The announcement of FC Barcelona coming to Sydney on Wednesday, May 25 to face an A-Leagues All-Stars side just a few days before the A-League Men’s grand final was met with plenty of backlash from fans and journalists in the immediate aftermath.
Perhaps rightly so. Why should a side of only 10 of the 12 teams (as the two teams involved in the grand final will not have players participating) take part in what is a glorified friendly?
There’s every chance depending on which two teams make the grand final that the ‘All-Stars’ side could miss some massive names in the game, such as Jamie Maclaren, Alessandro Diamanti, Marco Rojas, Ulises Davila, Craig Goodwin, Milos Ninkovic, Oliver Sail, or Jason Cummings.
Why should Australian football once again try to embrace the ‘American-ism’ of sports with the All-Stars concept as it did in 2013 and 2014?
Australian sports embraces the American sporting model across most of its sporting codes. A closed shop with no promotion/relegation between the top division and the next level down, expansion sides, and yes, the All-Star game.
While the timing of the game might not be the best, there are plenty of ways the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) and the broadcaster (presuming this game will be broadcast on either 10 or 10Bold) can use this match to their advantage.
Advertising the game
It is widely understood that in Australia, there is a large number of football fans who will get up at all hours to watch whichever European team they support and won’t give the A-Leagues a second thought.
These people will likely tune in in droves to watch Barcelona play, whether that is at the ground or watching on TV. The APL needs to take advantage of this opportunity.
Select as many of the best players as you can, and set the game up so that you can showcase these players for a decent amount of time so that the talent in the A-League Men’s competition is shown off to all these people who would not otherwise watch the league.
In the lead-up as well, make sure to advertise the game itself to as many people as possible. Do not waste this opportunity. Get it on other networks during their sports broadcasts in prime time during commercial breaks. Have Barcelona and A-Leagues players do promotional spots on TV shows such as The Project, Offsiders, The Front Bar, and the Sunday Footy Show.
It would not be the first time such shows have been used as promotional bandwagons for other events, and the APL needs to take full advantage of this chance to showcase the game to people who would never watch it otherwise.
Advertising the Grand Final
If the above has been followed and you have a massive amount of people tuning in, pump up the fact at every opportunity you can that the Grand Final is taking place in just a few days.
This can be done through the LED signage around the ground, TV commercial breaks, banner advertising on the broadcast during the game when there’s a brief stoppage in play, and player interviews from participants in the grand final during pre-game, half-time, and post-game.
If the grand final ends up being hosted somewhere in Sydney or on the Central Coast, offer a deal to those who purchased tickets post-match where they get 20% off the price of a ticket to the grand final using a promo code to further expose the game with a full stadium.
If done right, this should ensure maximum exposure for the showcase piece of the sport.
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While Barcelona and the promoters will likely walk away with most of the revenue raised from this event, the APL can take full advantage of the amount it will end up with, and find ways to maximise this.
The easiest way to do this would be through All-Stars merchandise. There are plenty of amazing graphic designers who support and love this game and the A-Leagues. Get those people involved in designing the jersey for the team.
As fans, they know what fellow fans and jersey collectors look for in a jersey. What designs they love and what designs they hate.
While there might be limitations based on templates available from whoever is selected to supply the kit, if you go for a smaller-name supplier that isn’t Nike, Puma, or Adidas, the league might be able to have more flexibility in the design of the jersey and move away from a template design.
The creativity could be endless with this jersey, and if designed right, could be a best-seller, bringing in much-needed revenue for the APL.
Building the blocks for the seasons to come
The APL is coming to the end of its first season in a multi-year deal with CBSViacom, and making sure that the All-Stars game and the grand final are a huge success with an increased audience, including people who will have not watched a minute of A-Leagues football this season can not be wasted.
If the APL and CBSViacom can take full advantage of this increased exposure to the product because of a visit by a European powerhouse, it will help the league grow.
A common complaint is the issue of crowd numbers at A-Leagues games. Using this opportunity to create new fans, or bring back old fans who have stopped watching should not be wasted.
If successful, it can help ensure the stability of the league for years to come and make sure that revenue streams are increased to help make the A-Leagues sustainable for years to come.
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