport, education and technology. Keep an eye out for upcoming releases on The Flight Deck and to learn more about TLAB create a free account by clicking here
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