Working in Sports and Digital Marketing

An interview conducted by Student Comms Chat on the 27th of May 2020 on Facebook Live. Founder Ross Monaghan and Chatter Hoa Pham talked with Tom Peeters, the Marketing and Content Manager at the AFL team Geelong Cats about what it is like working in marketing for a professional sport.

Getting to where you are

Tom:

When I was studying at Deakin, we were required to find an internship. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but I was always told to think about my interests. 

What were my interests? Playing football and drinking beer. 

So I googled Carlton United Brewery and I cold called the number I found and luckily, I was taken on as an intern.

I also reached out to the Geelong Football Club. I was not really interested in working in sports, but I thought it would be good to do a second internship and get some more experience. 

After the internship, I worked at Geelong casually and then they asked me to stay on. It eventuated into a full-time contract and here I am now.

The impact of a global pandemic on a professional sport

Tom:

“There was probably a bit of arrogance to professional sport, the belief that we are untouchable and the things that affect the rest of society do not affect professional athletes but clearly the current global pandemic affects everyone in a significant way.”

Tom Peeters, Content and Marketing Manager at the Geelong Cats

This was probably the hardest communication challenge I’ve had in my career. The focus was how do we take care of our members and sponsors and make sure they are in our thoughts. We had to prepare different options to present to them as everyone is in a different circumstance.

When we sent out communication to our 60,000 members, it’s predicted that around 1% wanted a refund. This is really good for the club as it makes us feel really good about what we have offered to the members.

We issued a lot of communications such as written letters and a video for the club’s YouTube. The key thing was being authentic. If you are genuine with them, if you aren’t trying to bullshit them, they will come onboard and come with us.

Using Digital Media to communicate with key stakeholders

Tom: 

Being such a large organisation within a large league, all the clubs sign a network agreement to sell the rights of their website and social media channels back to the AFL. 

Following, the AFL finds a central provider and for about 10 years now we had Telstra. 

They provide us with all the engineering and central development work on our websites and apps. Then, it is up to us on how we utilise the social media platforms. 

The channels that we have are the website, the app, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and TikTok. Each platform provides us with different insights and responses, such as our app provides us with the most page views and then TikTok has the most growth.

We have separate social media accounts for each team, the AFL mens, AFL womens and VFL. This is because you can nurture the audience much better and it is really important to be personal with the audience.

The privacy of players

Tom:

Imagine you’ve got all these people who want to know what’s going on, how they’re going, when they’re already having a hard time and you want us to stick a camera right into their face. 

It can be challenging, we have established quality relationships with our medical and player welfare areas. We often have regular conversations and dialogue with them to understand who might need time away from the spotlight.

We can’t always put on the injury list that a player is having mental health struggles. We do cop flack for that and we get the ‘why aren’t they playing??’

There is that conversation of what do the public need to know about a player’s personal life and what is allowed to stay behind the scenes. The health of the player is the most important thing, over a story.

The mental health of social media employees

Tom:

There are some bad messages that are not seen on the public social media channels, like what we get sent in the direct messages. There is a big focus on players but how about the club media people, they see some stuff that no one would like to see.

We are very conscious of our employees, so we remain in constant dialogue. We have tools such as blocking and banning to use when needed.

The difference between Facebook and Instagram content

The attention span of our Instagram users is much shorter than Facebook.

On Instagram, we see a lot more of that click, like, move on but if you get content that is highly engaging, the algorithm can work in your favour to get more traction.

Whereas, Facebook has the older demographic who really want to interact and engage by commenting, sharing and messaging.

We have gone away from that idea of posting the same photo, video across every channel. You now have to decide if this is the right platform for it and be happy that it can only appear on a certain channel.

Tips for Students

The best advice I can give is to continually upskill. 

I met with the San Francisco 49’s and Rod, their Vice President of Media and Comms. When I went into his office to meet with him, in the corner of his office was an iMac sitting away from his desk. I said to him “What’s the iMac for?” and he said “I still make sure I edit one of our shows per week to still be hands on.”

If you’re into graphics create a design Instagram page, a portfolio, a blog, a podcast. Just having a wealth of content to send through. If we can see that, read that, understand what type of talent you are, that makes life a lot easier.


Link to Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/100584491659728/videos/263061541725786

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