Opinion The 'generational change'

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GC2015

Club Legend
May 27, 2013
2,277
2,613
AFL Club
Gold Coast
Remember around the time we entered the AFL it was often said that a 'generational change' was going to occur over the first 10-15 years of our existence? Well, we're about to enter our 11th season in the AFL and I have to say that I'm not convinced we've seen any significant 'generational change' since we joined the national league. But why is this? Why aren't we significantly bigger as a club than we were when we entered the league?

We have the benefit of many other examples of expansion clubs going before us and are able to analyse their varied results. So why were West Coast and Adelaide immediate hits in their cities while Brisbane and Sydney took more than a decade to make significant inroads in their market? It's easy to just say Queensland and New South Wales are rugby league states which means it's always going to be difficult. While there certainly would be some truth to that theory, you can't deny that Brisbane and Sydney have had periods throughout their history where they are just as popular as any sports team in their respective markets and therefore the rugby league influence probably isn't as big of a factor as some may think. Unsurprisingly, these periods always seem to coincide with stints of success.

For the Swans, they really began to take off in the Sydney market when Plugger made his way to the SCG. They saw a decent increase with Capper in the mid 80s when they made the finals but this was short lived and only lasted two years before they lost their marquee player, fell out of finals contention and fell back to their low numbers of the past. 1995 was the season that really began the transformation for Sydney. They doubled their membership base in '95 when Lockett donned the red and white for the first time and the following year they made their Grand Final appearance.

The Swans then more than doubled their membership base again in '97 and by the end of the '98 season they had literally increased their membership tally tenfold - up over 31k from 3k just four seasons prior. That's the kind of exponential growth that you could argue indicates a significant 'generational change' because the locals had jumped on board and we know the Swans have done a fantastic job of growing their membership base since (60k+ members in 2018). Jarrod Witts is a real life example of the generational change that occurred in Sydney back in the late 90s and fondly talks about his memories in the stands at the SCG watching Plugger kick his 1000th goal.

Brisbane also saw a massive jump in popularity in the early 2000s when they became the envy of all clubs by winning three premierships in a row but they struggled to sustain the competitiveness after the 2004 season and really fell away in terms of their fanbase. The Lions hit 31k members in 2004 and were absolutely flying on all cylinders but were back down to 21k members just three seasons later and, prior to this season, had not reached 30k members since 2004. With the kind of success the Lions had in the early 2000s, there should be current players from Brisbane that grew up lifelong Lions fans and idolised players like Voss/Akermanis but that's not really the case. What did Sydney do that allowed exponential growth that Brisbane didn't do? Sustained success on the field for a longer period.

West Coast's early success in the AFL essentially guaranteed instant acceptance within Perth footy circles and the Eagles have always been a highly competitive team in the AFL which has allowed them to hit unthinkable heights of popularity like 100k+ members! Their superstar players like Ben Cousins were idolised by the WA kids in the late 90s/early 2000s and we see that influence to this day with players like Patrick Cripps who states he wears the #9 on his back because he was a massive Ben Cousins/West Coast fan as a child.

I could keep going but I think the obvious trend is that you can really only achieve a 'generational change' when you're regularly winning and preferably winning for a sustained period. So, to answer my own question, I believe we're going to see genuine uptake from the Gold Coast residents who were previously uninterested/semi interested once we start winning regularly but the crucial factor that will determine whether a 'generational change' occurs is if we can sustain success long enough to create a large rusted on fanbase like the Swans and Eagles did.

So as much as we all want our club to be highly competitive ASAP, we're in a situation now with our list demographic that can actually set up the club for many generations. If we get this cycle right, we can follow the likes of Sydney and West Coast by achieving a true 'generational change' that exponentially grows our club every five or so years. That should be our true aim when talking about our current prospects.

Feel free to share your thoughts if you agree or disagree with what I've written. Very interested to see other's thoughts on this.
 

robo_1

Club Legend
Nov 11, 2017
1,953
1,949
Melbourne
AFL Club
Gold Coast
In the first couple of years there was a fairly rusted on support of the suns from people who switched from teams but as the results didn’t come many switched back to their original teams..

Also I know some and have read a lot of Gold Coast locals who lost interest 2015/2017 due to bad game day experience and some very boring and ordinary games

Imo once the public know that they can go and watch and see a good game and know what the local side is going to dish up performance wise it should attract more people..

I also think more needs to be done to attract non fans to the game like ticketing prices and seating arrangements.. also scheduling, parking and transport still seems to be a major issue for a lot of people especially with families..
also One thing I’ve found with non fans is not knowing when games are on! When I went to Port Adelaide game in 2019 in the Adelaide mall on game day they had a brass band all decked out in port gear and mascot maybe suns could get down to pacific fair on game day and do something similar possibly hand out some free tickets
 

GC2015

Club Legend
May 27, 2013
2,277
2,613
AFL Club
Gold Coast
In the first couple of years there was a fairly rusted on support of the suns from people who switched from teams but as the results didn’t come many switched back to their original teams..

Also I know some and have read a lot of Gold Coast locals who lost interest 2015/2017 due to bad game day experience and some very boring and ordinary games

Imo once the public know that they can go and watch and see a good game and know what the local side is going to dish up performance wise it should attract more people..

I also think more needs to be done to attract non fans to the game like ticketing prices and seating arrangements.. also scheduling, parking and transport still seems to be a major issue for a lot of people especially with families..
also One thing I’ve found with non fans is not knowing when games are on! When I went to Port Adelaide game in 2019 in the Adelaide mall on game day they had a brass band all decked out in port gear and mascot maybe suns could get down to pacific fair on game day and do something similar possibly hand out some free tickets
I think there's a difference between attracting people to games in the short term and having a massive rusted on fanbase who will be life long supporters like West Coast. Realistically this is going to come down to whether our finals/premiership window is open long enough to create the kind of passion that keeps them coming back once our results fall away. West Coast and Sydney have done an amazing job of being competitive almost every year of the last two decades and I believe that has allowed both clubs to grow enormously as opposed to Brisbane who actually regressed since their triple premiership era, despite having one of the best runs of all time.

I understand there are reasons to hand out free tickets to a market that's not overly passion about the game but the thought of having our players head to Pacific Fair on game day to hand out free tickets reminds me of a horror story Robert Walls once told about his Bears days. Just prior to home games, Walls and some of his Bears players would head down to the Surfers Paradise McDonald's on Cavill Avenue and would hand out free tickets to anyone who purchased a cheeseburger at the store. That just screams desperation to me and I'm very confident you'd never see a club like Collingwood or West Coast doing that. Tacky forms of marketing just don't do it for me and I feel we'd be bordering on that if we go down a similar road. It can actually have a negative effect in the community's eyes if you come across as desperate in your marketing endeavours.
 

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Mt Isa Mustang

Club Legend
Nov 23, 2019
2,526
2,805
AFL Club
Gold Coast
scheduling, parking and transport

as robo_1
said.

I've been a fan since we ran the Lions so close in round 3 2011 when I had just moved from the coast to Brisbane for work.
My parents are foundation members but downgraded from full membership to 3 game membership a few years ago.
They really only keep their memberships because they are ongoing foundation members.

They would honestly prefer watching the games at home on TV. Can't see them going to another night game.

We need more afternoon and less evening games. The quality of football in the evening games is so variable because of the conditions. No one wants to go and watch a struggling team, lose a game 40-65 and then get home at 11pm.



With wins though, I can see more people getting on board but still think we're capped by some of the above issues.
 

GC2015

Club Legend
May 27, 2013
2,277
2,613
AFL Club
Gold Coast
The Gold Coast is part of Qld which is a RL state, in the most part, so comparing our situation with Collingwood and West Coast, both AFL states, is like comparing chips and cheese, so stop it. We are different and in a different situation.
Of course we're in a different situation. Every club in the AFL is in a different situation but I must ask you, why can't we be as big as West Coast in a way that's relative to our market size? You've correctly pointed out that Queensland is a rugby league state but are we the Queensland Suns or the Gold Coast Suns? The better question is whether the Gold Coast is a rugby league city. Some RL analysts will have you believe the GC is 'rugby league heartland' but the stats DON'T actually indicate domination in the market for rugby league. The stats indicate that the Gold Coast market is much closer to a 50/50 split between rugby league and Aussie rules than some media personalities will have you believe. I believe this is mostly due to the Gold Coast market not being 'captured' yet.

Unlike Brisbane with the Broncos, Perth with the Eagles or Adelaide with the Crows; we've never had a professional team that's consistently played well over a long period of time and captured the market like the teams I've just listed. The closest we had was when the Titans had two top 4 finishes as well as making the semifinal and preliminary final in their 3rd and 4th seasons in the NRL. The Gold Coast market was very much onboard with the Titans at that point in time and they were regularly selling out Robina Stadium. However, they did not sustain that successful period and claimed the wooden spoon in their 5th season. Then they have close to a decade of poor results (like us) and all their hard work from the 2007-10 period gets completely undone and fans either switch back to their old teams or completely lose interest in the Titans/rugby league altogether.

This is why I keep saying it's crucially important for our future to have a period of strong results that lasts more than two years. To have a good shot at capturing the market, we probably need to be playing finals for at least four years straight and (hopefully) claim at least one flag in that period.

This year I have never felt so disconnected to the Club as I am feeling now. There is no worthwhile information coming from the Club to its members, except for some fluff pieces asking for our support. I don't even know how many Members we have, does anyone? I love this Club and that won't change but if this Club wants to engage with the local community and increase membership, then over and above what they're doing now, it needs to take a long hard look at itself and start interacting with it's supporters a whole lot more than what they're doing at present.
Member engagement is an issue for sure but that may also have a lot to do with how much time we spend focusing on community engagement. Since inception, the club committed to doing 5000 hours of community engagement each season and we often set the record for most community hours of any AFL club in any given year. Should the club commit more resources to member engagement or should we continue to focus on growing our fanbase through community engagement? I think the answer to that question will be subjective and you can make great points either way.

Unlike those southern AFL states, our Club has the winter weather and 42kms of coastline to contend with and having games at 1pm or 3pm on a Sat/Sun isn't going to help the situation either, when Mum and Dad prefer to take the kids to the beach. Do I have an answer.....no I don't......but I'm not being paid to have an answer.

Anyway I said it was going to be brief, so rant over......
I could be wrong here but isn't the weather in Perth during the winter months similar to ours?

June
Average high: Gold Coast - 21.4°C, Perth - 19.5°C

July
Average high: Gold Coast - 21.3°C, Perth - 18.4°C

August
Average high: Gold Coast - 22.1°C, Perth - 19.1°C

So it's a little cooler in Perth during winter but it's nothing like Melbourne that has a high of 14.5°C in July or Adelaide with a high of 15.4°C. Western Australia also happens to have some of the best beaches in the world and Perth's Cottesloe beach is a great example of that.

The question has to be asked - are we just making excuses as to why we're not capturing our market?


Unlike those southern AFL states, our Club has the winter weather and 42kms of coastline to contend with and having games at 1pm or 3pm on a Sat/Sun isn't going to help the situation either, when Mum and Dad prefer to take the kids to the beach. Do I have an answer.....no I don't......but I'm not being paid to have an answer.
We need more afternoon and less evening games. The quality of football in the evening games is so variable because of the conditions. No one wants to go and watch a struggling team, lose a game 40-65 and then get home at 11pm.
This is another problem. We can't seem to agree on which time slot is actually preferable for the market. Young families will argue the point that they can't attend night games because it finishes too late and others will argue an afternoon game puts us in direct competition with the beaches and theme parks.

Ultimately, it won't matter if we're consistently winning. People will make exceptions if they feel like they can be a part of something special. Families will sacrifice an hour or two of sleep and beach/theme park goers will forego their day if they know their home team is going to be highly competitive.


With wins though, I can see more people getting on board but still think we're capped by some of the above issues.
Exactly. The best way to get people on board is to create a winning brand. The best way to keep people on board is to maintain a winning brand.
 

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