Off-season a great opportunity to grow local clubs through media

A good month has passed since many women’s footy sides played their last game of the year, and one could be forgiven for thinking it’s time to put the feet up and rest.

However, it is this time of year that’s most critical for any local footy club when it comes to using their media resources to promote their club to prospective players, supporters and sponsors.

The Essendon District Football League used media effectively to continue
growing the game during last year’s off-season.
Image: Damjan Janevski.

Almost every day there’s something new about the AFLW competition (whether positive or negative) that’s being published by the media, and this in turn is creating greater awareness of women’s Australian rules football.

Although this should be good news for your club, opportunities could be missed if you don’t get proactive, especially with the possibility of new women’s teams being established in nearby neighbourhoods.

Understandably, it’s easy to assume there’s nothing to write/talk about with no footy currently being played, but as Leader Newspapers’ Tim Michell previously told Girls Play Footy, there’s more to footy clubs than just what happens on the ground.

“Coming to us with story ideas, saying whether it’s a feature on a player, or a feature on a volunteer that’s been around the club for a long period of time [are great ideas],” Michell explained.

“They’re sort of a different way we’re able to give a team some exposure that’s not based on scores, but gives an insight on what’s going on at the club.

“Often if a club is doing some sort of fundraising drive or they’re looking at doing a community event, there’s a lot more centimeter space up in the news section of our paper [opposed to sport].”

To extend on Tim’s comments further, most clubs around this time would be holding their AGM.

Usually this occasion may see a volunteer awarded life membership; take that opportunity to notify the local newspaper of all the great service that volunteer has done for your club.

This off-season also presents a different opportunity to gain press coverage and drive sign-up numbers for your club.

Under the contracts that all AFLW footballers will sign is a community hours clause, which generally means they are required to attended their AFL club’s family days, Auskick clinics and make appearances at a number of local footy clubs to promote the women’s game.

It’s critically important right now that your club reaches out to any AFL club with a women’s side and inquires about one of their players attending one of your preseason training sessions.

By locking this in advance, you can notify your local paper and even local schools of the event, which should drive interest and boost new player registration on the night.

Piggy-backing on from that night, you can push to the paper your increase in registrations.

Remember to play up the numbers; say you had 20 players on your books and five signed up on the night, guess what, you can scream a ’25 percent increase in registrations’!

Even without the appearance of an AFLW footballer, there are still a number of ways you can create a story about your club, at least once a month, by following this simple guide.

October: Coaching. If your club is advertising for a new coach, put out a media release thanking the previous coach and explaining what type of coach your club is after. Add quotes from a committee member and someone from the player leadership group. If re-appointing a coach, praise the good things they’ve done in the past season and have the coach explain what they’re looking to improve on.

November: Post-AGM. If a new committee has been elected, have quotes from the new president talking about fresh thinking or a change of direction. If the current committee has been re-elected, your media release should all be about stability and explaining how your current three/five/ten-year business plan is progressing.

December: Preseason training. This is the time to start talking about numbers. If numbers are good, talk about how great preseason training is and the aspirations your club has for the coming season. Should numbers be poor, highlight it now! Don’t just ask for any players to show up, be creative; if you need defenders, say so. If you want a faster running side, explain you want speedy players.

January: Returning players. Time now to focus on the veterans of the club. Put out a media release saying how they are refreshed after the Christmas break and looking forward to the coming season. If there are players returning from injury, talk about their recent surgery, how their rehab is going and when they are expected back.

February: New recruits/AFLW season. The AFLW season has now kicked off and media interest in women’s football should be at its peak. Take the opportunity to tell the newspaper that as the result of the new league’s coverage, you’ve seen a spike in website traffic and more people following your club on Facebook or Twitter. Also explain that it has led to a number of new recruits signing on and go into detail on what sporting codes they have crossed over from.

March: Practice matches. With just weeks to go until the season, your coach should be fully aware of how the squad has come together and what they’re capable of for the new season. Let them talk up expectations and explain what they liked from your club’s practice match form and what they think needs to be worked on.

To help the work of the local sports journalist who might be writing for several newspapers each week, put the above themes into a one-page press release individually.

Each press release should start off with its premise, then a quote (just a couple of sentences) from a member of the committee, some further detail, then a quote from another person (coach or player) and rounded off with a reminder about training or when the new season kicks off.

Write your media release as if it was a newspaper story. For a time-poor journalist, sometimes a ‘copy and paste’ story can be very helpful to them. Also ensure you have a media contact listed, should they want further info.

Handling all these media duties can be very time consuming and is best not left to a president or secretary who is already time poor.

Ideally, find a trustworthy player within your club that’s very active on social media. Explain to them that once a media release is written for the local newspaper, it’s very easy to copy and paste it onto the club’s website or Facebook page.

Furthermore, it should take them mere seconds to take a few photos every training session and post them on Instagram or Twitter. This very simple task makes your club look professional and active.

This gets prospective players thinking about joining your club (not your rival down the road) and makes sponsors aware of your ‘brand’, and making your club a worthwhile investment in their minds.

There’s nothing more impressive to say to prospective sponsors than that your club increased its media presence/output and social media followers during the supposed ‘quiet period’.